Thursday, November 6, 2008
The Zahir--Paulo Coelho
Love is the history of a woman's life; it is an episode in man's.
---Germaine De Stael
“The Zahir” is a bad book. Period.
It had a very interesting premise which has been executed very badly as the story progresses. The reader is introduced to a marriage of ten years, torn asunder by the sudden disappearance of the wife. The husband has numerous questions about the disappearance of his wife, who has left without any explanations and these questions turn into a "Zahir” or an obsession for the author.
Take it from me except the plot outlined above, there is hardly anything interesting in the book. To put it simply, the book is a drag.
The whole story or the lack of any sense further in the plot has to be read, to be disbelieved. Granted that the author has written other good books like The Alchemist, Veronica decides to die etc. But with Zahir, the author has committed a huge mistake. Throughout the book, the one dominant theme is that of an egoistic author talking about himself, his achievements and the narcissism is just too much for the reader to bear.
The protagonist of the book is none other than the author Paul Coelho himself although he does not admit to the fact out rightly, it is left to the reader to "read between the lines".
As the story progresses, Coelho(the husband) hams about his new celebrity author life style in which he has plenty of money, fame, respect but he still feels lonely inspite of all the adulation. His wife or rather his 2nd or 3rd wife in the book, Esther is a war correspondent is frustrated with her husband who hardly has any time or feelings for her anymore. One day she gets fed up and sets off leaving a trail of strange clues behind. And then the husband starts searching for her since now he understands that she was an integral part of his life. Sheesh! Why do people always realize when it’s too late? But then again you don’t sympathize or understand the protagonist of the story because he starts having random affairs with other women while searching for his wife, how strange/putting off is that?
While searching for his wife, he meets these spiritual, mystical people from the Steppes including his wife’s so called lover, Mickail. Mickail takes him into various private meetings and a lot of humbug spiritual enlightment situations that will bore you to tears. By the end of the book or rather with more than 100 pages still left, you start getting frustrated and kinda identify with the wife who must have got similarly fed up of her good-for-nothing husband-the author.
Coelho also does not let go of the opportunity to express his views on Christianity and his disbelief about certain things associated and the book simply serves him as a convenient, secret platform to express his views. It would be nice if Paulo Coelho sticks to writing stories like ‘The Alchemist’ instead of selling his autobiography/personal opinions to the public in the guise of a spiritual enlightenment book
I don't like being a non conformist but I don't understand as to why people praise something when they just don’t get it. If you read the book and think that there is some deeper meaning, forget it. There is no deep thinking needed at all unlike "The Alchemist" in which there was a lot of hidden meaning in the fable.
Take my advice and read the above review three times but do not venture out to get "The Zahir" because the book is a huge waste of everyone’s precious time. I didn't even buy the book, just took it from the library for 25 bucks as reading charges and I am venting, so you can understand how disappointing the book was. You have been warned.