The Zahir – Paulo Coelho

The Zahir

From the Publisher:

“Set in Paris and in the enchanting landscape of Central Asia, this novel by the author of The Alchemist and Eleven Minutes follows the journey of a man obsessed with finding the wife who left him without an explanation.” “The narrator of The Zahir is a bestselling novelist who lives in Paris and enjoys all the privileges that money and celebrity bring. His wife of ten years, Esther, is a war correspondent who, despite her professional success and freedom from the conventional constraints of marriage, is facing an existential crisis. When she disappears along with a friend, Mikhail, who may or may not be her lover, the authorities question the narrator. Was Esther kidnapped, killed, or did she simply abandon a marriage that left her unfulfilled? The narrator doesn’t have any answers but he has plenty of questions of his own.” Then one day Mikhail, the man with whom Esther was last seen, finds the narrator and promises to take him to his wife. In his attempt to recapture a love lost, the narrator discovers something unexpected about himself.

My Thoughts:

This is the first book I picked up from him.  I think I may want to pick up more.  I liked it, but I don’t know why.  Easy read.  I like the author’s voice.  Didn’t necessarily like the story-interesting concept, well developed characters, but it just didn’t grab me like I hoped it would.  I haven’t read any of his other books, but I’ve picked up some of them before, and it almost seemed like the author inserted bits of himself and some of his other books into this story-i.e. when the fictional author was talking about some of the books he wrote it sounded like one of the ones he was talking about was The Alchemist.  I’m just not familiar with his other works to really tell. I love the author’s voice though-the author has a gift for storytelling.  Lots and lots of good quotes in this book too.  Favourite passage:

“Marie, let’s suppose that two firemen go into a forest to put out a small fire. Afterward, when they emerge and go over to a stream, the face of one is all smeared with black, while the other man’s face is completely clean. My question is this: which of the two will wash his face?”

“That’s a silly question. The one with the dirty face of course.”

“No, the one with the dirty face will look at the other man and assume that he looks like him. And, vice versa, the man with the clean face will see his colleague covered in grime and say to himself: I must be dirty too. I’d better have a wash.”

“What are you trying to say?”

“I’m saying that, during the time I spent in the hospital, 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 thinking that they were worse than they were. Please, don’t let that happen to you.” (pg. 152)


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