Saturday, October 31, 2015

One Omen Too Many

The AlchemistThe Alchemist 
by Paulo Coelho

"It's the possibility of having a dream come true that makes life interesting, he thought." (p 13)

"Another Omen!" (p 166)

I began reading this book with some skepticism with regard to whether it would live up to its hype. While I found that my skepticism was rewarded by the author I may have been better served if I would have noticed an omen when the young sheepherder remembered the old woman "who interpreted dreams"(p 13).  Perhaps if I had "listened to my heart" I would not have read the book in the first place. 

While it started relatively simply, seeming to be a sort of allegory, the further I read the more convoluted the story became. Instead of holding my interest with great writing or suspense or deep thoughts the book encouraged me to read on to see how quickly I could finish it.  The narrative became an unsuccessful attempt to provide some meaning that I would compare to someone mixing their metaphors.

The main character, Santiago, goes on a journey of exploration ending in a sort of mystical experience that has taken him far away from the simple life that he had. In doing so it left him with a muddle of different methods for finding his dream like "speaking with the wind and the sun" and "being a shepherd" and getting over "personal hardship". Whether this amounted to a "higher plan" for his life is far from transparent to this reader.

Rather than attempt to make any further sense out of the story I would prefer to warn other readers that this is a book that pretends to be deep with references to alchemy and spiritualism and even an allusion to Plato's theory of ideas. However, the whole does not equal the sum of its parts primarily because it does not present a coherent message.  It does succeed in a way, but only by devolving into a combination of confusing claptrap; therefore I would not recommend reading it for omens good, bad, or otherwise.

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1 comment:

Brian Joseph said...

I do tend to look for coherent messages and themes,

Based on your commentary, it sounds as if Coelho tried too hard to be clever.