The Archer is the latest release by Paulo Coelho and the twentieth book of the author to be translated into Malayalam. A meditation on life, the book is aimed at motivating the readers to take risks, build courage, and embrace the unexpected journey fate has to offer. Originally published in Portuguese, the illustrated book will be available in Malayalam after its German, French, Spanish, and English translations.
Here are the excerpts from an interview with Paulo Coelho published in the GQ magazine (Spain).
You’re an archer yourself – what drew you to the sport?
I thought it was very elegant when I was young. I said to myself, One day, I am going to do this. So I started living in the Pyrenees, where I had a small house, and I met someone by chance. This person started teaching me how to use the bow and arrows, and he taught me the basics of archery. It is going from an extreme tension to a total relaxation, in the very moment you open your hand. And it is indeed elegant, because you need the posture to shoot well. It is about learning how to focus and doing this kind of exercise not for the sake of doing exercise, but for the sake of doing something you want to do. And so I learned.
How did your experiences with archery inform your writing of this book?
It was, in a way, a breakdown of my experience in archery. And, of course, I had to have a guideline, a story. As you read, you learn everything I learned, everything I needed. Shooting arrows is not simply to hit a blank target, but really to try to see the world through the bow. The moment of total tension before you open your hand, the connection. Whether you reach the target or not is irrelevant. But what is relevant is to become the bow, the arrow, and the target itself.
Did a particular experience inspire you to write The Archer?
One day I was sitting in my house in the Pyrenees and I thought how incredible it was, the archery, and I wanted to write a book about my experience. I wanted to write it at least for me to read, or to condense for myself. I tried to teach myself what I learned instinctively. Sometimes, when you learn, you have to sit down and understand what it was that you learned. In doing so, I wrote the book. It is in your hands now.
How do you feel the Santiago de Compostela has influenced your books, and specifically, this one?
The Santiago de Compostela [pilgrimage] is this: you know your target, and you go towards there. It influenced me a lot in the sense that I knew I had to focus on one point and move ahead.
The Archer provides simple guidelines for a life well lived. Do you think a fable or allegory is the most effective mode for teaching what you’ve learned about life’s essential truths?
(Laughs) In fact, life is simple. We complicate a lot. And a fable or allegory talks to the hidden parts of ourselves. You learn the essence of life by paying attention to the simple things that surround you. This is basically the idea of The Archer. I’m talking about everything from friendship and beyond: the importance of the bow, the importance of concentration. At the end of the day, it is life. You learn by living your life fully.
Have you ever had a mentor like Tetsuya? If so, what teachings did you learn?
Not in the metaphorical sense that I use in my book. I had a mentor in the sense that I needed to learn the basics of how to shoot, how to avoid harming myself. I am very grateful to him because he was the one who taught me what I know. But at the end of the day, like I said, you learn by doing something. Something that you love. So really, you don’t need a mentor – you just need the steps. Once the steps are taken, you can move ahead, and you repeat and repeat until one day, it’s not that it becomes automatic, but somehow, your subconscious takes over yourself and go on.
Do you try to follow Tetsuya’s example when you mentor younger writers?
I don’t mentor younger writers. Who am I to mentor anyone about anything? Of course, I get invitations for Master Classes, but I never accept because I have nothing to teach. I think writing is an experience in and of itself.
Can you tell us about the spiritual and religious influences on your writing? How do you feel about The Alchemist being used by many readers as a spiritual guide, and do you see readers turning to The Archer in the same way?
Of course, I hope that in the steps of The Archer, people will see the same journey that exists in The Alchemist. Of course, they are different. The Alchemist is a travelling book and, though The Archer is too, I hope people use The Archer to help them learn the basics of life. I really do hope this.
What do you hope readers will get out of The Archer?
It is impossible to tell what he or she hopes, because all readers experience the book in different ways. I get a lot of letters about my books, and sometimes, they see things that I didn’t see, and tell me about them. I am very glad to read these, because I learn from them. I learn with them, about myself.