A new book by Paulo Coelho comes with a special sense of anticipation. And trepidation. For unlike most authors, the Brazilian has never allowed himself to be constrained by genre or style. This is a man who wrote the inspiring bestseller, The Alchemist; the rather risqué Adultery; the self-help manual called The Manual of the Warrior of Light; and well, even did a book on Mata Hari (The Spy). In short, there is nothing this master is not capable of.
His latest book, The Archer, comes into the self-help and inspiration genre. I would place it alongside The Manual of the Warrior of Light with hints of the Manuscript from Accra. There is an element of story telling here. A boy comes to a legendary archer Tetsuya, seeking guidance. Tetsuya has retired from public life, but takes time to explain to the boy the art of archery. But hey, this is a Paulo Coelho book, so read between the lines and you will see that the book is about more than unleashing an arrow at a target. It is about living life.
And Coelho is in fine form here. The Archer is actually a collection of snippets of wisdom about archery and life. What makes it special are incredibly simple and yet deep illustrations from Christoph Niemann. This is a book that can you can read or just see. And it is designed in such a way that you can literally open it anywhere, read a page or two, and then wonder at the nugget of wisdom you have received, garbed in the guise of the art of the bow and arrow. For instance, I randomly opened a page of the book and this is what I saw;
“Do not allow yourself to be carried away by how you shoot in the morning, whether well or badly. There are many more days ahead, and each arrow is a life in itself. Use your bad moments to discover what makes you tremble, Use your good moments to find your road to inner peace. But do not stop out of fear or out of joy: the way of the bow has no end.”
Archery? Definitely. Life? Lots there as well. Coelho does an excellent job of picking up the slightly gentle yet deep way of Japanese instruction, taking similes from nature to make an often profound point. Sample this (explaining the importance of simplicity):
“The snow is lovely because it has only one color, the sea is lovely because it appears to be a completely flat surface, but both sea and snow are deep and know their own qualities.”
All of which make The Archer a book for those who are seeking calm or definitely a spot of enlightenment. This is no feverish page turner or thriller packed with gut-wrenching twists and turns. No, this is a book that is like the breeze in the forest – gentle and often silent, and yet ever so soothing. Those who prefer a slightly more direct way of narration (a la The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck) might find this book to be on the slow side. I however felt that it fits in perfectly into a hectic schedule – simple enough to be picked up and read in small portions and soothing enough in its conclusions, most of which gently remind you of the importance of being calm and in controls. It is not a hefty book either – it is about a hundred and forty pages – and it is light enough to be literally carried around anywhere. It should be carried around everywhere, to be consumed in small morsels and digested at leisure.
The Archer is a beautiful book in terms of both content and presentation. A must read,