Manuscript Found in Accra

Written by Margaret Jull Costa (trans.) Paulo Coelho
Review by Nancy J. Attwell

The entire plot of Manuscript Found in Accra occurs in the first ten pages. Coelho is the recipient of a translation of some papyruses, originally written in Arabic, Hebrew and Latin, and dated the fourteenth of July, 1099, the eve of an attack on Jerusalem by the crusaders. The siege towers are ready, and the assault will begin at dawn. Muslims, Jews, and Christians will die together as they defend their city. Adherents of all three religions have gathered to listen as an elderly Greek, known as the Copt, speaks words of wisdom to calm them as they prepare for death on the morrow.

The remainder of the book is written in the same style as ­The Prophet by Kahlil Gibran. A member of the audience makes a short statement, such as “…I was never sure which direction to take” or “Speak to us about sex.” The Copt answers with the wisdom he has drawn from various religions and his own belief: “…only in the present moment and what he calls Moira—the unknown god, the Divine Energy, responsible for a single law, which, if ever broken, will bring about the end of the world.”

Any of the many readers who admire the works of Coelho will treasure his message that it is important to remain true to oneself, even while awaiting the imminent arrival of the “Unwanted Visitor.” However, the lack of plot or character development or, indeed, any interaction with the historical environment beyond the location where the conversation occurs, means that readers of the Historical Novels Review who seek to immerse themselves in a good story set in a specific time and place will certainly be disappointed. I would recommend this book specifically and solely to those seeking spiritual enlightenment in any of its forms.