Creative Writing





The Alchemist Conspiracy.

The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho is an international bestseller. Having sold more than 30 million copies, it has also been translated into over 60 languages. It has been identified as a life-changing piece of literature that moves and touches the lives of anybody that reads it. This not only heightens one’s expectations of the book but also prompts one with an urgency to read it.

Paulo Coelho infuses spirituality with story-telling and provides you with philosophies on how to improve your life. His work almost appears as a parable and is enthused with morality. Upon reading the reviews of The Alchemist, I believed that this would be a remarkable piece of work. It was being recommended to me by everyone that I knew; I was told that it would light up my soul and provide me with a whole new outlook on life.

However, after deciding to pick up the book, it took me an entire day to get through it. In fact, I had to push myself to reach the end, eventually experiencing a sense of relief upon completion. I then proceeded to lose myself in a dreamlike state, wondering whether I had missed something significant. The entire story had been about a boy in the desert in search of treasure. There had been no substance or subtext. There was no anticipated epiphany; I had felt nothing as I read the book. There was not an enlightening moment, a realisation, clarity, the book gave me nothing. 

In a desperate attempt to want to love the story, I decided to re-read it. I had to have missed something. The second read however, was more frustrating. I felt as if Coelho was almost preaching a cult-like reliance through his futile piece of writing. There was no character development and a lack of build-up to what was deemed a ‘poignant ending.’

I then spoke to my father who had in fact been one of the people to recommend the book. Upon telling him that it was a piece of nonsense, he began to laugh and admitted that he had also hated the book but did not want to break the circle of pretence.

Everybody we knew had said that they loved the book. We derived the conclusion that it was a part of some sort of conspiracy whereby everybody was recommending this book to each other in order to subject one to the same annoyance that they had felt upon reading it.

There is nothing exceptional about The Alchemist; it is mediocre and unequivocally overrated. Two years later, I still fail to understand how this book has established such a reputable stance. Every time I visit a charity shop, I identify at least five copies of the book placed beside ‘Fifty Shades of Grey.’ When somebody tells me that The Alchemist is one of their favourite books, I cannot help but wonder whether they are sustaining the pretence or whether they really did love it.

The book continues to be circulated globally and I wonder how long this pretence will live on. If this book was re-written and sold as a self-help book, I would comprehend people’s willingness to read it but this book is nothing more than an insult to literature and a demonstration of just how poorly-read our society is.

People have argued that anybody that hates the book doesn’t ‘get it.’ My response is that I have read a huge diversity of literature and this book is not comparable to their depths. Whilst I appreciate Coelho’s attempt, I feel that he wanted to philosophise society and the only way that he could think to do it was through a story about a boy finding love and his destiny.

This makes me wonder about why we lie about reading certain books, why we pretend to love books that everybody else loves, why we maintain such charades. I have two English degrees and I will openly admit that I hated The Great Gatsby and that it took me more than four years to finish Pride and Prejudice.

What are your thoughts on The Alchemist? Which books do you hate that everybody else pretends to love?
(Image Source: here)


  1. I read this with a similar level of anticipation, having heard great things about it from everyone else.

    I was disappointed. There is, in fact, nothing about the book I liked, and it certainly didn't change my life or transport me to some higher spiritual level or anything of the sort.
    Mostly I got the impression that Coelho was dressing it up as some deep convoluted philosophical journey, but it's not even close. (When I point this out I'm usually told - mostly by non-readers - that I didn't understand the meaning)

    So, yeah, I agree with you completely. I made an attempt to read another of Coelho's books, The Witch of Portobello, but it was such a bore I couldn't make it through more than half. I did find the premise somewhat interesting, but overall I don't think I'll be trying him again.

  2. I felt almost the same after reading 'The Alchemist'

    And also Love Story by Erich Segal..
    Apart from the beautiful opening lines,I hate everything else about the book.

  3. I agree with every sentence of what you have written. I thought I was of the people who didnot 'get it'. Even 'Aleph' did not interest me !

    Similar books I didnot relate with but others like is Catcher in the rye and Memoirs of the Geisha. They are beyond my ability to comprehend!

  4. I don't know. I read the book when I was in the sixth grade, and it really affected me back then. Santiago had a materialistic goal, but plot-wise I think the book was great. I loved the spiritual aspect (even though I didn't necessarily agree with some of the ideas) and I liked how the characters were eccentric and very unique in their own way. For me, liking the book was no charade.

  5. lol you too? I was also wondering what was amazing about the alchemist. However one of my favourite passages from that book was "“When each day is the same as the next, it’s because people fail to recognize the good things that happen in their lives every day that the sun rises.”

    but other than that..... i don't even remember why the boy went on his journey .

  6. Same here.
    But believe it is a bit better than the rest of his books which are just crap. Eleven minutes? A book that talks about nothing but sex and that too with illogical baseless philosophies. I don't like his books. Wonder how others did.

  7. No one recommended it to me and I loved it the first time I read it. Maybe expectations play a big role in approaching a book. The second time I read it, a year later, I was much more critical of it as a piece of literature; not for any particular reason. I found many of the same problems: no character development, no subtext, not much long-range suspense. I feel that either there is an epidemic of promoting bad literature{and more often movies} because of unquestioned social values, or there are just hundreds of people with unmodified taste.


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