Nation on the March

Nation on the March
Nation on the March

Oct 17, 2009

The Alchemist & Arabian Nights connection

The Arabian Nights & the Alchemist by Paulo Coelho have a connection!!

The former, as we know a literary epic which tells the story of Scheherazade, a Queen, who must relate a series of stories to her malevolent husband, the King, to delay her execution.

The stories are told over a period of one thousand and one nights, and every night she ends the story with a suspenseful situation, forcing the King to keep her alive for another day.

The individual stories were created over many centuries, by many people and in many styles, and they have become famous in their own right.

The latter, is inspired from one story: which is reproduced below. Also narrated is a small background of Paulo Coelho’s magnum opus “The Alchemist”. I enjoyed putting these bits together about the book and its author. Hope you will enjoy too!!

Here is both of them, but in reverse order:

Paulo Coelho (born August 24, 1947) is a Brazilian lyricist and novelist.

The Alchemist (Portuguese: O Alquimista) (was published in Portuguese in 1988 and in English 1993. It is a small book of s 167 pages. The Alchemist was originally written in Portuguese (1988) and has since been translated into English (1993) and 66 other languages, winning the Guinness World Record for most translated book by a living author. It has sold more than 65 million copies in more than 150 countries, becoming one of the best-selling books in history.

In his 30s, Paulo Coelho had already made a career as a popular songwriter. However, in 1986, Coelho walked the 500-plus mile Road of Santiago de Compostela in northeastern Spain, a turning point in his life. Coelho described this autobiographically in The Pilgrimage, and it also had great influence on his next book, The Alchemist (Santiago, the novel's main character, derives his name from the Road of Santiago).

In an interview, Coelho stated "The Alchemist is a metaphor of my own life. It was written in '88, and in that moment I was also very happy in the things I was doing. I was doing something that gave me food and water -- to use the metaphor in the book, I was working, I had a person who I loved, I had money, but I was not fulfilling my dream. My dream was, and still is, to be a writer."
Coelho sold the book to a small Brazilian publishing house, who made an initial print run of 900 copies and decided not to reprint. He subsequently found a bigger publishing house, and with the publication of his next book Brida, The Alchemist became a Brazilian bestseller.
In 1993, Harper Collins published 50,000 copies of the book, the largest American print run for a Brazilian author. An executive at Harper Collins described that "reading the Alchemist was like getting up at dawn and seeing the sun rise while the rest of the world still slept."
The underlying theme of one dream driving its dreamer passionately to pursue it has been deployed by many a writers in last few centuries.
One such directly connectable story from the Arabian Nights is reproduced below.
There is no comparison and every one is entitled to his own favourite flavour of his cup of tea.

The Arabian Nights (the book as well as extract of comments are from by Michael Berman )

The Book of the Thousand Nights and a Night, translated by Richard F. Burton (London: The Burton Club, 1885). Since its first translation into a European language between 1704 and 1717, The Thousand and One Nights, also known as The Arabian Nights, has been recognized as a universal classic of fantasy narrative.
It is, in fact, a much older work. Based on Indian, Persian, and Arab folklore, it dates back at least 1000 years as a unified collection, with many of its individual stories undoubtedly being even older.
If this particular story seems familiar to you, it might be because it provided the basis for the modern classic - Paolo Coelho’s The Alchemist:

Once there lived in Baghdad a wealthy businessman who lost all his means and was then forced to earn his living by hard labour. One night a man came to him in a dream, saying, "Your fortune is in Cairo; go there and seek it." So he set out for Cairo. He arrived there after dark and took shelter for the night in a mosque. As Allah would have it, a band of thieves entered the mosque in order to break into an adjoining house. The noise awakened the owners, who called for help. The Chief of Police and his men came to their aid. The robbers escaped, but when the police entered the mosque they found the man from Baghdad asleep there. They laid hold of him and beat him with palm rods until he was nearly dead, then threw him into jail.
Three days later the Chief of Police sent for him and asked, "Where do you come from?"
"From Baghdad," he answered.
"And what brought you to Cairo?"
"A man came to me in a dream and told me to come to Cairo to find my fortune," answered the man from Baghdad "But when I came here, the promised fortune proved to be the palm rods you so generously gave to me."
"You fool," said the Chief of Police, laughing until his wisdom teeth showed. "A man has come to me three times in a dream and has described a house in Baghdad where a great sum of money is supposedly buried beneath a fountain in the garden. He told me to go there and take it, but I stayed here. You, however, have foolishly journeyed from place to place, putting all your faith in a dream which was nothing more than a meaningless hallucination." He then gave him some money saying, "This will help you return to your own country."
The man took the money. He realized that the Chief of Police had just described his own house in Baghdad, so he returned home immediately, where he discovered a great treasure beneath the fountain in his garden. And this is how Allah brought the dream's prediction to fulfillment.