Thursday, March 28, 2013

Manuscript Found in Accra

By Paulo Coelho
Alfred A. Knopf, 190 pgs
Translated from the Portuguese by Margaret Jull Costa
Submitted by Random House
Rating: 3

It is the afternoon of 14th of July, of the year 1099, the eve of battle. The crusaders have surrounded Jerusalem and a crowd has gathered in the street to hear a gentlemen, referred to only as "the Copt," speak. He is mysterious and considered wise and accompanied by the patriarchs of the three monotheistic religions calling Jerusalem home. The people want to know how to carry on, whatever happens tomorrow. So in the style of the ancient Greeks, the Copt invites their questions and attempts to answer them.

Speak to us about defeat. Only those that give up are defeated. Everyone else is victorious. The defeated are the ones who never fail because they have never tried.

Tell us about solitude. If you are never alone, you cannot know yourself.

What about those who are afraid to change? The correct path is the path of nature, which is constantly changing.

What is the meaning of life? There is no answer to this. The quest is the meaning.

Regret. Wake up tomorrow and treat it as the first day of the rest of your life. This one is familiar, everyone has heard this one. Is it cliche, pablum, or Zen? What is the difference?

What about work? Work should be the manifestation of love, not just selling your time, for you cannot get it back.

Tell us what the future holds. Listen to the wind but don't forget about your horse.

Speak to us of the weapons we must use when all is lost. Where loyalty exists, weapons are of no use.

What about enemies? Beware of those who try to please you all the time.

Manuscript Found in Accra certainly does tackle the hard stuff: war, peace, knowledge, victory, defeat, success, time, religion, love, sex; all the biggies. Unfortunately, it is often the literary equivalent of "live, laugh, love." Some readers prefer their philosophy simple, believe that anything too convoluted is unnecessary and needlessly complicates timeless truths. Others agree with H.L. Mencken: "For every complex problem there is an answer that is clear, simple, and wrong." Still others will call it Zen.

I found a few passages I truly appreciated:

There is no such thing as wasted time.

To those who believe that adventures are dangerous, try routine, that kills you far more quickly.

False wisdom is all the unnecessary rules, regulations and measurements intended to make you behave.

Avoid those who are only at your side in moments of sadness.

When enthusiasm wanes because of difficulties, reach for discipline.

Anxiety will never disappear. But here is how you deal: "Excessive caution destroys the soul and the heart, because living is an act of courage, and an act of courage is always an act of love."

And my favorite: Success is being able to go to your bed at night with your soul at peace. Imagine what that could do for the world.

If you're a fan of characterization and/or plot, then you will want to look elsewhere. If you are a fan of something more meditative and/or New Age-style self-help, then this is for you. Me? I'm late for yoga.

Paulo Coehlo is an internationally-renowned and best-selling Brazilian author, play write and lyricist. His other works include The Alchemist, Aleph and The Witch of Portobello. He was named a United Nations Messenger of Peace in 2007. Mr. Coelho is an interesting man and cute as a button.

I am told by the publisher that Mr. Coelho enjoys and appreciates contact with his fans. You can reach him here:; here:; here:; and here:

For more on the publisher:

1 comment:

  1. Don't know what part of me made me buy this one. In this book, Coelho tries to bring together the solutions to various aspects of our life, like enmity, hatred, love, loneliness, but he fails to dilate your pupils. He presents these ideas as answers to the questions asked by the people of Accra. Infact, had the book been full of cliches of our lives, it would have been a bit better. But Coelho went on his own way to write a "GOSPEL", when everyone knows that such things can only find utterance in one's own precarious state. Paulo Coelho is in the prime of his career, and it seems he has forgotten those philosophies that previously drew readers to his books.
    If you are in a precarious state, searching for purpose in life, do not read this book. Instead, go for self-help books, they are really better and will encourage you.
    Or you may read Coelho's other books, but mind you, this one is a disaster.