The Alchemist

“Don’t forget that everything you deal with is only one thing and nothing else. And don’t forget the language of omens. And, above all, don’t forget to follow your destiny through to its conclusion.”

—- Paulo Coelho, The Alchemist

Working cranking through my reading list – on a race with death – so many books, so little time – I queued up Paulo Coelho‘s The Alchemist. It’s a famous book, and has been recommended. I was happy to see that it was a slim volume – all the better for getting there in time.

You can say that the omens instructed me to read the book. I never cross the omens if it is at all possible.

The book is in the form of a fable… actually, it is a fable. It bears a strong resemblance to “The Man Who Became Rich through a Dream” from 1001 Nights (a folktale of Aarne-Thompson-Uther type 1645).

Is this a bad thing? I don’t think so. There are a lot of folk tales out there – any story told has been told before. I need to work on a list of these archetypal tales – I wonder how many can be updated into the big, evil city? Can I kill people in them?

I was of two minds reading the Alchemist. It’s a simple tale and I wanted more. But maybe that was simply my prejudice – I wasn’t expecting a fable, so I wasn’t satisfied with a fable.

But I’ve been to the desert and I know how it talks to you. I’ve never seen the pyramids but I can imagine what they would look like towering over the dunes by moonlight.

Now that I’m done, though, and moving on – I’m glad I read the thing. I’m not sure if I learned that much… I’ve heard it before. I wonder about the people that say, “This book will change your life,” – I guess that depends on what your life was before… but if a tale of symbols, omens, and following your own special destiny is a new and revolutionary concept for you … good luck with all that.

I wonder if an Alchemist has to learn Physical Alchemy? I’m a regular chemist, and p-chem almost killed me.

Oh, one more thing… even if it is a fable, it is one hell of a well-written one.

So, what do the omens tell me to read next…. maybe some nice, crude, violent crime noir. Something where some people die, people that don’t deserve it – people that follow their destiny to its conclusion… usually in some dark cold alley somewhere.