Veronika Decides to Die
  • Veronika Decides to Die
  • Veronika Decides to Die

Veronika Decides to Die

4.2 189
by Paulo Coelho

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Twenty-four-year-old Veronika seems to have everything — youth and beauty, boyfriends and a loving family, a fulfilling job. But something is missing in her life. So, one cold November morning, she takes a handful of sleeping pills expecting never to wake up. But she does — at a mental hospital where she is told that she has only days to live.


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Twenty-four-year-old Veronika seems to have everything — youth and beauty, boyfriends and a loving family, a fulfilling job. But something is missing in her life. So, one cold November morning, she takes a handful of sleeping pills expecting never to wake up. But she does — at a mental hospital where she is told that she has only days to live.

Inspired by events in Coelho's own life, Veronika Decides to Die questions the meaning of madness and celebrates individuals who do not fit into patterns society considers to be normal. Bold and illuminating, it is a dazzling portrait of a young woman at the crossroads of despair and liberation, and a poetic, exuberant appreciation of each day as a renewed opportunity.

Editorial Reviews

Barnes & Noble Guide to New Fiction
From the celebrated author of the best-seller The Alchemist, comes a "very interesting, thought-provoking, and gripping" work about one woman's search for meaning in a world ruled by apathy and indifference. "Dazzlingly complex," "full of lyrical whisperings, and confessional asides," it deals with the most fundamental questions of life. "The ending took me by surprise." "So true in so many ways." "Get this book to Oprah."
Library Journal
After an overdose, Veronika goes on living--and looking for life's meaning. Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.

Product Details

HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
P.S. Series
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Product dimensions:
5.31(w) x 8.00(h) x 0.54(d)

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Chapter One

On November 11, 1997, Veronika decided that the moment to kill herself had-at last!-arrived. She carefully cleaned the room that she rented in a convent, turned off the heat, brushed her teeth, and lay down.

She picked up the four packs of sleeping pills from her bedside table. Instead of crushing them and mixing them with water, she decided to take them one by one, because there is always a gap between intention and action, and she wanted to feel free to turn back halfway. With each pill she swallowed, however, she felt more convinced: After five minutes the packs were empty.

Since she didn't know exactly how long it would take her to lose consciousness, she had placed on the bed that month's issue of a French magazine, Homme, which had just arrived in the library where she worked. She had no particular interest in computer science, but, as she leafed through the magazine, she came across an article about a computer game (one of those CD-ROMS) created by Paulo Coelho, a Brazilian writer she had happened to meet at a lecture in the café at the Grand Union Hotel. They had exchanged a few words, and she had ended up being invited by his publisher to join them for supper. There were a lot of people there, though, and they hadn't had a chance to talk in depth about anything.

The fact that she had met the author led her to think that he was part of her world, and that reading an article about his work could help pass the time. While she was waiting for death, Veronika started reading about computer science, a subject in which she was not the least bit interested, but then that was in keeping with what she haddone all her life, always looking for the easy option, for whatever was nearest at hand. Like that magazine, for example.

To her surprise, though, the first line of text shook her out of her natural passivity (the tranquilizers had not yet dissolved in her stomach, but Veronika was by nature passive), and, for the first time in her life, it made her ponder the truth of a saying that was very fashionable among her friends: "Nothing in this world happens by chance."

Why that first line, at precisely the moment when she had begun to die? What was the hidden message she saw before her, assuming there are such things as hidden messages rather than mere coincidences?

Underneath an illustration of the computer game, the journalist began his article by asking: "Where is Slovenia?"

Honestly, she thought, no one ever knows where Slovenia is.

But Slovenia existed nonetheless, and it was outside, inside, in the mountains around her and in the square she was looking out at: Slovenia was her country.

She put the magazine to one side; there was no point now in getting indignant with a world that knew absolutely nothing about the Slovenes; her nation's honor no longer concerned her. It was time to feel proud of herself, to recognize that she had been able to do this, that she had finally had the courage and was leaving this life: What joy! Also she was doing it as she had always dreamed she would-by taking sleeping pills, which leave no mark.

