So, I had to read The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho for English. At the beginning, I thought it was adorable. Here was a deep shepherd who was about to embark on a journey that (according to the back cover) would lead to some profound experience and personal revelation. I was excited, because I’d heard a lot of good things about the book. Half-way through, I was not so excited.
You see, while I like books that are philosophical in nature (check out Out of the Silent Planet by C.S. Lewis), I did not like this book. And that was because the book was saturated with philosophy. And I really do mean saturated. Every page spoke of our Personal Legend or the Language of the World or listening to our Heart, even the Introduction. If you asked me to tell you the theme of the book, I could literally take a quote from the book and that would be it. And I wouldn’t have to search hard for that quote because it was repeated everywhere. And I found it annoying and almost insulting to be told the theme everywhere.
I also think it was insulting to Coelho’s main character, a boy named Santiago. I already mentioned that I liked the beginning of the book. That is because he was just a shepherd who would speak to his sheep because he knew they understood him. He had deep thoughts, and I liked that. But because of the saturation of philosophy in the book, the reader got annoyed at him. We have a glimpse into his thoughts, and if his thoughts get annoying because they’re so repetitive, we get annoyed at him. So, I don’t think it was fair to Santiago, because by the end of the book, the reader could no longer appreciate what a profound person he was.
It’s not that I didn’t agree with what was said, although some of the things were pretty far-fetched and/or cheesy. I just didn’t appreciate how it was portrayed. I did like some of the themes. I liked that it spoke of understanding people and the world around us in a deeper way: “Intuition is really a sudden immersion of the soul into the universal current of life, where the histories of all people are connected, and we are able to know everything, because it’s all written there.” I liked that; I really did. I liked when it spoke of how people can communicate and understand each other, even when they don’t speak the same language. Because we’re all people, and we should all be able to connect to each other.
You don’t need words to comfort someone who’s crying. You don’t need words to read the emotions on someone’s face, whether they are of fear, anguish, love, or laughter. Even though I love words, I have to admit that they’re not necessary. Celine Dion sings a song called “Let’s Talk About Love.” The song goes to say that “there’s a thread that runs right through us all and helps us understand.” Coelho didn’t need to saturate his book with philosophy to tell us that. I can hear it in a song. I can see it in my friends. Granted, we have the tendency to forget how very similar we are. We like to think of how we are different from others, especially when we don’t like them. But we are all human; we all experience love and anger and sorrow. And as Coehlo would put it, we all speak the Language of the World.
Or we can just talk about love.