The Zahir (Paulo Coelho)

When I was 16, 17 years old, Paulo Coelho became one of my favourite writers because of The Alchemist. I was in Brazil on a school exchange programme and trying to find my way through and my place in life and spirituality. It was the perfect book for this. I still like it a lot. I also very much like Veronika Decides To Die which I read about the same time.

Now, it’s been a while since I read one of his books, so when I started The Zahir last week, I didn’t really remember how he writes but the feeling I got from the books I read before. Which was always a rather reassuring, the-world-is-good and everything’s-gonna-be-fine feeling.

As you might guess after this introduction, The Zahir didn’t leave me with this feeling. Instead I felt surprised, angry and absolutely flabbergasted because of his pretentious statements and the general “I am so humble although I know so much” [which isn’t true, in case you didn’t guess] crap. Seriously, about every third sentence provoked a heartfelt “BULLSHIT!” on my part. [For a woman, sex is not the most lustful part in a relationship, it’s feeding the man and children. Fanaticism comes from the doubts that live in men’s souls. etc. etc.]

But I can live with statements I don’t agree with [otherwise I would live in pretty lonely world], especially in books and movies. Under two conditions: It fits the character and the story and it’s not praised as universal truth (unless again it fits the character to proclaim it so). [Those rules also apply to statements I agree with.]
Both were not the case here, I’m afraid.

This book changed two things in my life:

  1. Paulo Coelho will go off my favourite writer’s list.
  2. I will never be able to read The Alchemist or Veronika Decides To Die again because I’m afraid that they were written in the same style and I haven’t noticed because of my age and general position in life when I read them.


By the way, there’s a movie coming up, based on Veronika Decides To Die with Sarah Michelle Gellar. Could be good. I don’t know. Maybe if they cut away the spirituality and concentrate on the story.