The Zahir: A Novel of Obsession

The Zahir: A Novel of Obsession

by Paulo Coelho

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780061758010
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date: 10/13/2009
Sold by: HARPERCOLLINS
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 336
Sales rank: 25,207
File size: 969 KB

About the Author

Paulo Coelho, born in Rio de Janeiro in 1947, is one of the bestselling and most influential authors in the world. The Alchemist, The Pilgrimage, The Valkyries, Brida, Veronika Decides to Die, Eleven Minutes, The Zahir, The Witch of Portobello, The Winner Stands Alone, Aleph, Manuscript Found in Accra, and Adultery, among others, have sold over 175 million copies worldwide, and The Alchemist has been on the New York Times bestseller list for over 360 weeks.

Paulo Coelho has been a member of the Brazilian Academy of Letters since 2002, and in 2007, he was appointed United Nations Messenger of Peace. He is also the most followed author on social media.

Hometown:

Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Date of Birth:

August 24, 1947

Place of Birth:

Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Education:

Left law school in second year

Read an Excerpt

The Zahir

Chapter One

Her name is Esther; she is a war correspondent who has just returned from Iraq because of the imminent invasion of that country; she is thirty years old, married, without children. He is an unidentified male, between twenty-three and twenty-five years old, with dark, Mongolian features. The two were last seen in a café on the Rue du Faubourg St-Honoré.

The police were told that they had met before, although no one knew how often: Esther had always said that the man -- who concealed his true identity behind the name Mikhail -- was someone very important, although she had never explained whether he was important for her career as a journalist or for her as a woman.

The police began a formal investigation. Various theories were put forward -- kidnapping, blackmail, a kidnapping that had ended in murder -- none of which were beyond the bounds of possibility given that, in her search for information, her work brought her into frequent contact with people who had links with terrorist cells. They discovered that, in the weeks prior to her disappearance, regular sums of money had been withdrawn from her bank account: those in charge of the investigation felt that these could have been payments made for information. She had taken no change of clothes with her, but, oddly enough, her passport was nowhere to be found.

He is a stranger, very young, with no police record, with no clue as to his identity.

She is Esther, thirty years old, the winner of two international prizes for journalism, and married.

My wife.

I immediately come under suspicion and am detained because I refuse to saywhere I was on the day she disappeared. However, a prison officer has just opened the door of my cell, saying that I'm a free man.

And why am I a free man? Because nowadays, everyone knows everything about everyone; you just have to ask and the information is there: where you've used your credit card, where you spend your time, whom you've slept with. In my case, it was even easier: a woman, another journalist, a friend of my wife, and divorced -- which is why she doesn't mind revealing that she slept with me -- came forward as a witness in my favor when she heard that I had been detained. She provided concrete proof that I was with her on the day and the night of Esther's disappearance.

I talk to the chief inspector, who returns my belongings and offers his apologies, adding that my rapid detention was entirely within the law, and that I have no grounds on which to accuse or sue the state. I say that I haven't the slightest intention of doing either of those things, that I am perfectly aware that we are all under constant suspicion and under twenty-four-hour surveillance, even when we have committed no crime.

"You're free to go," he says, echoing the words of the prison officer.

I ask: Isn't it possible that something really has happened to my wife? She had said to me once that -- understandably given her vast network of contacts in the terrorist underworld -- she occasionally got the feeling she was being followed.

The inspector changes the subject. I insist, but he says nothing.

I ask if she would be able to travel on her passport, and he says, of course, since she has committed no crime. Why shouldn't she leave and enter the country freely?

"So she may no longer be in France?"

"Do you think she left you because of that woman you've been sleeping with?"

That's none of your business, I reply. The inspector pauses for a second and grows serious; he says that I was arrested as part of routine procedure, but that he is nevertheless very sorry about my wife's disappearance. He is married himself and although he doesn't like my books (So he isn't as ignorant as he looks! He knows who I am!), he can put himself in my shoes and imagine what I must be going through.

I ask him what I should do next. He gives me his card and asks me to get in touch if I hear anything. I've watched this scene in dozens of films, and I'm not convinced; inspectors always know more than they say they do.

He asks me if I have ever met the person who was with Esther the last time she was seen alive. I say that I knew his code name, but didn't know him personally.

He asks if we have any domestic problems. I say that we've been together for ten years and have the same problems most married couples have -- nothing more.

He asks, delicately, if we have discussed divorce recently, or if my wife was considering leaving me. I tell him we have never even considered the possibility, and say again that "like all couples" we have our occasional disagreements.

Frequent or only occasional?

Occasional, I say.

He asks still more delicately if she suspected that I was having an affair with her friend. I tell him that it was the first -- and last -- time that her friend and I had slept together. It wasn't an affair; it came about simply because we had nothing else to do. It had been a bit of a dull day, neither of us had any pressing engagements after lunch, and the game of seduction always adds a little zest to life, which is why we ended up in bed together.

"You go to bed with someone just because it's a bit of a dull day?"

I consider telling him that such matters hardly form part of his investigations, but I need his help, or might need it later on. There is, after all, that invisible institution called the Favor Bank, which I have always found so very useful . . .

The Zahir. Copyright © by Paulo Coelho. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.

