Another treacly and pseudo-profound set of pronouncements, these from “the Copt,” a Greek living in Jerusalem at the end of the 11th century.
The conceit of the book is that, in 1974, Sir Walter Wilkinson discovered a papyrus manuscript written in Arabic, Hebrew and Latin. (Coelho is, if nothing else, eclectic in his cultural attributions.) This manuscript, purportedly revealing the wisdom of the Copt on the eve of the capture of Jerusalem by French crusaders in 1099, is in the form of call and response from various townspeople—Muslims, Christians and Jews. A sample setup: "And someone said: ‘When everything looks black, we need to raise our spirits. So, talk to us about beauty.' " This is all the opening the Copt needs to pontificate in a style reminiscent of warmed-over Kahlil Gibran: “All the beings created under the sun, from birds to mountains, from flowers to rivers, reflect the miracle of creation.” Or, “to those who believe that adventures are dangerous, I say, try routine; that kills you far more quickly.” Or, “[e]verything is permitted, if everything is accepted.” Coelho’s style is terse and epigrammatic, but despite the framing device, there’s really no narrative here, only a series of assertions that reflect the Copt’s surprisingly New-Age sensibilities. On the other hand, perhaps this isn’t so surprising since at the beginning of the manuscript, the Copt announces that he “do[es] not believe very much will change in the next thousand years.”
This “novel” will appeal to those who like their philosophy predigested yet served on platters.