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book review

‘Manuscript Found in Accra’ by Paulo Coelho

As of this moment, Paulo Coelho, the Brazilian author of such novels as “Aleph’’ and “The Alchemist’’ is ranked on Amazon.com as one of its top sellers in literary fiction, religion, and spirituality, historical fiction, literary fiction, and self-help. Though assessing authors on the basis of their book sales is a method more suited to an industry reporter than a critic, the wide array of categories represented here provides insight into one of the reasons behind Coelho’s success.

Like Raul Seixas, a rock star for whom Coelho once wrote song lyrics, he is a crossover artist; he purveys spiritual enlightenment in the guise of literary parables, attempting to do the work of Kahlil Gibran and Jorge Luis Borges simultaneously. Though some might titter at his T-shirt ready aphorisms, the fact that the brilliant translator of his books is Margaret Jull Costa — who has also translated the works of Jose Saramago, Javier Marias, and Fernando Pessoa — suggests that Coelho should be taken somewhat seriously. To update a line about Elvis, 10,552,144 likes on Coelho’s Facebook page can’t be all wrong.

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