Paulo Coelho shares ‘values’ with new book despite harsh criticism

Manuscript Found in Accra is set in 1099 in Jerusalem on the eve of the crusades, where a wise man known as the Copt dispenses philosophical guidelines for living to an audience of Christians, Jews and Muslims gathered to ask questions and listen.

"You still have the same problems right now that you had back then," Coelho, author of the international best seller The Alchemist, told Reuters. "The book is to share my views on values that were lost, and now we need to pay attention to these values again."

People are certainly paying attention: since the book's US release last week, it has rapidly climbed the bestseller ranks, and is now number two on the New York Times bestseller list for hardcover fiction.

Critics have been less enthusiastic. Stuart Jeffries of the Guardian wrote: "The treacly narratives of such novels as The Alchemist and Eleven Minutes have been excised but the clichés remain."

Despite this, the Brazilian novelist continues to collect endorsements from luminaries like Bill Clinton and Madonna, and has more than 7.5-million Twitter followers.

Coelho (65) values his readers highly – so much so that he asked them to share their questions and fears over Twitter so that he could address them in his book. The product is more a philosophical treatise than a story, with aphorisms taking precedence over plot.

Through the figure of the Copt, he sermonises on topics such as the differences between defeat and failure, the nature of love, victimhood, beauty and elegance, and death, which he refers to as the Unwanted Visitor.

Critical of hypocrisy
Coelho believes there are common values shared by all and that people should pay more attention to them instead of religious dogma.

"I think that everybody shares universal values," he said. "These values are not related to this or that religious system. However, some people in society, some religious groups try to say 'no, my religion is the best one'. I think every religion is heading toward the same light and that light is God."

Asked if his book is relevant for those who do not believe in God or practice religion, Coelho said that how people live their lives is paramount.

"What counts is what you do and not what you express spiritually or empirically," he said. "At the end your life it is not what God you believe in, but how did you live your life? You may not believe in God, but you believe in love, and love goes beyond everything."

Coelho is critical of hypocrisy, which he defines as presenting an image that is not consistent with one's behaviour. On the other hand, he embraces contradiction, which he calls "part of our inner nature". He hopes that his book helps his readers to accept their own contradictions.

"I would not classify this book as a book about wisdom, but a book about accepting our contradictions," he said. "We live in a world where our lives are full of different reactions to different circumstances. We cannot just flatten everything and say, 'okay, I'm always going to act like this'." – Reuters

PW Botha wagged his finger and banned us in 1988 but we stood firm. We built a reputation for fearless journalism, then, and now. Through these last 35 years, the Mail & Guardian has always been on the right side of history.

These days, we are on the trail of the merry band of corporates and politicians robbing South Africa of its own potential.

To help us ensure another 35 future years of fiercely independent journalism, please subscribe.


‘My biggest fear was getting the virus and dying in...

South African Wuhan evacuee speaks about his nine-week ordeal

Border walls don’t stop viruses, but a blanket amnesty might

Why South Africa should consider amnesty for undocumented migrants in the time of the coronavirus outbreak.

Mail & Guardian needs your help

Our job is to help give you the information we all need to participate in building this country, while holding those in power to account. But now the power to help us keep doing that is in your hands

Press Releases

The online value of executive education in a Covid-19 world

Executive education courses further develop the skills of leaders in the workplace

Sisa Ntshona urges everyone to stay home, and consider travelling later

Sisa Ntshona has urged everyone to limit their movements in line with government’s request

SAB Zenzele’s special AGM postponed until further notice

An arrangement has been announced for shareholders and retailers to receive a 77.5% cash payout

20th Edition of the National Teaching Awards

Teachers are seldom recognised but they are indispensable to the country's education system

Awards affirm the vital work that teachers do

Government is committed to empowering South Africa’s teachers with skills, knowledge and techniques for a changing world

SAB Zenzele special AGM rescheduled to March 25 2020

New voting arrangements are being made to safeguard the health of shareholders

Dimension Data launches Saturday School in PE

The Gauteng Saturday School has produced a number of success stories