The Alchemist details the journey of a young Andalusian shepherd boy named Santiago. Santiago, believing a recurring dream to be prophetic, decides to travel to the pyramids of Egypt to find treasure. On the way, he encounters love, danger, opportunity and disaster. One of the significant characters that he meets is an old king named Melchizedek who tells him that “When you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it.” This is the core philosophy and motif of the book.
This book clearly aims to be profoundly simple, couched in the language of a fable or extended parable. The attempt doesn’t work for me, but I am not a theist. Nor am I inclined towards a tale of a protagonist pursuing (or more likely, having handed to him) his “personal legend” that doesn’t make at least a nod to the situation of those whose legend is forever cut off from them through no fault of their own. It is a quick read, however, and I did like the imagery of the desert that Coelho evokes.