The Alchemist (novel)

The Alchemist (novel)
The Alchemist  
1st English edition cover
Author(s) Paulo Coelho
Original title O Alquimista
Country Brazil
Language Portuguese
Genre(s) Quest, Adventure, Drama, Fantasy
Publisher HarperTorch (Eng. trans)
Publication date 1986
Published in
Media type Print (hardback, paperback and iTunes)
Pages 163 pp (first English edition, hardcover)
ISBN ISBN 0062502174 (first English edition, hardcover)
OCLC Number 26857452

The Alchemist is an allegorical novel by Paulo Coelho first published in 1988. The Alchemist was originally written in Portuguese. It has sold more than 65 million copies in more than 150 countries, becoming one of the best-selling books in history.[1]



The Alchemist details the journey of an Andalusian shepherd boy named Santiago. Santiago, believing a recurring dream to be prophetic, decides to travel to the pyramids of Egypt to find treasure. He then tells a lone gypsy about this treasure. As he leaves, the gypsy mentions one thing: If he does find the treasure, she wants 10 percent of it. On the way, he encounters love, danger, opportunity, disaster and learns a lot about himself and the ways of the world. One of the significant characters that he meets is an old king named Melchizedek[2] who tells him about discovering his personal legend: what he always wanted to accomplish in his life. And that "When you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it." This is the core philosophy and motto of the book. During his travels, he meets a beautiful Arabian woman named Fatima who explains to him that if he follows his heart, he shall find what it is he seeks. Santiago then encounters a lone alchemist who tells about personal legends. He says that people only want to find the treasure of their personal legends but not the personal legend itself. He feels unsure about himself as he listens to the alchemist's teachings. The alchemist states "Those who don't understand their personal legends will fail to comprehend its teachings." It also states that treasure is more precious than gold

Reception and cultural influence

The Advertiser, an Australian newspaper, published one of the first reviews of The Alchemist in 1993, saying: "of books that I can recommend with the unshakable confidence of having read them and been entranced, impressed, entertained or moved, the universal gift is perhaps a limpid little fable called The Alchemist... In hauntingly spare prose, translated from the Brazilian original in Portuguese, it follows a young Andalusian shepherd into the desert on his quest for a dream and the fulfillment of his destiny."[3] Since then, the novel has received much praise, making it to the top spot on best-seller lists in 74 countries and winning prestigious awards in Germany and Italy.[4][5][6] It has been called a "charming story", "a brilliant, simple narrative" and "a wonderful tale, a metaphor of life", from people in places as diverse as South Africa, Finland and Turkey.[7] It has been praised by public figures like Will Smith[8] and Jorge Garcia. Arash Hejazi, the Iranian publisher of Paulo Coelho, believes that The Alchemist is exceptional on several counts: he notes that the book has had a "longer than expected life-cycle… It was not supported by high marketing budgets in the first few years after its publication. It was not written in French or Spanish. It did not enjoy a film tie-in and was not recommended by positive reviews and the media, but it is still selling, only relying on the word of mouth as its main marketing tool."[9][10] One of the chief complaints lodged against the book is that the story, praised for its fable-like simplicity, actually is a fable–-a retelling of "The Ruined Man who Became Rich Again through a Dream" (Tale 14 from the collection One Thousand and One Nights[11]. Coelho, however, does not credit this source text anywhere in the book or in the preface, passing the story as an original work of fiction. Also the life story of Takkeci Ibrahim Aga who is believed to live in Istanbul during 1500s, has the same plot.

File sharing

Paulo Coelho is a strong advocate of spreading his books through peer-to-peer file sharing networks. He put his own books on file-sharing networks like BitTorrent, and noted that The Alchemist received a boost in sales due to this.[12] He stated that "I do think that when a reader has the possibility to read some chapters, he or she can always decide to buy the book later."[12] Currently, chapters from The Alchemist can be found on Google Books and Coelho's agency Sant Jordi Associados.[13][14] Entire copies of his books, including translations, can also be found on Pirate Coelho, a blog off Coelho's main blog.[15]


In 2003, Warner Bros. bought the rights to the film adaptation of The Alchemist. The project stalled and the movie never materialized, reportedly because of problems with the script.[16] At one point, the script had a battle sequence with 10,000 soldiers, which was "not what the book is about."[17]

During the 2008 Cannes Film Festival, Harvey Weinstein announced that he had bought the rights to the film and will serve as its producer. Laurence Fishburne is set to direct, and to play the eponymous character. It will have a reported budget of $60 million. Weinstein, who rarely personally produces movies, stated that "My loyalty is not to Laurence [Fishburne], my loyalty is not to me, my loyalty is not to anyone other than Paulo Coelho."[18] Coelho added "I am very happy that my book will be filmed in the way I intended it to be and I hope the spirit and simplicity of my work will be preserved. I am excited my friend Laurence Fishburne and Harvey Weinstein will be working together."[6]

A theatrical adaptation of The Alchemist has been produced and performed by the Cornish Collective, which is their most successful production to date.[19]

The Alchemist: A Graphic Novel was published in 2010, adapted by Derek Ruiz and artwork by Daniel Sampere. ISBN 978-0062024329.


  1. ^ Film to be made of Coelho's 'Alchemist AFP. May 19, 2008.
  2. ^ Melchizedek is a king of Salem (meaning "King of Peace") from the Book of Genesis.
  3. ^ Guy, Bill. "BOOKS OF THE YEAR". The Advertiser. December 4, 1993.
  4. ^ Paulo Coelho Biography[dead link] on
  5. ^ A Brief History of the Book Saint Jordi Asociados
  6. ^ a b The Weinstein Company to Bring 'The Alchemist' to the Big Screen Zoom In Online: Film & TV.
  7. ^ The Alchemist: Reviews on Sant Jordi Associados.
  8. ^ Will Smith Interview[dead link] Tavis Smiley on PBS. December 13, 2007.
  9. ^ "The Alchemy of the Alchemist: How Paulo Coelho became the most translated living author for the same book". Retrieved 2011-11-01. 
  10. ^ "The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho - Reviews, Discussion, Bookclubs, Lists". Retrieved 2011-11-01. 
  11. ^ "The Ruined Man Who Became Rich Again Through A Dream". Retrieved 2011-11-01. 
  12. ^ a b Best-Selling Author Turns Piracy into Profit TorrentFreak. May 12, 2008.
  13. ^ The Alchemist Book Preview Google Books.
  14. ^ Extract from The Alchemist Sant Jordi Associados.
  15. ^ "Pirate Coelho". 
  16. ^ Fishburne to direct The Alchemist The Guardian. June 27, 2007.
  17. ^ Doland, Angela 'The Alchemist' to be made into movie USA Today. May 18, 2008.
  18. ^ Weinstein to produce 'Alchemist' film adaptation News. May 18, 2008.
  19. ^ The Cornish Theatre Collective The Alchemist.

External links

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