This little book is like a manual for life. Using biblical quotes, it takes on a lyrical, poetic quality that makes it easy to listen to or read in the print version. A missing papyrus, from the Apocryphal Gospels, is discovered in the 1980’s. The narrator reads the manuscript which was written in the year 1099AD, by a 21 year old man. On the evening before what will be a devastating battle for Jerusalem, a man simply called The Copt, offers advice and prophesies in a question/answer session with the residents who are gathered around him. They know that they are no match for the invaders who will soon arrive. Some will stay and fight anyway; some will flee. The Copt defines the best way for them to behave, as they await the enemy army of invaders. He tells them that they must hold onto their traditions and pass them on, because in that way, they will continue their way of life; if they maintain their heritage, they can not be conquered, even if the battle is lost.
The Copt quotes the Bible, Imams and Rabbis, in his eloquent responses to the people’s queries. Using references from Christianity, Judaism and Islam, he offers advice on faith, success and failure, the value of work, solitude and love, sex, weapons and enemies, miracles, charity, friendship, forgiveness, respect, loyalty, and any other behavior that might come to mind. The tenets he proffers are a guide to proper, fruitful and beneficial ways of conducting themselves, in order to have the happiest life experience, in the present and in the future.
Religious concepts are everywhere evident in his advice on how to live well, show kindness and share with your “brother”. Coelho suggests that we go to bed with a soul at peace. There are few who would not like to accomplish that goal. He also suggests that you can only fail if you stop trying, so if you never stop trying you cannot be defeated.
It is very inspirational, if sometimes a bit overly sentimental and simplistic, especially when he spoke as a representative of G-d. Whose G-d was he representing? While it may not be for everyone, I think, in this little book of “proverbs”, everyone will recognize at least some of the advice as thoughtful and wise. The reader will have to keep an open mind to follow the words and guidance of The Copt; don’t judge, absorb the information, ponder the suggestions about “the four cardinal virtues” he discusses: boldness, elegance, love and friendship. He speaks of the creator and the devil and of free will, and he speaks magisterially, lyrically. The author expects a lot from his reader as he presents something which seemed to me, to be almost an “exposé”, and, at the same time, a prayer, for civilization.