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Review of "The Zahir" by Paulo Coelho.

Discussion in 'Book Lovers' started by Chitvish, Mar 6, 2006.

  1. Chitvish

    Chitvish Moderator IL Hall of Fame

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    Dear friends,
    Please do not think I am a fan of Paul Coelho ! When Sudhavnarasimhan mentioned about the subject of this book in her reply to my review of " eleven minutes", I did feel compelled to read the book. It is the standard favourite topic of a woman & so, here, my review goes !
    This is yet another intriguing novel from Paul Coelho. The subject is the eternally favourite one – the mystery of the relationship between a husband & wife.
    When Esther, his wife suddenly disappears without notice he realises that the woman whom he had married was excited about life, full of ideas & joy & desires, & he had made her rapidly turn into a housewife.( does not everyone of us identify here ?) He never showed any interest in Esther’s world which included Mikhail & beggars ! He did’nt show any interest when she wanted to become a war correspondent . . But after she disappears he realises his inability to keep the woman he loved by his side & wonders whether to find her & persuade her to come back is worth it ! He wants to believe that it is wonderful to be free but suddenly he also realises that freedom is to be wretchedly alone . He cannot bear to think of her as his ex-wife ! He chooses to live with his girlfriend Marie.

    Zahir in Arabic means something which cannot go unnoticed & once we come into contact with it, grows into magnificent proportions in our thoughts. To free ourselves from that is next to impossible.

    He sees Esther, the Zahir in his inner cathedral. She fills everything.

    For the first time in his entire existence he realises that he loves another human being more than he loves himself. Life goes on….

    His book “ a time to rend & a time to sew “becomes a best seller.

    ... Then he meets Mikhail & his life starts changing ! He pretends that he does not want to know about Esther, but realises he is deceiving himself. He is shocked when he learns that his ex-wife ( he hates to use this term) is making carpets & giving French lessons. Mikhail tells him that if he decides to go & find her, he must find her soul also! His obsession to meet Esther only goes on increasing.

    Then he meets with an accident. After the accident, the loving destructive obsession vanishes . He feels that he is reborn.He realises that one must continue walking the road in life, to discard any unnecessary baggage, to keep only what you need in order to live each day & to allow the energy of love to flow freely, from the outside in & from the inside out

    He realises that he had to lose her in order to understand, that the taste of things recovered is the sweetest honey he will ever know. He goes & meets her & realises that love is a disease no one wants to get rid of ! They find together love again & it is a happpy ending.

    The author makes it clear that in our life it is so important to let certain things go, to release them, to cut loose. People need to understand that no one is playing with marked cards; 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 whatever it is, 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 & become who you are.

    Love is a disease no one wants to get rid of.Those who catch it never try to get better & those who suffer do not wish to be cured.

    This is one book which one should read slowly, savour & then read further !

    Love & regards,
    Chithra.
     
    Last edited: Mar 6, 2006
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  2. varalotti

    varalotti IL Hall of Fame

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    A Good Review, Chitra!

    Dear Chitra,

    You have done full justice to the author by analysing the importance of his work. The bookdeals with the disappearance of a wife and how the husband first finds her in his heart and then only in person. There is a kind of allegory there.

    Zahir is one of the books which I read with relish and in fact I felt sad that the book is going to end. While 11 minutes was confined only to the sexual aspect of women, this includes everything in life. A search for meanings is life is the central theme of the book.

    Many times we foolishly think that we own so many things. And there are many who extend this ownership even to persons. 'I own by wife.' 'My children belong to me.' 'My husband is mine.' This book shatters the myth of ownership. I remember seeing this in a Hollywood Movie (I think it is the "Indecent Proposal")
    "If You love a thing, you set it free.
    If it comes back to you after it no longer has to then it is yours.
    But if it doesn't, it has never been yours, right from the beginning."
    (Not Exact Words)
    I am happy to see that you are becoming a good reviewer. Jumping from the microwave to Microsoft Word is not an easy thing and you have done that. Congrats.
    Expecting more and more reviews from you.
    regards,
    sridhar
     
  3. purnima_2k

    purnima_2k Senior IL'ite

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    Paul Coehlo is lucky!

    Hello Mrs CV,

    Just Read your wonderful review on "Zahir", like Mr Varalotti has aptly and beautifully described that jumping from Microwave to Microsoft is not a easy thing,adding to it, i would like to say that you will no longer be known as Chitra Viswanathan, but as Chitra Viswaroopam!!! Your area of knowledge and interests is so wide and we are all lucky to grab the showers of your wiseness through IL!

    Well, coming to the review, it of course energises me to read the book! Since i am a married person, such topic interests me a lot and i think this book should be read more by married men than women!!Especially in Indian Society, after marriage , it is the lady who has to give up her family, career etc and go to the husband's house hoping to fulfil her dream there. Of course these days men are getting more broad minded too, but we cannot eleiminate the fact that so many hidden talents are still to be unearthed, and if all that comes out i think world would be a much better place to live in!

