After Bridget Jones’s Diary, the next book that I picked up was ‘The Zahir’ by Paulo Coelho. The book had been lying unread on my bookshelf for nearly 2 years, and I picked it up on a sudden urge. I did take my own sweet time to read it, though!
And I am here to ramble about the book.
Note: Plot partly revealed
The Zahir is the story of a writer and his wife Esther. It is Esther who goads him to persuade his dream of writing a book, which makes him very rich and famous. It is Esther who, some years later, leaves him all of a sudden, without even saying a goodbye. Just like that! Gone without a trace! It is Esther’s disappearance that forces the writer to take a long, hard look at himself and his married life, and realize what he has been doing wrong. He goes in search of his wife, and discovers a lot of things on his long journey, transforming into a changed man when he finally reaches her. That part – the transformed protagonist going to the very end of the earth to win back his wife – appealed to the romantic in me.
The book says that it is ‘a novel about obsession’. It’s about how a man becomes obsessed with something, his Zahir, to the point that he can think of nothing else but that one thing, and does all he can to obtain it. In this case, the protagonist’s wife Esther turns into his Zahir. And he puts in all of himself to find her. I found the story to be all about marriage and relationships – what you have to give of yourself to keep a relationship beautiful and healthy forever.
At places, I found the story stretching and lost interest. I also felt the author dwelling a bit too much on the subject of magic and signs et al. But in terms of overall reading experience, I enjoyed reading this book a lot. It left me feeling good from within. I found this book comparatively simpler than other books of Paulo. Though The Zahir has intense ideas too, I didn’t have to tax my brain much to feel what the protagonist is feeling. One more thing – I strongly felt at places that this is the author’s own story; the way in which certain things were described made me feel that. I felt that when I was reading The Bridges of Madison County too. I don’t know if it’s just me, though!
Overall, for The Zahir, I would say the same thing I said for Eleven Minutes – it is a novel best felt. I loved how the book made me feel. My rating would be 3.5 stars.
I leave you with a few things from the book that left me pondering:
- Freedom is not the absence of commitments, but the ability to choose – and commit myself to – what is best for me.
- All you have to do is pay attention; lessons always arrive when you are ready, and if you can read the signs, you will learn everything you need to know in order to take the next step.
- I understand for the first time that all the frustrations I felt about previous love affairs and marriages had nothing to do with the women involved, but with my own bitterness. Esther, however, was the only woman who understood one very simple thing: in order to be able to find her, I first had to find myself.
- A book – and we could be talking about anything here, a film, a piece of music, a garden, the view of a mountain – reveals something. ‘Reveal’ means both to un-veil and to re-veil. Removing the veil from something that exists is different from me trying to teach others the secret of how to live a better life.
- No one is alone in their troubles: there is always someone else thinking, rejoicing or suffering in the same way, and that gives us the strength to confront the challenge before us.
- God does not play dice with the universe; everything is interconnected and has a meaning. The meaning may remain hidden nearly all the time, but we always know we are close to our true mission on earth when what we are doing is touched with the energy of enthusiasm. If it is, then all is well. If not, then we better change direction.
- He died while he was still alive.
- When the Unwanted Guest arrives… I might be afraid, I might smile or say: My day was good, let night fall, You will find the fields ploughed, the house clean, the table set, and everything in its place.
- The most satisfying encounters do not always happen around elegant tables in nice, warm restaurants.
- People always believe what they want to believe.
- It is not life that matters, but the journey.
- I was not I, I was nothing – and that seemed to me quite marvelous.
- We need to forget who we are in order to become who we really are.
- The fundamental questions of life will never be answered, and we can, nevertheless, still go forward.
- The invisible world always manifests itself in the visible world.
- Pray that your horizon may always be wider than you can see.
- Love had spoken to me: ‘I am everything and I am nothing. I am the wind, and I cannot enter windows and doors that are shut.’
- I’ve waited for you in so many ways.
- ‘You must have heard a voice telling you to walk on the ice,’ he says.
‘No, I heard no voice.’
‘So why did you do it?’
‘Because I felt it needed to be done.’
‘That’s just another way of hearing the voice.’