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Summary

Paulo Coelho's enchanting novel has inspired a devoted following around the world. This story, dazzling in its simplicity and wisdom, is about an Andalusian shepherd boy named Santiago who travels from his homeland in Spain to the Egyptian desert in search of treasure buried in the Pyramids. Along the way he meets a Gypsy woman, a man who calls himself king, and an Alchemist, all of whom point Santiago in the direction of his quest. No one knows what the treasure is, or if Santiago will be able to surmount the obstacles along the way But what starts out as a journey to find worldly goods turns into a meditation on the treasures found within. Lush, evocative, and deeply humane, the story of Santiago is art eternal testament to the transforming power of our dreams and the importance of listening to our hearts.
©1988 Paulo Coelho (P)2005 HarperCollins Publishers

Critic reviews

"The story has the comic charm, dramatic tension and psychological intensity of a fairy tale, but it's full of specific wisdom as well, about becoming self-empowered, overcoming depression, and believing in dreams." (Publishers Weekly)

"It is short, but certainly packs a wallop. What makes the story even better is Jeremy Irons's unforgettable narration.... Irons's voice is crystal clear, and every word is given its own starring role in the text. He creates wondrous characters, male and female, that stay with us." (AudioFile)

What listeners say about The Alchemist

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Life changing

Just amazing, my life has begun a new chapter, I've quit my job and I'm moving abroad in 3 weeks.

56 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars

Mr Irons makes this reading beautiful

Whilst a lot of people may debate aspects of the book and its content in their review, I would like to comment on the extraordinary power and beauty of the reading by Jeremy Irons. His voice made this story a real joy to hear, I am going to search and see if he narrates any more on here. Having read the book before I can honestly say that Jeremy Irons' reading surpassed my reading by far. His dynamic tone and characterisation truly transport you on the magical journey of wonder that this book is all about. Thank you Audible, thank you Mr Irons, a beautiful 4 hours indeed.

49 people found this helpful

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This story moved me.

Would you listen to The Alchemist again? Why?

This is a wonderful and thought-provoking tale. I wanted to listen again as soon as it was finished! It really invites you to read between the lines and reflect upon your own life story. Highly recommended.

12 people found this helpful

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Soft, easy and inspiring

What made the experience of listening to The Alchemist the most enjoyable?

This book is all it's hyped to be. A warming and inspiring story with great characters and intrigue. A nice twist too ;)

Jeremy Irons really enhanced the story for me too. His accents were apt and sometimes amusing; his voice acting top notch.

What did you like best about this story?

The ending, the characters.

Have you listened to any of Jeremy Irons’s other performances? How does this one compare?

I've not.

Did you have an emotional reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

Irons made the experience absolutely better.

11 people found this helpful

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Pregnant with wisdom

The Alchemist stirred questions within me. It revealed wisdom that had been staring me in the face, which I had failed to recognise.

The story of the Centurion struck a deeply personal nerve, at a most vulnerable time, bringing tears to my eyes .

Jeremy Irons made the words leap of the page, as though they have a life of their own. I would recommend this book to anyone who is afraid of failure.

17 people found this helpful

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Trite, obvious and irritating

I struggled with this book. I think I must be swimming against the tide of love this book generates! It’s like a cross between an Aesop’s fable and ‘Jonathan Livingstone Seagull,’ which an ex-boyfriend of mine made me read once in an attempt to help me understand the universe from a more ‘spiritual’ perspective. Suffice to say, he became a monk and I became a committed pragmatist. This book is eerily reminiscent of the kind of trite and patronising nonsense that I really dislike in a book. The constant reference to ‘omens’ and ‘destiny’ became tedious quite quickly. It’s fairly obvious to me that life offers some wonderful opportunities which sometimes take real courage to engage with - that message isn’t particularly profound. The assertion that the universe works with you to ‘achieve your personal legend’ is fanciful at best and a beautiful lie at worst. Luck can play a big part in life’s fortunes, along with hard work, self-belief, resilience, and the support of one’s family and friends. But the universe itself couldn’t care less: life can end randomly and pointlessly at any time for no reason, so the message to ‘grab it whilst it lasts, challenge yourself and try to be happy’ is fairly obvious, isn’t it? Or perhaps I’m missing something? It probably didn’t help that Jeremy Irons’ reading of it is overwrought. His dodgy accents are awful (especially the cockney one for the Desert, Sun and Wind,) and some are just noisy and grating. This one is for me.

