Study Guide

The Alchemist Love

By Paulo Coelho

Love

Part 2
Santiago

"When you are loved, you can do anything in creation. When you are loved, there's no need at all to understand what's happening, because everything happens within you, and even men can turn themselves into the wind." (2.648)

Aw, how romantic. By tapping into the soul of the universe and falling in love with Fatima, Santiago has found a way to communicate with everything in the universe, including the desert, wind, and sun. He doesn't have to know how it works, just trust that it does work, which is pretty much what the book has been telling us all along. Someone call Hallmark; we could make a killing with this card.

"So, I love you because the entire universe conspired to help me find you." (2.454)

Santiago has a hard time leaving his "I love you because…" dangling in the air, so he has to give Fatima a reason even though she doesn't need one. He quotes the old king Melchizedek, who says that when someone wants something with all their heart the universe helps them get it. Interesting. Up until now, we didn't know that Santiago wanted Fatima with all of his heart. Think the universe is psychic?

"Because it's not love to be static like the desert, nor is it love to roam the world like the wind. And it's not love to see everything from a distance, like you do. Love is the force that transforms and improves the Soul of the World." (2.669)

Hmm. Love isn't static or roaming. So what is it? Something in between? Something like electrons, which behave like both waves and particles. Love is stable and sturdy, because it can't be broken by separation, but it also moves around, allowing for the lovers to follow their dreams and come back to one another. Okay, maybe not so much like electrons as like a ball of fire ants.

The Alchemist

"You must understand that love never keeps a man from pursuing his Personal Legend. If he abandons that pursuit, it's because it wasn't true love . . . the love that speaks the Language of the World." (2.442)

Listen up, Santiago: let the alchemist break it down for you. See, there are true loves (like Beyoncé and Jay-Z) and false loves (like, oh, pick a Kardashian and the next man you see). True love speaks the universal language and will last even through separation and difficulty, because it's mean to be. False love has a million dollar wedding and gets divorced 72 hours later.

Fatima

"Maktub," she said. "If I am really a part of your dream, you'll come back one day." (2.291)

The Arabic term maktub translates to "It is written," and it means that events are written down in the grand plan before they even happen. This is Coelho's way of reminding us that Fatima and Santiago come from different cultures. Fatima's Arabic culture has made her comfortable letting events occur and trusting that they will work out for the best, whereas Santiago is super uptight about controlling the future. But who cares about silly things like culture and language when it comes to twu wuv?

"Don't say anything," Fatima interrupted. "One is loved because one is loved. No reason is needed for loving." (2.453)

Hm. Is it better to love someone because of their qualities, like their beautiful nostrils or amazing waffle-making skills, or just because? Fatima thinks not. See, qualities can change. What if you get a sinus infection and your nostrils get crusty? What if your waffle iron breaks? There's got to be something deeper that keeps the lovers in love.

He had been told by his parents and grandparents that he must fall in love and really know a person before becoming committed. But maybe people who felt that way had never learned the universal language. (2.257)

The universal language tells us about love that is ancient and solid, not something that comes and goes with the Top 40. Santiago feels that he can go against the advice of his elders because he has learned to follow signs that they aren't accustomed to seeing. Yeah. Santiago and every other sixteen year old in the history of ever.

It was difficult not to think about what he had left behind.   [. . .] Maybe the alchemist has never been in love, the boy thought. (2.469)

The alchemist is over 200 years old, so we don't blame him for pretty grumpy. (We aren't even half a century old, and we feel pretty testy most of the time.) See, the alchemist just doesn't have time for Santiago's mooning and moping over leaving Fatima behind at the oasis while he goes on a treasure hunt. And don't think that the alchemist has never been in love. Love is the language of the universe—which just so happens to be the language the alchemist speaks. Maybe Santiago ought to listen to his advice.

He tried to deal with the concept of love as distinct from possession, and couldn't separate them. (2.300)

When Fatima sets him free, explaining that women in the desert are used to watching their men come and go, Santiago has a hard time getting how she's so comfortable being separated. Maybe that's because he doesn't know how to separate love from possession, which is his desire to have her near him all the time.

It was love. Something older than humanity, more ancient than the desert. Something that exerted the same force whenever two pairs of eyes met, as had theirs here at the well. (2.256)

This is love the way cartoons and chick flicks show it—but it might also be, well, natural. Even Nat Geo believes in love at first sight. Here, Coelho gives it even greater weight than what we're used to seeing in pop culture: it's the oldest force, older than humanity.

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