The Alchemist | Paulo Coelho
I’ve heard an opinion that if someone asks you what your favorite book is, they don’t read a lot. How, after all, are you supposed to choose between that mind-blowing novel and that amazing nonfiction story, and also that captivating series you finished last year? To think that one book can rise above all these formats, genres and historical periods and shine its timeless light as the beacon of eternal greatness appears outrageous to many, especially to the multitude of us here on bookstagram. While I seemed, mostly, to share this opinion for several years, I recently rediscovered that it’s not really how I see the world. There is indeed a book I can call my one favorite book of all times—at least so far, and I have every reason to believe it will stay this way.
O Alquimista, The Alchemist, El Alquimista, Алхимик, L’Alchimiste, L'Alchimista—about 80 different words that carry the same meaning in different languages—these are the names of my favorite book. I know it has become a “pop book” and I’ve seen some people grumble that it’s the bookstagrammer’s daily bread—ordinary, profoundly unnew, lacking in interest and possibly even stale. But I am not ashamed! It is my favorite book, and Will Smith is on my side.
The reason why I love it so much is that simplicity, wisdom and inspiration are one in The Alchemist.
The first time I read it, I was around 9 or 11, and now I’m 25. Throughout the years it has always been open, accessible, available to people of almost any age, a friend you can always turn to and in some profound way expect to speak the same language. That’s simplicity.
Every time I read it or even think about it, The Alchemist gives me something to ponder, a valuable lesson to remember and indispensable advice to live by. It almost feels like a religious book at times, that text of which you ask almost all of life’s important questions and answers. That’s wisdom.
Inspiration. No other book has given me so much strength, motivation and desire to change my life for the better, to not be afraid to alter it’s course, to listen to my heart and never lose my sense of purpose. If not all else, this alone gives this book a very special place in the long list of things I’ve read throughout the years.
Simplicity, wisdom and inspiration are not three sides or characteristics of The Alchemist, they are one, for only by being one can they create something so powerful, so meaningful and so beautiful. This is why I love this book so much.
Not so surprisingly, perhaps, it’s the only book I’ve ever reread. And it’s also the only book I’ve read in several languages, three so far—The Alchemist in English, El Alquimista in Spanish and Алхимик in Russian. It’s a very peculiar experience, to be honest.
I read it at different ages and stages of my life—I believe when I was 9 or 11 for the first time, then when I was about 20-22, and most recently at 25. Every time I loved it so much that it took my breath away, and every time I learned, or remembered rather, something very important, something that felt like just what I needed at that particular time.
The most interesting part, however, has to do with languages. On the one hand, and this invites my gratitude to the translators involved, every version of this book retained its union of simplicity, wisdom and inspiration, and kept the voice of the narrator intact—it did feel like the same book. On the other, there was something very different that I can’t quite place anywhere—maybe it’s the larger cultural context behind every translation, maybe it’s the social impact that it could have in different parts of the world, or maybe it’s just me.
I sincerely hope that other translations are just as good, and that no matter what language you speak, you will be able to enjoy this book as much as I do. I want to read the book in French (which I speak) next and in Portuguese (which I don’t speak yet), its original language, in the way it was written by Paulo Coelho, to whom I am eternally grateful for this book.
Another important thing I understand right now is that despite some efforts on my part, I’m still far from living my Personal Legend. I promise to do all I can to change that—not give in to my fears, listen to my heart and follow my dreams. And, of course, find my treasure. I hope that by the time I read The Alchemist again, in a new language, I will be much closer to where I need to be in life.
And I’m leaving you with my favorite quote from the book in Russian, Spanish and English.
— И помни, что когда чего-нибудь сильно захочешь, вся Вселенная будет способствовать тому, чтобы желание твоё сбылось.
— Y cuando quieres algo, todo el Universo conspira para que realices tu deseo.
— And, when you want something, all the Universe conspires in helping you to achieve it.