7 people found this helpful

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Absolutely loved it

I had just listened to 5 second rule by mel robbins who in her book suggested this book i am so glad i decided to listen to this. Such a beautiful & inspiring story with a lot of spiritual meanings. I listened to it in 1 day i just couldnt put it down. I have now ordered 2 of the paperback books for my children to read. This is a must on any book shelf :)

13 people found this helpful

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Fantastic read ( and listen)

What a fantastic book. A really complete story. Fantastic detail and insight into a world of mystery. Highly recommended .

4 people found this helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars

Such an inspiring story

This was recommended by Will Smilth during an interview on his ideas of success.
It's a simple and interesting tale with lots of twists and thought provoking ideas.
Highly recommended to anyone, especially those interested in "the way" or personal development.

20 people found this helpful

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Nonsense

Twenty years ago so many people were raving about this book I thought it must be something special. Think "Celestine prophecy" or any thing Carlos Casteneda, ridiculous, generic, hippy guff, for saps and their cats. waste of money and time.

3 people found this helpful

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  • Joe Kraus
  • 18-01-20

Saccharine for the Soul

My wife beat me to the punch with the line I’d intended to start my reflections on this: The Alchemist is this generation’s Jonathan Livingston Seagull.

Then she took it a step further, reminding me that she enjoyed Jonathan Livingston Seagull when she was 13.

In many ways, I think that says it all. I didn’t know that much about the book except for the fact that a lot of people seem to have enjoyed it. It seemed to have acquired a reputation as contemporary ‘wisdom literature,’ something someone would encourage you to read if you were feeling down or uninspired.

If I squint, I get some of that. This is a fable, so you have to accept a certain amount of easy narrative and simplified conflict. Santiago sets off on a quest, and everything lines up to make that quest possible.

Still, there is something unquestionably adolescent about the whole business. We are told repeatedly that the universe is built to make true the dreams of those who believe most firmly. We’re assured that certain true believers – loosely defined so as to include those who fall truly in love – have a kind of secret path laid out for them; they just have to be earnest enough in its pursuit.

I can see how some people might be inspired to hear such a message at certain low points in their lives. I can’t see, though, how they can take it at all seriously. This is every bit as much a fantasy as Harry Potter, but, unlike there, we’re never invited to weight the real burdens of growing up. Instead, we are invited to stay within the confines of this comfortable, imagined strategy for confronting our individual destinies.

Perhaps worse, this sort of “prosperity gospel for the irreligious” seems to imply that failure is simply a lack of true faith in one’s destiny. It suggests that, if we aren’t fulfilled, we need to see how we passed up on the opportunities and “omens” that would have made us so.

As a result, this is pernicious in the way it gives us a fantasy for the privileged. Santiago may begin as a poor shepherd, but he’s always rich – literally so – in his capacity to choose the way in which he lives his life. This may not be about a seagull who see the world differently from his peers, but it’s the same entitled escapism. Most people fail to live their dreams because they are born into a poverty or connectedness that prevents them from self-indulgence. This book ignores that. Like the notorious Marie Antoinette, it invites everyone without sufficient bread simply to eat cake instead.
There is some fun here, and I like the way Coelho peppers the work with so many admiring references to Islam and the wisdom of other cultures. Plus, it reads easily, though I confess I grew bored with parts of it even though it’s a very short book.

Bottom line, I should have listened to my wife.

90 people found this helpful

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  • JennStokes
  • 01-09-17

Brilliant story

I am completely in love with this story. I actually plan to listen to it again very soon because I expect it to be something that you get something different from it each time you hear it. Many important thoughts and lessons are throughout the book, and it is a great story too with wonderful characters.

25 people found this helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Judi
  • 07-01-07

A Timeless Tale

I've been listening to Audible books for years, but this is the first one that, after finishing it, I immediately bought a hard copy. In fact, I bought TWO!! One for me to (re)read and mark up with highlights and notes, and one to pass around to my family and friends! This story is an amazing parable, richly layered with insights for finding and living a richer, more grounded, more meaningful life. Never "preachy", this is an allegorical story written in lyrical language that stands beautifully on its own. Add the richness that Jeremy Irons's delivery brings to this Audible edition, and it becomes a transcendent experience.

