The internationally best-selling pop philosopher Paulo Coelho’s most recent book, Manuscript Found in Accra, is unfortunately a disappointment. This fictional account is set in Jerusalem during the siege of 1099, on the eve of the city’s invasion by crusaders from Europe. The style of the book is reminiscent of a “sermon on the mount,” delivered by a man addressed as The Copt to the mixture of faiths, Muslim, Christian, and Jew, present in the city at that time. The manuscript is transcript of this lecture, supposedly found in 1945 among the Nag Hammadi texts, which contained Greek translations of some of the non-canonical gospels.
The premise of the book is interesting and the overall message promoting less divisive, non-proselytizing, humanistic philosophy that embraces many creeds is certainly a worthwhile one, for Jerusalem and the rest of the world. The book, though, does not possess the appealing storyline and characters of Coelho’s previous work, The Alchemist, and without them lacks a cohesive thread. As a result, the reader finishes the book feeling as though one had been watching a few hours of one of those shouty cable news channels with ADD, trying to digest disjointed vignettes with very little segue between them. Because of this shortcoming, the book will likely follow the same path to obscurity of other pop philosophy books such as Jonathon Livingston Seagull (anybody remember that one?) rather than become a beloved classic like The Little Prince.
Manuscript Found in Accra, however is worth a quick read if you have enjoyed the author’s other works. The topics covered in the book- struggles and defeat, beauty and love, solitude, and others are perennial and relevant. Or, as the Copt states at the beginning of his lecture, “I do not believe very much will change in the next thousand years.” Paulo Coelho is indeed a gifted philosopher, and although the book on occasion borrows heavily from biblical (and probably other) scriptures, Omar Khayyam, etc., he has a skill for turning these classical ideas more contemporary with fresh phrasing. If you are looking for a short, uplifting, summer beach book and like this type of genre, Manuscript Found in Accra will reward you with a few quotes worth remembering, such as “Scars speak more loudly than the sword that caused them.” [subscribe2]