By Paulo Coelho
On the evening of July 14th, 1099 the residents of Jerusalem gathered within the walls of the town as they waited for the coming invasion the next day. At the center of the conversation was a man known as the Copt. During this gathering, the Copt shared his wisdom and knowledge in an effort to bring the townspeople together and urge them to leave behind their anxieties and fears so that they could also gain insight from the conversation. Temporary respite though it was, the Copt offered solace by sharing life lessons on topics ranging from loyalty, love, sex, responsibility, defeat, failure, and many other topics. Engaging the townspeople in fundamental questions of what it means to be human, to exist in relation to others, and to strive for self-fulfillment, the Copt offered a sense of presence, acceptance, and contentment despite the war, travesty, and desolation that awaited at the turn of the day. Even with emotions running high, the lessons offered by the Copt restore a centered, grounded perspective to the townspeople.
“Manuscript Found in Accra” by Paulo Coelho is a (fictional – I think) record of a conversation on the eve of invasion. Coelho leads into the story recounting how he came across this manuscript, then proceeds to reproduce it in book form. As with so many other of his stories, Coelho writes in an engaging and accessible style. Each question presented by the townspeople receives a response a few pages long, making it easy to get caught up in the story and keep turning page after page. And also as with so many of his other stories, Coelho invites reflection, self-exploration, and personal learning through his ideas. Whether the reader agrees or disagrees with the lessons presented by the Copt, everyone walks away a better person for having wrestled with questions about humanity, connection, value, and society.
As with so many of his other stories, I generally love Coelho’s writing. I have a soft spot for books that encourage self-reflection, and I appreciate the opportunity to sit and think about what does and does not resonate with me. In case you couldn’t tell, there were some lessons from the Copt that I disagreed with. Overall, though, this is a fantastic book, an quick and engaging read, and well worth the time it takes to get to the end.