Summary and Analysis Prologue


An unnamed alchemist reads a variation on the Greek myth of Narcissus, the beautiful boy so enchanted by his own reflection in the surface of a lake that he falls into the water and drowns. In this version, the lake in turn is in love with its own reflection, in the eyes of Narcissus before he dies.


This short episode introduces the reader to the character of the alchemist, who will be central to the action of the novel named for him. It also may serve as a warning to the reader, at the start of what could be called a self-help novel, about the hazards of self-love.

Pop Quiz!

How does the alchemist claim to know that Santiago would be coming?


What does it mean to be farinaceous? (From Tolstoy's Anna Karenina)