Veronika had been trying to get hold of the pills for nearly six months. Thinking that she would never manage it, she had even considered slashing her wrists. It didn't matter that the room would end up awash in blood, and the nuns would be left feeling confused and troubled, for suicide demands that people think of themselves first and of others later. She was prepared to do all she could so that her death would cause as little upset as possible, but if slashing her wrists was the only way, then she had no option-and the nuns could clean up the room and quickly forget the whole story, otherwise they would find it hard to rent out the room again. We may live at the end of the twentieth century, but people still believe in ghosts.

Obviously she could have thrown herself off one of the few tall buildings in Ljubljana, but what about the further suffering a fall from such a height would cause her parents? Apart from the shock of learning that their daughter had died, they would also have to identify a disfigured corpse; no, that was a worse solution than bleeding to death, because it would leave indelible marks on two people who only wanted the best for her.

They would get used to their daughter's death eventually. But it must be impossible to forget a shattered skull.

Shooting, jumping off a high building, hanging, none of these options suited her feminine nature. Women, when they kill themselves, choose far more romantic methods-like slashing their wrists or taking an overdose of sleeping pills. Abandoned princesses and Hollywood actresses have provided numerous examples of this.

Veronika knew that life was always a matter of waiting for the right moment to act. And so it proved to be the case. In response to her complaints that she could no longer sleep at night, two friends of hers managed to get hold of two packs each of a powerful drug, used by musicians at a local nightclub. Veronika left the four packs on her bedside table for a week, courting approaching death and saying good-bye-entirely unsentimentally-to what people called life.

Now she was there, glad she had gone all the way, and bored because she didn't know what to do with the little time that was left to her.

She thought again about the absurd question she had just read. How could an article about computers begin with such an idiotic opening line: "Where is Slovenia?"

Having nothing more interesting to do, she decided to read the whole article, and she learned that the said computer game had been made in Slovenia-that strange country that no one seemed quite able to place, except the people who lived there-because it was a cheap source of labor. A few months before, when the product was launched, the French manufacturer had given a party for journalists from all over the world in a castle in Vled.

Veronika remembered reading something about the party; which had been quite an event in the city, not just because the castle had been redecorated in order to match as closely as possible the medieval atmosphere of the CD-ROM, but because of the controversy in the local press: Journalists from Germany, France, Britain, Italy and Spain had been invited, but not a single Slovene...

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What People are saying about this

Lou Marinoff
A deceptively unadorned tale, narrated in a charmingly ironic style, Paulo Coelho plumbs the profoundest depths of mores, madness, and meaning. Thanks to Coelho's literary mastery and philosophical acuity, this engaging novel attains greatness via simplicity—a marvelous achievement!
—(Lou Marinoff, Ph.D., author of Plato, Not Prozac!)

