I’m on a bit of a reading roll, it seems, in the first few weeks of 2015, having already read three non-work related books. As I love reading and haven’t been doing enough of it the last few years, I’m one really happy bunny!
I feel I should preface this post with the disclaimer that I’m a recent reader of Paulo Coelho’s work. I purchased The Alchemist about twenty years ago now but, for many years, something stopped me starting it. A sort of general feeling that I somehow wasn’t ready and so wouldn’t be able to take in its messages.
I eventually read it around Christmas time and was amazed. Such deceptively simple yet deeply profound messages written in such a beautiful manner.
I then received Manuscript found in Accra for Christmas and couldn’t wait to start it.
[The book, set in 1099, is essentially a series of proclamations by a Greek wise man (the Copt) to the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the night before the crusaders arrived in the city].
I opened it eagerly, making special times during my day to ‘turn off and tune in’ to the book, focusing on only the book. I wanted to be able to savour it in all it’s glory.
And it does have glorious moments. Moments of true wisdom. How he manages to write so consistently profoundly, in such a seemingly nonchalantly simple style is a source of wonder to me. Case in point:
As with The Alchemist I found myself realising that he seems to have a knack for taking Biblical messages and making them easily understood. He’s kind of like a layman’s filter for scripture, as it were: making Biblical passages, and teachings, more easily accessible than reading them direct from source.
In Manuscript Found In Accra, I found his use of the Bible rather too liberal, however. Similarities in some of the wording/ideas to Kahlil Gibran’s The Prophet also jarred a little bit, but the work as a whole is so breathtaking in its scope and originality, I found myself – after a while – instantly forgiving Coelho before I even had a chance to get annoyed.
Manuscript is a book I know I’ll be dipping in and out of for years to come. It’s one of those books that speak to you so directly that you want to highlight pretty much everything. I resisted, however, as I know I will be re-reading and didn’t want to cloud the wisdom my future self might be able to gain from the words.
It’s a book I’d recommend if you’re at any sort of crossroads in your life, or you’re anxious, as you will find yourself firstly being soothed by the words, and the pace of the writing, and then being inspired by the words you’re digesting (Coelho’s writing style is kind of like a rich port; the anticipation is as important as the actual savouring, with the savouring being accompanied by instant sighs of delight/satisfaction because it makes you suddenly realise that things in life can be wondrous and delicious and fulfilling all at once!).
I was literally stopped in my tracks, for example, by the following:
How can one simple sentence encapsulate everything I needed to know in that precise moment?
I now see why Coelho’s print runs number in to the multi-millions across tens of languages: his books speak directly to that part of us that identifies with the power that books have over us, through our belief that books have the power to change us and our willingness to be changed by the books we read.
When we read a good book, after all, we’re never the same person again. It’s a submission we voluntarily enter in to because we know we’ll be made better by the interaction (with a good book, it is an interaction, as the characters come to life so much so that we feel they’re real).
We’re changed by reading in ways that are often imperceptible even to ourselves, but its usually a change for the better. Our perspective shifts. The wisdom of the other speaks to us so deeply that we’re somehow freed: to change our thoughts, to cement our thinking. To accommodate a new reality.
And that’s what I love about Manuscript so much: it has so many opportunities for the reader to experience shifts in perceptions, to strengthen resolves. It drips with opportunities to be encouraged to think differently.
It’s a powerful reading experience. For me (perhaps because of my personal situation), its a much more powerful experience than The Alchemist.
I’m moving on to Aleph next, and have high hopes for it. I’m so glad he’s such a writing machine (producing a new book every two years; now that’s a writing work ethic to admire!)!