Questions and answers in a straight forward format.
Publisher: Knopf (Random House)
First Published: 2010
Date Reviewed: 29th April 2013
Original language: Portuguese
Original title: Manuscrito Encontrado em Accra (Manuscript Found in Accra)
Translated by: Margaret Jull Costa
Coelho presents one of the ‘lost manuscripts’ – a fictional take on a real situation – and divulges its contents. As a town prepares to be attacked, a philosopher answers questions from the worried residents.
Coelho’s books are based in spiritual, philosophical content. In Manuscript Found In Accra he takes this a step further, styling the book as a question and answer session, keeping the text concise and devoid of superfluous detail, and borrowing from scripture. Indeed enough here is borrowed from scripture to make you wonder whether this book was produced too quickly, yet it fits the theme to have it included as Coelho writes the manuscript as one akin to the books of the Bible.
It is a very short book with little plot, but this means, as said, that there is nothing more than what needs to be said. Coelho’s never suggests he isn’t out to change minds, and the teachings are a good mix of common sense and thoughts that people tend to reach after a lot of thinking. The book is akin to Plato in style, and reads just like the ancient philosopher himself.
As there isn’t a plot besides the general setting of a town on the brink of extinction, it is possible to describe the questions without ruining the book. The prospective reader will find the following themes, amongst others: defeat being a bad thing, solitude, how to live happily, and love. The themes are more detailed than this list can suggest, though they work as general answers.
It could be said that this is a lazy offering from Coelho: short, sparse, lots of empty space on the page. It could be said that in essence it is more of the same from him. But those looking for a book of wisdom to be dipped into will likely appreciate this. And that is the take-away here – it is similar to the rest of Coelho’s work, but it still has its place on shelves.
I received this book for review from Crown Publishers.
May 8, 2013, 5:52 am
I haven’t read Coelho and so wasn’t familiar with his style – it sounds different, but maybe not like something I would read.
May 8, 2013, 9:21 am
I actually like the sound of it being short – Coelho is at his best when pithy.
I may actually give this a go, anything I have tried to read after The Alchemist or Veronica Decides to Die has seemed long winded and overtly sentimental; this sounds less so.
May 8, 2013, 3:45 pm
I have read a few books by Coelho and, I also think that all of them are similar, so for me they are enough now. Perhaps the first time hooks you, but after that you read the same premises again and again. I’m fed up with him :)
May 8, 2013, 4:28 pm
I’ve heard a lot about this author but can’t say I’ve ever felt much of an urge to read his work. Doesn’t quite grab my attention enough. Maybe one day.
May 8, 2013, 4:56 pm
Great review — you made me laugh — Coelho’s books can be so hard to pin down! I passed on this because I wasn’t feeling the premise, but you’ve kind of intrigued me …
May 9, 2013, 1:25 am
My library has this digitally, but I’ve been iffy because i’ve read both good and not-so-amazing Coelho. I might just request this now.
May 9, 2013, 11:37 am
As Isi says, I think Coelho is more powerful the less you read of him! I’ve read The Alchemist, but nothing else, and because I’ve only seen the ideas in one striking book, I still find them quite beautiful and inspiring. But I know that, if I were to read his other books and find the same theories endlessly regurgitated there, my pleasure will pall pretty quickly. This book sounds like an interesting idea, Charlie, but it doesn’t seem to have grabbed you and, based on your misgivings, I probably won’t trouble with it. It’s a shame, because the cover’s gorgeous. It also begs the question – if Coelho is channelling Plato, does he really do anything interesting enough to make it worth reading this, rather than going back to the source and reading Plato himself? :-)
May 14, 2013, 6:11 am
I’m still undecided whether to read this or not. It’s available in audio and I did like The Alchemist. But I’m not one for “self help” so I wonder if moving on to this might be “too much of a good thing” or “too much of the same thing.”
June 13, 2013, 4:42 pm
Anbolyn: I’d say it’s okay if you’ve read him before, but definitely not a good starting point.
Alice: I’d have to agree with you there. Especially now he’s written so many books, short is better. If that’s what’s put you off then yes, this one might work. It has the same feel but keeps to the point. There is the sense that he knows he’s written similar and needs to keep this one short.
Isi: I can understand that. For me the first book was incredible, but whilst I wouldn’t mind reading more of his books, it is ‘necessary’ so to speak.
Jessica: I’ve met so many people that feel similarly to you, and, surprising as it may be in general, with these books I don’t think it’s such a case of missing out at all. Rather if you’re nonplussed you’ll quite possibly finish the book nonplussed, too.
Audra: I aim to please ;) It is an odd premise, in a way, because it’s not really used to the effect you’d think it would be, it’s so much more about the philosophy than the setting.
Rebecca: Same here. I did think for a while before accepting this one. I’d say overall it’s okay, in that it wouldn’t put you off his work if you’ve already read him before.
Leander: I agree, his thoughts are specific and work best when you know a little. I actually wonder if this is the case with, for example, ancient philosophers, or if it’s down to the faith and morality included by Coelho. As someone who loved The Alchemist and did the opposite to you – carried on – I’d say from my point of view you are right, the pleasure can pall. So take that as you will, recommendation wise :) Very good point about Plato. It’s only my thoughts, of course, but it does feel similar. The references and inspiration from other sources you could make are substantial enough – few, but in a short book it adds up.
Tanya: I wouldn’t want to say for certain in your situation, but giving it more thought before deciding sounds a good idea.