‘The Zahir’ by Paulo Coelho

“My heart might be bruised , but it will recover and become capable of seeing beauty of life once more. It’s happened before, it will happen again, I’m sure when someone leaves, it’s because someone else is about to arrive, I‘ll find love again.’’

The Zahir is a 2005 novel by the world famous and the much loved author of The Alchemist, Paulo Coelho. This book was originally written in Portuguese by the author, but was translated by Margaret Jull Costa. The book was published in India by Harper Collins Publishers. The story mainly revolves around the themes of love and obsession, that leads the protagonist in redeeming the meaning of love, life and conversation. The book is actually a dedication to Coelho’s wife, Christina.

The word ‘Zahir’ comes from the Islamic tradition, which means visible, present, incapable of going unnoticed in Arabic. The protagonist of this novel is a world famous, successful novelist and at the same time celebrity whose name the author has not revealed. He lives in Paris with his wife, Esther, the winner of two international prizes for journalism. The protagonist’s celebrity status had affected his relationship with his wife. So, she leaves the man for the sake of her own happiness, without any message. He gradually realizes that Esther’s disappearance is a sort of message, a challenge to him, to rethink of his emotions and make them worthy of hers. She becomes the Zahir of the title, a blinding obsession. The protagonist mentions a short story by Jorge Luis Borges and says that his zahir is not a romantic metaphor, a man, a tiger, a compass, or a coin. It has a name and her name is Esther. On Esther’s journey to find true love, she meets with a Mongolian man named Mikhail, whose her friend too. They both were last met in a Café. Mikhail, the third important character of the story, is from Kazakhstan and follows Tengri tradition. Somehow Mikhail and the narrator comes together and Mikhail promises to take him to Esther.

Coelho has included multiple themes of spirituality, the author had mainly talked about the mental slavery in following the world’s rules. Reading the Zahir had fascinated me as it includes the reference of old forgotten traditions, spiritual love stories and a certain mention of the author’s pilgrimage road to Santiago. The value one reader can depict from this book is to have the courage needed to square off against all the mysteries of life and letting of ego. This book has strong autobiographical features and the characters were just real. The Zahir is anything you make it to be and there is one place you will find it, in yourself.

This book awakens the self and rekindles the lost love. I rate this book 4.5 on 5 and recommend it to all those love reading and specially to all the Coelho fans.

Reviewed by Ashifa S. S.

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