The Alchemist

Recommendation: Might as well watch sexist paint dry

Where to read: This is entirely a performative exercise so anywhere you’re trying to pick up pretentious wankers

Read with: Tumeric and/or matcha latte with a side helping of catholic guilt and some incense

In brief: This appears to be something of a sacred cow and yet….. it’s just truly dreadful.


I first read this several years ago on the recommendation of several people who, one suspects, felt I could do with a spiritual intervention and/or generally chilling the fuck out. They may have had a valid point however I’m afraid the poor book became the target of some fairly emphatic abuse (along with Life of Pi).

I’m sorry to say that a second reading has not changed my opinion – The Alchemist is pseudo-profundity at its most obnoxious. It is trite, cloying, inane, superficial, couched in indifferent prose, untroubled by rational thought, arguably orientalist and about as subtle as a blunt axe in the face. In addition to these manifold sins, it sits pretty squarely in the realm of sporadically sexist bullshit – there is some rather nauseating guff about “women of the dessert” who are happy to sit in oases and wadis waiting for the men (who have rather more dynamic Personal Legends) to return because the ladies have already found their “Treasures”. Its sole redeeming quality is its relative brevity.

If you’re after something overtly religious, bite the bullet and read CS Lewis’ The Chronicles of Thinly Veiled Religious Allegory (featuring the Jesus Lion, devil-worshipping Middle-Easterners and full-blown Armageddon). If you’re after some good, old-fashioned mysticism and/or concerned your reading list is a tad white, go with Borges or Allende.

Please note, not even the publisher classifies this as literature – I believe it can be found in the self-help section.

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