Monday 3 June 2013

Book Review: Manuscript found in Accra by Paulo Coelho

Once again, Paulo Coelho, ranked 1st by Amazon, in the top sellers list of literary and historical fiction, religion and spirituality, speaks about the truth of nature and the essence of life on Earth through his recent published philosophical fiction “Manuscript found in Accra”. Similar to his international bestseller “The Alchemist”, the story takes place in past but is more relevant in the present due to the prevailing global situation.
Brilliantly translated by Margaret Jull Costa in English, she used very simple language, thus, encouraging the sceptical reader to regard it as a book of wisdom. Coelho highlights many of the common values shared universally by all creeds specially the Semitic religions by depicting Jews, Christians and Muslims as common dwellers of Jerusalem.
While the introduction and background story about the discovery of the manuscript in the form of papyruses is insignificant, the main theme hits the mark on the reader in classic Paulo Coelho style. The reader can end up, pondering over the profound insights and classifying the favourite quotes in every other page of the book.
The story is set in 1099 AD or 4859 Jewish year or 492 Hijri in Jerusalem, a day before the great crusade.  The city inhabitants including men, women, elderly, children, merchants, shepherds, widows and virgins are gathered to listen and ask questions to a mysterious but a wise man known as The Copt. Through this character of The Copt, Coelho shares his views and answers the concerns of a common man. These concerns are actually the fears of the worldly life, which not only exist today but also existed in past generations. These include fear of defeat and failure, fear of love and sex, fear of beauty and elegance, fear of work and luck, fear of solitude and death, which he sarcastically called as the Unwanted Visitor. There is no revelation of any unknown truth but a rephrasing of the ancient ways of wisdom.
Speaking to Reuters, Coelho said, "You still have the same problems right now that you had back then, and this book is to share my views on values that were lost, and now we need to pay attention to these values again."
In many places in the book, Coelho seems to be inspired by Khalil Gibran, especially and more clearly when The Copt says, "Work is the manifestation of Love that binds people together”, as compared to Khalil Gibran’s view in The Prophet, “Work is love made visible... when you work with love you bind yourself to yourself, and to one another, and to God." Coelho has also used many biblical phrases and sayings of Jesus Christ and Prophet Muhammad (SAW) through the words of The Copt without referencing to the original source, which is quite alarming and controversial, as well.
Another shocking or displeasing piece in the book occurs when Coelho writes “When a child emerges from a woman’s womb, it does not matter how many people are present; the final decision to live the rest with the child.’’ This notion that the choice to live or die is with the new born is not only unbelievable but also unimaginable by anyone regardless of faith or religion. However, as his fans say that it is nothing but just Coelho’s “everything is possible” philosophy which ends up in an absurd conclusion. However, even with this carelessness, Coelho's writing style is appealing, stimulating and fascinating.
In the end, when the Copt asked the three religious men to say something, Coelho depicts his thoughts about these religions through three short stories. The Rabbi’s conclusion of the story was faith in God, and the theme of Imam’s story was love and rights of fellow human beings. The Priest’s tale was about spreading knowledge to benefit the future generations, which is also the end of the Copt’s speech as well as of the manuscript.
The wisdom covered in the book through basic chapters of life is vital to the well-being of the human soul and contains something to benefit every reader. Paulo defines success as “it is being able to go to bed each night with your soul at peace”, which I think will be acknowledged by most of the people in today’s society.


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