Book Review: The Zahir by Paulo Coelho

The Zahir by Paulo Coelho

I had picked this up on my trip to Bangalore. Like I mentioned in an earlier post, this was suggested by one of my cousins. Along with this I had also picked up another bestseller by the same author – The Alchemist. Though I read the Alchemist first and then this, I thought of reviewing this since chances are you would have already read and heard about Alchemist more than this one.
The novel is a first person narrative of the main character, a best-selling author based in Paris. His wife Esther, a war correspondent suddenly goes missing. The story starts with the author getting released from prison, being a suspect for the sudden disappearance of his wife. Though there is an inner turmoil due to her disappearance, he tries resuming normal life, lives with his new girlfriend, even attends events to promote his books. But, he is constantly fighting the urge to find the reason for her disappearance. One day, during a book promotion event, he meets the last person she had supposedly met before her disappearance, a Russian guy Mikhail, who is presumed to be her current boyfriend. Then on, his need to find her increases. In the journey which he sets forth on, he learns more about himself, what was going wrong in his relationship with Esther, his previous relationships and also discovers a side of his personality which he himself wasn’t aware of.

Some parts which I liked in the book – The term he uses – the “The Favor Bank” wherein, you make deposits (do favors for others) and withdraw (get favors in return) from the bank. Though aware of this concept, the term is new to me 🙂
Another part that really stayed with me was the one where he tells his girlfriend “I came to realize that I was always looking for myself in the women I loved. I looked at their lovely, clean faces and saw myself reflected in them. They, on the other hand, looked at me and saw the dirt on my face and however intelligent or self confident they were, they ended up seeing themselves reflected in me and thinking that they were worse than they were. Please don’t let that happen to you.”
And this “That is why it is so important to let some things go……………..sometimes we win, sometimes we lose. Don’t expect to get anything back, don’t expect recognition for your efforts, don’t expect your genius to be discovered or your love to be understood. Complete the circle. Not out of pride, inability or arrogance, but simply because it no longer fits in your life. Close the door, change the record, clean the house, get rid of the dust. Stop being who you were and become who you are”

Though the ending of the story along with some parts in between, is cliched, I did enjoy reading it, and chances are you will too.

2 comments

  1. Sarah Arrow says:

    Thanks for reviewing this. The favor bank is also in the Bonfire of the Vanities, I believe it’s a very common expression in North America. It was new to me too 🙂
    I love the idea that he needs closure so much that it ticks away in him like Poe’s the “tell-tale heart”. And of course, now I need to know if he finds her!

    • Shri says:

      Oh! I wasn’t aware that it’s a common term in north America and I haven’t read either of the books Sarah. If you read The Zahir, do let me know if you liked it 🙂

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