Manuscript Found in Accra

Paulo Coelho, Author, Margaret Jull Costa, Translator
Paulo Coelho. Knopf, $22 (208p) ISBN 978-0-385-34983-3
Reviewed on: 03/18/2013
Release date: 04/02/2013
A self-help sheen hangs over this book by the internationally bestselling author of The Alchemist, which reads much more like a collection of bland aphorisms than a work of fiction. It is Jerusalem, the year 1099, and as French soldiers prepare to invade, a group gathers around a trite sage known as “the Copt.” The topics broached are wide-ranging and somewhat random: a young woman asks about solitude and the Copt gives her a circuitous answer: “If you are never alone, you cannot know yourself. And if you do not know yourself, you will begin to fear the void. But the void does not exist.” A boy, worrying he may be useless, is told: “Don’t try to be useful. Try to be yourself; that is enough, and that makes all the difference.” Another woman decides that the time is right to ask about elegance and is told that elegance is more about how one wears clothes than the clothes themselves. If Coelho is attempting parody, he has failed, this being both too long and too broad. The wisdom to be found here could be found in many other, better places. Agent: Sant Jordi Asociados (Spain). (Apr.)
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