Am I a rebel without a cause ? Do I swim against the tide just for the heck of it ? If one were to go by the tonnes and tonnes of book reviews on this modern day classic (???) then the verdict is unanimous - I am guilty. But what the hell ? Somebody's got to cry out "The Emperor's naked" and I hereby assume the mantle of "The Chosen One". Prepare yourself for what could be one of the most preposterous statement you've ever heard. THE ALCHEMIST sucks... and sucks BIG TIME.
The other day I was chatting up with one of my friends regarding dreams when one thing led to another and pretty soon, he was quoting from Coelho and lecturing me on the purpose of life. I've always tried to steer clear of such controversial arguments but that particular day our misunderstanding seemed to stem not from the underlying idea of following one's dreams and never giving up but more from the way Coelho deals with it in the book. Ever since my pal's being challenging me to write a review on the book but in IMHO the book doesn't deserve even that. Haaw. I've been scouring the net for any form of criticism just to confirm that there are other people like me but strangely enough, we seem to be in a very small minority. (I refuse to ack that there aren't more people who found this book silly and pretentious)
20 million copies (acc to the blurb), 40 translations (acc to the net), numerous awards and accolades notwithstanding, The Alchemist is a sorry excuse for a 'life-enhancing tale' - For starters, it definitely did not alter the way I saw the world but then not many books have been written with me as the sole target audience ;-) However, one thing it did manage to do was to give an entire new dimension to the words 'cliche' and 'repetitive'. The way omens and signs
were strewn just about everywhere (pick 10 random pages and if U dont have an omen in 7 of them I'll refund what you paid for the book) had me itching to tear my hair apart - and this I believe also reminded me that I badly needed a haircut, which probably made the world look at me differently rather than the other way around. (Thanks Kay for the inspiration) After the first 30 odd pages, the sense of deja vu is totally lost and one is fed on a constant supply of rambling philosophy. Hey wait ! As if philosophy isn't enough, Coelho also throws in a dash of fantasy, some spirituality (not religion) and good ol' Eastern mysticism to add more masala to the tiresome fairy-tale. The faithfuls will never fail to point out that the charm of the story lies in its simplicity but then wouldn't it have been a better idea to also add a warning in the blurb that its been written keeping in mind the least common denominators. I am not being snobbish here but if I were to pay my biggest compliment to the book, then it would have to be that Coelho was smart enough to realise than readers would soon get bored of the gibberish and hence kept it short at 170 odd pages ;-)
To end this diatribe, here is something which probably sums up the extreme reactions that this books seems to evoke amongst its readers. The book seemingly boasts of some of the most dreamy lines ever written. Sample this
'When you want something all the universe conspires in helping you achieve it'
I wouldn't be exaggerating much if I confessed that my first reaction to the above statement was nausea. For a mad moment, I was scared that I would die of verbal diabetes by the time I completed the book. And if that's not enough to convince the lucky few who've been fortunate enough to stay away from this pile of balderdash, what about kisses on the winds and talking to the desert and the sands.
Folks, don't get me wrong here coz just like most of you, I also believe in listening to the heart and following dreams but then lets not con ourselves into believing that The Alchemist is is a literary wonder or a timeless work of art. If only Mr Coelho would just write more along the lines of Veronika Decides to Die !