By Paulo Coelho
New York: Harper Collins Publishers, 1993
ISBN # 0-06-250218-2 (paper)
Comments by Bob Corbett
This is a lovely book, tender but profound. It is about the importance of seeking one’s own meaning of life and spending one’s life fulfilling it. Coelho calls it seeking one’s “Personal Legend.” It reminds me very much of what the Existentialists would have called “authenticity.” However, unlike the Existentialists who write rather darkly about this process of seeking one’s own meaning system, Coelho’s young shepherd boy is seeking his Personal Legend in something much like a fairly tale. However, Coelho at least gives us a process and set of obstacles we might well expect, and his…show more content… Coelho writes a beautiful and moving legend of the boy’s journey and enlightenment. I did find the title rather odd. There is an alchemist in the novel whom the shepherd boy meets and who, indeed, helps him in many ways and actually sort of makes the shepherd boy into an alchemist himself. But the use of the definite article “the” in the title seems a bit confusing. It would seem, on Coelho’s account, that anyone who actually achieves his or her Personal Legend becomes “an” alchemist, changing the baser life we have from birth into the gold of our own Personal Success. But this is a journey upon which any person may embark.
On the other hand Coelho seems right to me in bringing in the influential alchemist whom the boy meets in the north African desert. I think most of us who have seriously undertaken this journey meet people along the way who teach us and inspire us toward this mysterious and even occult route toward our Personal Legend. I’m 70 now and still on my journey, and like the boy, have arrived at various stages I once was almost sure were arrival points, only to discover another stage of enlightenment along the way.
Everyone who is such a seeker should read this optimistic book of one who seems to have succeeded in the process of turning a potentially base life into a golden achievement, a true alchemist’s