    Thanks once again Mrs CV for the wonderful review, i think more than the book it is exciting to read your reviews!


    Love,
    Purnima
     
  4. Chitvish

    Chitvish Moderator IL Hall of Fame

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    Your one liner is better than my page long review !

    Dear Sridhar,
    The sentence that the husband finds her in his heart & then only in person is the nutshell review which I have taken one page to convey ! It makes me wonder if I should confine myself to microwave & not venture into microsoft !
    To be very frank, I think an Esther-like act is the shock treatment many men need, but it is not becoming of my age to make such statements !
    Your analysis is very interesting to read. Thankyou for encouraging me.
    Love & regards,
    Chithra.
     
  5. sudhavnarasimhan

    sudhavnarasimhan Silver IL'ite

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    Mrs.Chitra,

    the review of this bookwas fantastic....you have caught the essence of the book so well, that when i read the review i was mentally going through the book in that order....fantastic:clap ...i still cannot believe that these reviews of the books are the first of this kind....you are so gooooood! Hats off to you! Anyway i too read this book after Sridhar had suggested only.And now i am a great fn of Paulo Coelho!
    I hope you have read his first book, THE ALCHEMIST!

    But this book like Sridhar has said also has a potential for changing one's views on this wonderful relationship between husband and wife!

    I did benefit a lot from this ....but i wonder how many men have read this and thought about their wives sacrifices for the family and the fact that they give up their dreams in the name of compromises ansd understanding and keeping a marriage alive. If at all any woman decides to follow her dreams, will her husband truly understand and support her?
    I know that a lot of women do a lot of things these days but i can say everything is within the accepted norms of the relationship and societal views and we have to stick to them. And also our counterparts are too busy to listen to us and we are left withno one to share our achievements also!
    Well this is what seems to be happening with us all and i hope LOVE will prevail and soon change the marital relationships for the better!

    Thanks Ms. Chitra for reading this wonderful book and sharing your thoughts also..
    with best regards,
     
  6. Chitvish

    Chitvish Moderator IL Hall of Fame

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    Thanks for your nice words, Purnima !

    Knowing that my "roopam" is not small, you have smartly combined it with my surname & given me a new name ! How else can I be, when I have to try out most of the recipes before posting them ?
    Jokes apart, try to read the book if you get hold of it - casually throw it around so that your husband will be attracted by the name & try to read it ! It is more important for a spouse to read it.
    Love & regards,
    Chithra.
     
  7. Chitvish

    Chitvish Moderator IL Hall of Fame

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    I am blushing, Sudha, can you see ?

    It is surprising that literary people of IL, like you & Sridhar, appreciate what I write !
    I am very happy, Sudha !
    Very often the value of people is realised only when a crisis develops.
    There is a magazine called " kumudam Snehithi" in which there is a " kavithai" ( short poem), in this week's edition. A lady writes under the caption" I am not going for a job" - she lists all the chores she does at home from morning to night, not missing anything. She writes she does all the household work happily, but ends up saying that her only grievance is her husband complains that she is not " doing any job" !
    That perhaps sums up the general attitude.
    I am halfway through " the alchemist" - now don't get alarmed, Sudha !
    Love & regards,
    Chithra.
     
    Last edited: Mar 6, 2006
  8. purnima_2k

    purnima_2k Senior IL'ite

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    Review of 'The Zahir'- by Paul Coelho

    Hi Writers of IL,

    This is my first attempt in of a formal reviwe of a book. I shall be elated to get feed backs(or brickbats?):) from all of you...

    Thanks in advance,
    Purnima


    The Zahir – by Paul Coelho (written between Jan and June 2004)


    ‘Zahir’ in Arabic means obsession, obsession of any kind—obsession of a thing, a person, and an event or even with oneself. ‘The Zahir’ talks about a journey. The journey of love, hatred and life. In this story, the author takes us all to a different plane and makes us understand the meaning of true love


    The story revolves around three people – Esther (the Zahir), Mikhail and the author.

    The author tries to bring to light the actual relationship between married couples—their day to day arguments, physical relationships, and how they fail to realize that the love is slowly diminishing in their lives. One fine day, Ester is missing, she is gone from his(the authors) life. This is how the story starts.


    The author tries to track his wife by following her trails, he retraces the conversations he had with her in order to determine what has gone wrong between them.The more he thinks of her , the more obsessed he becomes in finding her and without his knowledge, she slowly captivates his life in totality, in other words she becomes the author’s Zahir.


    In order to win back his lady love, he has an encounter with Mikhail, the person who was through and through with Esther, understanding her needs and ambitions of becoming a war correspondent and spreading the language of love to the world.


    The character Mikhail , may not exactly be a lovable character. The author potrays him to a vague, epileptic person with mystic powers, person but who is trying to transform the world by his teachings of love – as a shy, spiritual leader.