301 people found this helpful

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  • Morgan
  • 24-03-15

Magnificent!

This is a must read to all those who ask themselves existential questions: why am I here? What's life for? Why all the pain? Etc... The book does not delve into these questions but it paints a picture and the listener/ reader gets to interpret it. To me it was revealing and significant. I learn much about me and what life means to me by following the story of a boy through the desert of Africa. I wish you get as much as I did out of this book--and more! It is magnificent!

15 people found this helpful

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  • Karen Beale
  • 20-09-19

why are all of these types of stories so sexist?

I think this was my fault. I was expecting something different. I had just listened to Artemis by Andy Weir and it was so rich with stories about interesting women and men and the complexities of what makes us human. Then I listened to this one which only had 3 women mentioned and they fit the stereotype of women as virginal or as evil. The two young women were flat, 2 dimensional characters that only existed to be married to a man. Their only attribute was their beauty. I'm not entirely sure that either of them had a brain. The 3rd woman was an old gypsy woman that was a bit evil and she could have been interesting, but was only mentioned a few times early in the book and then never again. They had no dreams, no goals, no future except as they related to men. Am I missing something? Is this book only written for boys? If so, God help us if that is what men think of women!

21 people found this helpful

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  • RueRue
  • 02-04-15

Great performance, slim story

This isn't really a story, but more of a parable, intended to be inspirational. The message isn't too suble, but the prose is lyrical and direct. Beautifully read by Jeremy Irons.

32 people found this helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Linda
  • 02-02-07

Marvelous Book & Expressive Reader

No better choice to read this magnificent book by Paul Coelho than Jeremy Irons. It is exceptionally well read, with great expression, and wonderful adaption of voice to characters. I have had it on audio cassette since it was first released in that format and was delighted to find it available in audio-book format at CD quality. It's truly a must have and is suitable for all ages. The book is also most profound yet told simply with grace and depth.

163 people found this helpful

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  • Kent
  • 20-03-12

What a nice little allegory!

This is a pleasant little story. And, it's one of those books that bears re-reading (or re-listening, if you did the audiobook format, such as I did)! I has the same sort of feel as "The Prophet" by Kahlil Gibran, or "Siddhartha" by Herman Hesse - and similarly carries a lot of subtle and overt life-messages in it's concise text. It is one of those stories that I'll ponder for quite a long time!
Jeremy Irons did a fantastic job with the narration - lots of variety in voices, and LOTS of emotion and feeling in the emphasis of dialogue!
This was a short, quick, and easy listen, and was very much worth my time!

31 people found this helpful

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  • DIANE
  • 28-07-14

Very special... a keepsake.

This book is one that I will read (listen to) over and over. The lessons one learns from this book are very similar to those one understands when studying Law of Attraction. The principles are sound and the story is a wonderful one. Jeremy Irons does a fabulous narration. Some chide me for not "reading" books... but when one can have the treat of hearing a talented actor such as Jeremy Irons do a rendition of such a special book, it's a win win as far as I'm concerned. I am now anxious to read other books by Paulo Coelho!

43 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Kir Kanos TN
  • 20-06-07

A must for every young person

I really enjoyed this book. While it is not necessarily the enthralling Hero's journey that I thought it would be, this book should be on every high school and college student's reading list. It helps to put your "personal legend" or life's mission into perspective. While it isn't nearly a basis for theology, it touches on the many issues that people face as they embark on their life's journey. I especially liked the Alchemist's advice about not giving up on your life's mission for love. While admirable and definitely worth while, if one ends their life journey to pursue love, they will regret it and eventually resent the one they love. On the other hand if that significant other truly loves you, they will encourage you to pursue your personal legend and even wait for you if need be. To stand in the way of another person fulfilling their purpose does an injustice to that person, but is also self detrimental. Each person is on this earth for a purpose. It is up to each of us to be open enough to God's plan to find and pursue that purpose. Then we can truly live rich and fulfilling lives.

130 people found this helpful