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Veronika Decides to Die 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 189 reviews.
hoonew More than 1 year ago
If you have ever felt so sad that life didn't seem worth living, this may be a book for you. Mr. Coelho pulls the reader back and forth through the character's life gradually offering answers to Veronika's mindset and behavior. I found myself pondering several of these ideas and seeing a sunnier side as an observer. We get so deeply entrenched into our own views, our own questioning, and society's expectations that we feel alone and overwhelmed in a way. Not suggesting to read this if you have suicidal thoughts! Seek help immediately. But for many, many of us who have had the dark thoughts cross our minds or have wondered about others who have, this is a great work of fiction that helps draw out reality.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I would like to sum this book up in one word: wow. This book fell into my hands just yesterday afternoon, and after an evening and a morning of reading, I led myself to the last page. I've never done that to a book. I've never read a book that I just couldn't put down, one that when I was away from it, my mind was churning with questions on what Veronika's plans were for the last given week of her life. By reading this book, it provoked some amazing thoughts that I never thought I had. It made me really think about my life, about my daily routine and the things I would do if I had one week to live it. This book will definately change the way you look at your life, and most of all, will make you wonder what you could do different to die happy.
lc_dakr810lire More than 1 year ago
This novel is higly relatable. It's about a woman that dreads and despises her own routine-filled life. She tentatively lives her life day to day consumed with overall feelings of misery and suffers from a severe case of depression. As the title avers, Veronika decides to die, however, she fails attempting to. This novel is a deeply stimulating, eye opening novel. It depicts the life of a troubled woman and how in the end she gains an immense appreciation for her life because she realizes, after all, that life is imminent.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I bought this book hoping for something like 'I Never Promised You a Rose Garden' or 'Girl, Interruputed,' but it wasn't anything like that. Of course, they were non-fiction, but this book 'Veronika...' acts like it's going to be about truth, instead it's a big phony. I can't believe that someone would have an awakening about life's meaning by masturbating. And I don't see anything redeeming about getting drunk. The writing isn't even good. Thumbs down.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Veronika Decides to Die is a deeply moving book that makes you consider why people live and why some choose to die. It encourages you to challenge the rules, to make your life what you want it to be. It both poses and answers the questions 'How would I change if I only had a week to live? What would I do with my time?' If you want to read something that is truly worth your time and money, read this book!
taty43 More than 1 year ago
It is a good book, makes you think about your life and the things you really want to do.
Guest More than 1 year ago
It is an excellent book, that really made you think about life and choices we make, and how we feel about life when putted in an end position(or so to be) how our prospective changes. It is enjoyable for reading, as all of Coelho's books.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I was hesitant to read this book at first considering the amount of negative veiws, but I am so happy I allowed myself to be the judge. It is a short read, but stays with you. The title sounds dark, however it is one of the most enlightening books I have ever read. A must read.
Erosthiest More than 1 year ago
My favorite book of all time. Definitely a great read whenever you're down or depressed
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
TedsReview More than 1 year ago
Buy Before You Die A loaded, layered story that has the power to bring peace to your soul; ironically, it's sure to be deemed shocking by many institutionalised members of society. Freud's 'Theory of Sex' meets narrative; it delves deep into the human psyche and questions social 'norms'. A provocative piece of art whose multi-dimensional prose will move each reader subjectively. The themes may be uncomfortable for some but nonetheless poignantly real and refreshingly different. Superficially it's simple; its strengths are not the plot, more the layering beneath. Don't expect the blatant twists you'd find in a standard novel; this isn't one. Coelho has skilfully weaved a plethora of treats into the book for the reader to discover, should they be open to them. It's highly metaphorical tale that works it's magic both retrospectively and momentarily. The characters are well realised and very, very human. The writing style is quirky yet sincere. The keen translation seems to capture nuances very well. To note, the (2000 ed.) paperback has a pleasing size and feel. This book is for everyone; whether they fully appreciate it will depend on where they're at. A recommended read at least once in your lifetime. Give it a shot, welcome its calming affect and be prepared to read it again and again!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book is amazing, though at times the main character's actions to find the truth about herself and who she is may be a little excentric. The book is all about what it means to be mad/crazy and how the mad view the so called sane people. I know that this book has forever changed my way of thinking and I will never forget it.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
i ihope i like like it like you people say it good """"
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book is mother has always said this is one one her top favorite books in the whole world and now i see why.somehow this book kinda speaks to me and really gets to me.not only is the author one of a kind but this story only 14 years old and i caan honestly say this book will be with me forever!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
An amazing novel about life, death, and mental illness. The language of the novel is so well done and the characters are unforgettable.
hunneypreader22 More than 1 year ago
At first I wasn't sure I liked this book, but decided to stick with it a little longer. I am GLAD I did - it is a surprising, moving, and amazing book!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
L-Golightly More than 1 year ago
Read this book twice already. Highly recommended.
Vita_Brevis More than 1 year ago
While the title may cause some people pause, it lays out the focus facing the main character. I am not going to follow a discussion of the plot as I don't want to ruin any portion of the book for you. As we follow Veronika throughout this story we see her growth while acceptancing her plight. She tests her new found boundaries while at the same time more fully understanding her own limits. This is a novel that calls all of us to evaluate the limits we place on ourselves and realize the maybe there is a better place for ourselves in this world if we just push our own self-imposed boundaries. Just a couple of other notes on the story. Because of this book I am going to search out others by author Paul Coelho. Also, I would highly recommend this novel to book clubs to read, review and discuss.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
It made me think, and I appreciate that.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago