From Tarifa in Spain to Tangiers in Africa, Santiago the shepherd travels to fufil his destiny. In the course of his journey, he harbours many misgivings, doubts and fears, all of which are put to rest by the alchemist - a man learned in the ways of the universe. In the end, after having faced many obstacles, he traverses desert sands, to find love and his destiny. A simple enough story, wouldn't you say?
Almost childishly direct in plot and style, what makes this book worth a read is its ability to captivate the dreamer in us. It charms us with its home truths and little wisdoms and we discover through Santiago our own ability to "fulfil our destinies" - that is, to reach our own highest potential by making the most of what we have.
The book is as invigorating as a dip in a cool pond after a whole day in the sun. A lot of the story is symbolic and steeped in deeper meaning, so reading between the lines becomes a must. It forces us to resurrect those dreams that we might have long abandoned.
Santiago represents all mankind and his journey is one that we must all take - first with him, and then on our own; for, to quote a rather suggestive line said by the alchemist, who is the boy's guide, "There is only one thing that makes a dream impossible to achieve: the fear of failure."This article was first published on 05 Jun 2000.