The Zahir by Paulo Coelho

A Zahir is someone with whom you get in contact and then gradually, they occupy all of your thoughts. The book is about a bestselling novelist from France and the search for his war-correspondent wife. The protagonist has a blessed life with money, fame and celebrity-hood until his wife of ten years disappears with her friend. Was he her lover or not? Was she kidnapped? Was she murdered? Or did she make a conscious decision to leave our protagonist? Many such questions lurk and overpower our narrator. He is unsure of how to go about searching his wife. At a point of time, he even wonders if he really wants to find her. He is even suspected of foul play by the authorities and thinks that the press may have a role to play in the inexplicable disappearance of his wife. Amidst all this confusion, he meets Mikhail – the friend or lover of his wife. Mikhail promises to help him find his wife.  Our protagonist of course realizes that to find his wife, he needs to find himself first. And thus starts the journey of our protagonist – something that is very inherent in all of Paulo Coelho’s novels. The search to find something, or someone, primarily oneself has been the central theme of many a Coelho’s book.

One of the most striking features of “The Zahir” is that it makes you think about love, longing and the quest to discover one’s inner self. This feeling is only heightened by the multiple memorable quotes spread through the book. Not only are these quotes note-working but they also manage to seat themselves deep into our minds as beliefs or disbeliefs, as the reader interprets it.

At the same time, the reader can get confused about the true theme of the novel – whether it is love or self-discovery. Though the book shifts focus from love and longing to a                quest for self pretty seamlessly, one may feel a little lost amidst this entire theme. Coelho has a lot of information, a lot of life-lessons to give away through this book. The only let down with this is that it may be a little overbearing for lesser mortals like us. This is probably why this novel has been considered a bridge between fiction and non-fiction.

All in all, however, Coelho’s “The Zahir” is nothing short of brilliant for me. Coelho manages to churn out yet another masterpiece of love – one that is going to be on our minds and hearts for times to come.