– By Asha Dey
You would either love The Zahir or hate it. There is no feeling that can be termed as ‘in between’ for this book. A quick Google search would confirm my statement. But, I am not one of the haters, I loved each page of The Zahir, a book that takes you through the spiritual side of reality.
The novel, a semi auto-biographical account by Paulo Coelho, begins with the narrator, who is a bestselling novelist, finding that his wife of ten years, Esther, a war correspondent, has disappeared without saying a word to him. The abandonment by a loving wife causes the narrator to delve deep into his own self, question love, destiny and what it means to follow your heart.
He is hurt and obsesses constantly to understand why his wife left him. His obsession to find the answer drives him to symbolically represent Esther as the Zahir, which in Arabic, means visible, present, incapable of going unnoticed.
Esther’s disappearance without a single word of goodbye becomes the core of the narrator’s existence. He keeps obsessing about the reason behind his wife leaving him, where did she go, whom did she leave with, while analysing their relationship that had lost zest and passion over the years. The sudden jolt of Esther’s leaving wakes him up from the slumber of his mundane existence as he goes into a search to find his lost wife, and discovers the meaning of love, happiness and his true self, along the way.
The quest to find Esther leads him to transform himself, as he begins a journey to re-discover his true self, freeing himself from his personal history and accepting the new, without any judgements.
Along with Mikhail, his wife’s friend who knew her whereabouts, the narrator starts to unveil many layers oh his wife’s life, eventually helping him in peeling of his masks as well. well. He meets with the people his wife had met in the past and discovers that she gave pieces of blood-stained cloth from a soldier’s uniform to certain people. It bothered him that Esther never even mentioned about the cloth, leave alone giving him a piece. Slowly, he starts understanding the meaning behind Esther’s decision and chooses to find himself first, before locating her.
As he goes through the churning, he keeps trying to find symbols that would eventually lead him to Esther. Finally, the narrator travels to Kazakhstan with Mikhail to meet his wife. And, something beautiful unveils as Esther describes her emotions that she underwent while waiting for the narrator to turn up in that remote village to meet her. At last, she handed him a piece of blood stained cloth as well.
As the novel concludes, you realise that the protagonist’s journey had become yours; it had awakened a quest to find your own true-self and understand the meaning of love, akin to the Buddhist philosophy of universal loving/kindness. Read it to know yourself.
The Zahir by Paulo Coelho. Publisher: Harper Perennial (eng. trans.). ISBN: 0-06-083281-9
About the author: A compulsive writer, a mad thinker, a marooned traveller, land an accidental photographer, Asha Dey is also the Senior Editor of Wisdom Winds. Follow her on Twitter deyasha18.