Looking Back on 25 Years of The Alchemist
Eight months later, an American visiting Brazil picked up a copy of The Alchemist in a local bookstore. He wanted to translate the book and help me find a publisher in the United States. HarperCollins agreed to bring it to an American audience, publishing it with great fanfare: ads in the New York Times and influential news magazines, radio and television interviews. But it still took some time to sell, slowly finding its audience in the United States by word of mouth, just as it did in Brazil. And then one day, Bill Clinton was photographed leaving the White House with a copy. Then Madonna raved about the book to Vanity Fair, and people from different walks of life—from Rush Limbaugh and Will Smith to college students and soccer moms—were suddenly talking about it.
The Alchemist became a spontaneous—and organic—phenomenon. The book hit the New York Times bestseller list, an important milestone for any author, and stayed there for more than three hundred weeks. It has since been translated into more than eighty different languages, the most translated book by any living author, and is widely considered one of the ten best books of the twentieth century.
People continue to ask me if I knew The Alchemist would be such a huge success. The answer is no. I had no idea. How could I? When I sat down to write The Alchemist, all I knew is that I wanted to write about my soul. I wanted to write about my quest to find my treasure. I wanted to follow the omens, because I knew even then that the omens are the language of God.