Book Talk: Paulo Coelho’s The Archer

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Book reviews have never been my niche. To be frank, before recently I didn’t enjoy reading at all. Into adulthood, books reminded me of the summer reading assignments that I was required to complete in private school. I’m not sure who’s in charge of picking the titles for children’s educational learning, but the three titles that I was stuck with, every year since I could remember, were mind-numbing. I turned pages with the same enthusiasm I took cough syrup— both were increasingly hard to swallow. Then, to top it off, I was expected to review the books (“pick something else” wouldn’t suffice). It was a decade long cycle of feeling backed into a corner. Thus, as the years rolled on, I developed a distaste for it. As a career writer, Stephen King would scoff at the fact. “If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot,” he’d say.

But then I came across Brazilian author Paulo Coelho. Suddenly, my appetite for the written word, aside from my own, changed.

Paulo Coelho’s The Alchemist was my gateway into his literary world of transformative inspirations. I read it not once, not twice, but three times and each time it meant something different in relation to where I was in my life. In between, I craved for more; The Pilgrimage (his first book), The Devil and Miss Prym, and The Fifth Mountain. Then, on November 10, 2020 the translation to The Archer was published, his latest book released in the United States. It was swiftly added to my book collection and, at only 130 brief pages, it took me all of an hour and a half to read. Short but powerful.

As with all of Coelho’s works, The Archer is meant to be digested slowly to better absorb the message. Brief sentences and predominantly white pages do not equate to empty words. Conversely, less is more, and Coelho proves that, here, less is everything. It’s an anecdotal monologue given by a man named Tetsuya to a young man in the village. In it, Tetsuya relates mastering the art of archery to the mind, body, and spirit of ones life.

While I stick to the notion that I am ill-equipped to write a thorough book review, I’d like the share the 7 lessons that resonated most, as I understood them, from The Archer.

  1. There are three things: The bow, our life and who we are; the arrow, our intentions and actions; and the target, our objectives and goals.
  2. We must take control of our life before we can control what we do or what we accomplish.
  3. Intention is what connects our life to our goal. Intentions must be clear and balanced. It’s better to change our minds than to carelessly act on something just because we want to get moving. But we should never let fear hold us back from acting either, as fear can be just as detrimental.
  4. It’s easy to hit a target when circumstances are in our favor. We must learn how to hit a target when the odds are against us and prepare ourselves for all conditions.
  5. We choose our objective. So, we are responsible for it and we cannot blame anyone else if we fail. We must appreciate the effort it takes to reach our objective, not the objective itself.
  6. Inspiration occurs when our life, who we are, and our objects align.
  7. Be surrounded by those unafraid to fail as a means to succeed. Those who take risks and learn from their mistakes, who adapt to change and try again, who are open minded and willing to be wrong.

The Archer is unassuming in size but profound in its purpose. With beautiful illustrations by Christoph Niemann sprinkled throughout, it could be the introduction to a new demographic of Coelho readers. Perhaps even something to add to those summer reading lists?

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