    The character of Esther blends a lot with the character of Mikail, in the sense they have the same mission in life – spreading the language of love. She loves the author so much that she frees herself from him. She did not want to see the love diminish between herself and her husband whom she loved more than anything else in the whole world. She deserts him, 10 years after their marriage leaving him so puzzled that she ends up being his Zahir .


    In this whole journey, life teaches him a lot of things – what is life in reality? Are people truly happy? Are people really in love with people whom they claim to be with etc. The author starts respecting and liking Mikhail as the story progresses and he helps the author in finding his beloved. Like sins are washed when people bathe in the holy water, the Zahir slowly leaves his soul and he finds out how much he loves Esther – the woman who has helped him accomplish his dream.

    A well written story. The sarcastic way of descriptions by the author in certain places is praiseworthy. For instance, when a journalist comes to interview him of his latest book and asks him “What message do you want to convey through your latest book?” , the author dryly replies “ If I want to put across a message, I’d write a single sentence and not a book”.


    The jouney through the deserts of Kazhakastan is very well described and like a movie. The small experiences like the accident which he meets, the rendezvous with the nomads etc which slowly transforms him as a person is also worthy of a praise.


    On the sling side of it, the author has made it a melodrama in certain areas, not very realistic in some places.The way he drops Marie, his girlfriend, after making ‘use’ of all her niceness was left unexplained by the author.


    Overall , a very addictive book, worth reading, beautifully explains the saying – “when you love a person truly, let them go! If they come back, they are yours, otherwise, they never were!”

    The last but not the least thing about the author is, in the “Authors comments”, he has given credit to all the people who have helped him, certain phrases, certain dialogues, inspirations etc. Gives us a good impression on Paul Coelho.
     
    Last edited: Mar 29, 2006
  9. varalotti

    varalotti IL Hall of Fame

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    Nice Job, Purnima!

    Dear Purnima,

    You have done a nice job. You have tried to capture the very essence of the book in about a couple of pages. The very fact that the book runs into more than a couple of hundreds of pages, shows that you have done a nice job.

    The book review should generate an interest in the reader and make him run to the bookshop. Your work has done this, partially. You can intensify the interest by describing some of the scenes graphically; you can quote some emotinally charged sentences (the book has plenty of them).
    One good way of training yourself on reviews is to read the reviews of films in good magazines like Vikatan. The film review team in Vikatan is very good. Some points you can steal from them are:
    a) they will cover all the departments - photography, stunts, choreography, music, story line, comedy track, villains, apart from the actors. Likewise you may comment on the style of the author. Zahir is actually a translation. Paulo Coelho writes in Portugese and somebody has translated it. The language is very smooth and easy flowing. It's non obtrusive. You can comment on how fast moving the story is, point out the places where it is a little dragging. A good review should also comment on the lay out of the book, its cover design and other features.
    b) You can also say something from the readers point of view. That way you will drive more readers to the book store. For instance if you had written "Zahir should be read by every newly married couple as it captures the very essence of the husband-wife relationship."
    c) One attractive feature I found in Vikatan's film review is at times they get very close to the film and its creator. You can also do that. In this review you have maintained a respectable distance from the author and have spoken your words with a little fear, doubtful of your acceptance. Don't do that. Go ahead and say strongly where the book affected you emotionally. When you are emotionally convinced you will be convincing a lot more people.
    On the whole I would say, Purnima, you have a good potential. Try to review a few more stories and books and then you can start writing on your own. Write at least for two hours a day. I assure within 5 years you will be a good writer.
    Now, out of my concern for you, I have very openly reviewed your review. I only hope nobody comes in to say that a review of a review should not be like this.
    Ha ha ha
    all the best, purnima
    srihdar
     
  10. purnima_2k

    purnima_2k Senior IL'ite

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    Thank You very much VaralottI!

    Reading your suggestions had made me feel at ease. I was very hesitant to post the review as i wasent sure how to go about it, i didnt even go through the internet as to 'how reviews are given' because i wanted to be as natural as possible, start from stratch! Once again thank you very much for your precious time!

    i was totally elated by the fact you think i have good potential. Writing has always been my dream,but somehow , never took up my interest seriously, now that you have triggered it, i shall sincerely make an attempt.i will start reading vikatan and shall improvise on it.

    I showed my review to my husband (he has not read the book) and these were his remarks:

    1 )Firstly he asked me "Is Mikhail a man or a woman!?" hahah which itself was a total blow to my review!

    2) Secondly he said my english was more "conversational" than that of a "reviewer"

    3) He said overall my flow, starting from the description of the title till the authors notes was good!


    Once again thank you very much Varalotti for such a sincere and a whole hearted review! This certainly means a lot to me!

    I would also appreciate inputs from others -- Ambika, Sharada, Sudha, ChitVish, Prathi, and of course Pankaja Aunty too!

    Thanks and Regards,
    Purnima
     

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