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Coelho’s Biographical Representations in “The Alchemist”


Paulo Coelho is one of the most famous novelists of the world of today (Coelho, 2009). This Brazilian author wins a lot of respect for his talent of making people think of the simplest issues they have never thought of before, even when those issues directly touch their lives (Horlick et al., p. 60). Thus, philosophy of life is the major topic of works by Coelho, irrespective of the specific subjects he writes about: “I see philosophy as something alive, something that changes according to our inner needs. But if I were to synthesize my work, I would say: live your Personal Legend, pay the price of your dreams, read the omens, awaken your feminine side, and dare to be different.” (Bhattacharya, 2008) This paper will focus on the biographical elements that one can find in the most significant work by this Brazilian author – “The Alchemist”.


To start with, it is necessary to find out the reasons to suppose that “The Alchemist” contains those biographical references on the whole. The first reason to prove that it does is the attitude of the author himself to this work. Calling this work “the metaphor of his own life”, Paulo Coelho allows the researchers to state that “The Alchemist” is an artistically processed autobiography of this author (Coelho, 2009). Coelho himself has experienced numerous revelations in his life, and he writes about this in his novel. Such concepts as the Personal Legend, following the omens and believing in one’s destiny constitute the basis of the work by the famous Brazilian novelist. However, to see the biographical representations in “The Alchemist”, it is necessary to take a brief look at the plot of this book.

Plot Summary

The book under consideration tells a story about a young Spanish man who lives his life between the wishes to follow his destiny and the necessity to work hard to feed himself. While working as a shepherd, Santiago dreams about finding a treasure and being able to marry the daughter of his rich neighbor. Reading books leads him to the meeting of the King of Salem who prophesizes his trip to Egypt, meeting with the Alchemist and finding the treasure. However, having spent a lot of time and experienced a lot of challenges, Santiago comes back home to find the treasure in the church he has been visiting since his childhood (Coelho, 2001). In this brief overview one can find the obvious parallel with Coelho’s life – rejected by his parents he pursues his Personal Legend and finds his treasure becoming successful at what he liked most of all.

Coelho’s Philosophy

Personal Legend

One of the basic concepts “The Alchemist” develops is the idea of the Personal Legend. Describing his major character as a person in search of his destiny in this life, Paulo Coelho actually describes himself in his youth. In 1986, as a person with little values and achievements in life, Coelho takes up the 500-mile trip of Santiago de Compostela looking for the divine revelation that can direct his further life (Bhattacharya, 2008). Accordingly, speaking about Santiago, the author recollects his own doubts and hesitations as for the one and only right path in life:

The boy didn’t know what a person’s “destiny” was. It’s what you have always wanted to accomplish. Everyone, when they are young, knows what their destiny is. At that point in their lives, everything is clear and everything is possible. They are not afraid to dream, and to yearn for everything they would like to see happen to them in their lives. But, as time passes, a mysterious force begins to convince them that it will be impossible for them to realize their destiny (Coelho, p. 22).

Thus, it is obvious that Paulo Coelho expresses his own philosophy of life in these lines from “The Alchemist”. The ability of a person to imagine things, to have wishes and to strive for their realization plays the role of the Supreme Will of the Universe for Coelho. His attitude towards life also focuses on these issues, as far as being a grey-haired experienced man he does not lose the faith in his destiny and in his ability to speak the so-called “Language of the World” (Coelho, p. 117).

Following the Omens

Drawing from this, another prominent feature of the philosophy by Paulo Coelho is the belief that a person should pay attention to the voice of nature, and follow the omen sent by the Universe. Accordingly, Santiago from “The Alchemist” starts listening to the voice of the Universe later then he could but not too late to lose the treasure of his life. Meeting with the King of Salem is the turning point that persuades Santiago to follow his dream. Paulo Coelho has also had his turning point:

My turning point was my pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela. It was then that I, who had dedicated most of my life to penetrate the ‘secrets’ of the universe, realized that there are no secrets. Life is and will always be a mystery. We have to follow the omens, and pay attention to others. Life is a constant miracle, and this miracle manifests itself in encounters with other people (Bhattacharya, 2008).

As a result, the whole story about the Spanish young man is nothing but an autobiographical work using the character of Santiago as an allusion to the author’s trip in the pursuit of his destiny. Even the name of the main character is the reference to that trip, and the demonstration of the fact that every person can find his or her destination on this Earth – the only thing necessary is the strong wish. Thus, it is obvious that the philosopher from Brazil created “The Alchemist” as both his autobiography and the practical guide for ordinary people as for how they should perceive the reality and which ideals they should pursue.


To make the respective conclusion to this paper, it is necessary to state that Paulo Coelho is the acknowledged genius of the modern novel. The masterpiece of his, “The Alchemist”, proves this fact by presenting numerous biographical representations of the author: “…this is an autobiographical philosophical examination of life through the eyes of a man who experiences a series of revelations.” (Wansell, p. 56) Considering the role of fate and destiny in the human life, Paulo Coelho exemplifies his argument with his personal experiences, and this makes an immense impression on the intended audience – Paulo Coehlo shares his soul with the readers and the latter answer with their admiration of his literary works (Day, 2005).

Works Cited

Bhattacharya, Anupama. “Everybody is a Magus.” Life Positive. 2008. Your Complete Guide to Holistic Living. Web.

Coelho, Paulo. The Alchemist: A Fable About Following Your Dream. Sagebrush, 2001.

Coelho, Paulo. The Official Web Site. 2009.

Day, Elizabeth. “A mystery even to himself.” Daily telegraph. 2005. Web.

Wansell, Geoffrey. “On Form? Paulo Coelho.” The Daily Mail (London, England) 2005: 56.

Horlick, Nicola et al. “The Book That Changed My Life.” The Daily Mail (London, England) : 60.


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