Thursday, December 29, 2011

Book Review: The Manual of a Warrior of Light (Manual del Guerrero de la Luz) by Paulo Coelho

Okay, I’m ’fessing up here: this is not the book I planned to read to finish the Book Bloggers Abroad Challenge 2011. This is supposed to be a review of Dodie Smith’s I Capture the Castle. I took it out of the library after reading boatloads of great reviews, and eagerly started to read. But it just didn’t grab me. I have no idea why. So I put it down and figured I’d get back to it at a different time.

And then, well, time ran out.

A week left in the challenge, at a very busy time of year, and I had to reassess. I absolutely hate to leave a challenge incomplete. So I went back to the Judith’s list on Leeswammes, and saw Paulo Coelho was on the author list. I had The Manual of a Warrior of Light (Manual del Guerrero de la Luz) on the shelf. And it was mercifully short. So I did a late game substitution to finish the challenge.

Generally, I enjoy Coelho. I have appreciated his focus on personal responsibility and the spirituality of books like The Alchemist and Veronika Decides to Die. His simple, direct style of writing is easily accessible, and I find it a good way to practice Spanish*. But unfortunately, Warrior of Light has no real narrative flow. Rather, it is a compendium of axioms and quotations informing the reader (ostensibly training to be Warrior in the army of God) how to live a life in the active service of goodness. In this framework, everyone must choose to wage a metaphorical war against the forces of evil. Some of Coelho’s battle instructions are principles borrowed from other works, such as The Pilgrim’s Progress or the I Ching. But most come directly from Coehlo’s own spiritual Christianity (Coelho is a Jesuit-educated, devout Catholic), full of the same kind of paradoxes that are the hallmark of a similar book, Khalil Gibran’s The Prophet, which I reviewed earlier this year.

The warrior of light is pure as a dove, and prudent as a serpent.

When he meets to talk, he doesn’t discuss the behavior of others. He knows that the forces of darkness use an invisible network to spread their evil. This network captures whatever information is released into the air and transforms it into the intrigue and envy that sap the human soul.

In this way, everything one says about another is always picked up by that person’s enemies, and supplemented by their own dark load of venom and evil.

Because of this, when a warrior of light discusses his brother, he imagines the brother is present, listening to him.
p. 81 (My translation from the Spanish, so my apologies to Mr. Coelho if I haven't captured it exactly)

Warrior of Light provides a good summation of Coelho’s philosophy. And certainly it offers a framework for understanding his other novels. But it’s really too choppy to read straight through like a novel, as I did. Reading it again, I would look at each of the pages as a kind of “meditation,” the kind of thing to read and reflect on early in the morning, or right before going to bed. Still, it’s a very interesting little book, and I imagine Coelho fans will love it like his other works. Students of philosophy and those who enjoy spiritual titles would also enjoy it. I just wouldn’t recommend it as a place to start reading Coelho’s work.

So that’s the Book Bloggers Abroad 2011 Challenge complete. I read some very diverse titles for this challenge, representing 5 continents: North America, South America, Europe, Asia and Africa. I thank the bloggers whose recommendations led me to the books for this one. And thanks again to Judith for hosting!

*Coelho actually writes in Portuguese, but since I don't read it, I buy the Spanish editions.


  1. Congratulations on finishing the challenge! I don't think that book is for me.

  2. @Kathy -- It's not a bad book, but I can't really say it was a favorite. I'd probably file it under "not bad books."


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