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The Zahir: A Novel of Obsession 3.7 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 74 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Beautiful, poetic, but earthy reality to non-traditional love that makes you wish this type of passion....of wanting....of willingness to put aside egos, everything we think is important, to find love within, despite tumultuous pasts, frayed upbringings, neural structures that just focus on the "me"....oh, the point? That is real fairytale love. The kind that will teach and you will want to learn, lest you go crazy in the not knowing. It even seems safe to say, if the love doesn't drive you a bit mad, it's probably not worth it. How far would you go, not just in distance, but in action...even if it is painful growth...for the one you love?
MariaSavva_Author More than 1 year ago
I hadn't read a Paulo Coelho book for a while and this book has reminded me what I love about his writing. I am definitely intending to read more of his work. I love the way the prose pulls you in and keeps you interested. There are many inspirational and spiritual passages in the novel which seem to be written with the intention of giving hope and direction to the reader. The book is about an internationally acclaimed author whose wife has disappeared. She is a War correspondent and, therefore, the husband does not know whether she left him, or whether she was kidnapped or something far worse. One day a man appears at one of the author's book signings with a message from the wife to say that she is okay. The husband then becomes increasingly obsessed with idea of finding her. She becomes his 'Zahir' which is defined as something which, once seen or touched, can not be forgotten. We follow the husband in his journey to find his wife, and also in his own personal spiritual journey along the way. It is described as a novel of 'obsession' and, in my view, Paulo has done a great job in writing the book in such a way that the reader has almost a compulsion to read on to find out what happens - almost as if the book becomes an obsession. The book isn't perfect, so I can't give it five stars. I did find it a bit confusing in places, as there are often long conversations in the book between characters (sometimes multiple characters) without reference as to who is the speaker. Also, the lack of quotation marks at the beginning of new paragraphs when a character was making a speech or talking over a few paragraphs, was a bit annoying and also confusing. Finally, I was quite disappointed with the ending; for me it was too predictable and a bit contrived. But on the whole I enjoyed this book, and would definitely recommend it.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I loved this book. My coworkers and I had talked about setting up a staff picks wall in the bookstore where we work. Reading Coehlo's book made it an imperative and the wall was created the very next day: I had to let people know about this book. It's funny, thought -provoking and joyful to the soul in a way that is inexplicable (it touched me in ways I'm still trying to grasp). And don't be fooled by the cover which says that the book is about obsession. It is about love and freedom.
cloggiedownunder More than 1 year ago
The Zahir is the sixth stand-alone book by Brazil-born author, Paulo Coelho. It is translated from Portuguese by Margaret Jull Costa. Esther, a journalist and the wife of a best-selling author disappears from their home in Paris. Once the police release him from custody, dismissing the idea that he may have been responsible, he begins to wonder what has happened. He is soon convinced that she left him voluntarily, despite her occasionally dangerous job as a war correspondent. For two years, he remains obsessed about learning the reason she left him. The first thing the narrator does is find himself a girlfriend. Then, suitably catered for sexually, he laments his inability to understand why his wife left him. As the narrator (eventually, after more than two years) sets about looking for her, the tale is filled with waffle about finding oneself, pure divine energy, spiritual journey, and energy of love flowing around the world. Much of it seems to be a vehicle for expressing the author’s opinion about topics like wealth, sex and fidelity, marriage, and power. From the narrator’s history it would seem that this story is largely autobiographical. The author must have quite some charisma in person, because on paper his attitude and arrogance are unappealing. The dialogue is wooden (although perhaps this is a function of the translation); the prose is dull; much of the story feels contrived. This book might appeal to men of a Latin background who fancy themselves on a spiritual journey.
EILINE More than 1 year ago
LOVE IT
Anonymous 6 months ago
This book was a lot to swallow and ponder. I think I will be meditating on it for some time to come.
denina on LibraryThing 11 months ago
Pretentious and pseudo-philosophical/intellectual.
kipp15 on LibraryThing 11 months ago
A long obsessive quest to reunite with the beloved.
MariaSavva on LibraryThing 11 months ago
I hadn't read a Paulo Coelho book for a while and this book has reminded me what I love about his writing. I am definitely intending to read more of his work. I love the way the prose pulls you in and keeps you interested. There are many inspirational and spiritual passages in the novel which seem to be written with the intention of giving hope and direction to the reader.The book is about an internationally acclaimed author whose wife has disappeared. She is a War correspondent and, therefore, the husband does not know whether she left him, or whether she was kidnapped or something far worse. One day a man appears at one of the author's book signings with a message from the wife to say that she is okay. The husband then becomes increasingly obsessed with idea of finding her. She becomes his 'Zahir' which is defined as something which, once seen or touched, can not be forgotten. We follow the husband in his journey to find his wife, and also in his own personal spiritual journey along the way.It is described as a novel of 'obsession' and, in my view, Paulo has done a great job in writing the book in such a way that the reader has almost a compulsion to read on to find out what happens - almost as if the book becomes an obsession.The book isn't perfect, so I can't give it five stars. I did find it a bit confusing in places, as there are often long conversations in the book between characters (sometimes multiple characters) without reference as to who is the speaker. Also, the lack of quotation marks at the beginning of new paragraphs when a character was making a speech or talking over a few paragraphs, was a bit annoying and also confusing.Finally, I was quite disappointed with the ending; for me it was too predictable and a bit contrived.But on the whole I enjoyed this book, and would definitely recommend it.
mrs.starbucks on LibraryThing 11 months ago
Completely unexpected...it's one of those novels that says so much you have to read it 50 times to understand even a paragraph the way it deserves to be understood.One of the things I love most about Coelho is the...almost Pagan...approach to things. If you have very traditional concepts of love, marriage, religion, nature and miracles, I don't think you'd get very much out of this. For me, Coelho's works are explorations of things I already feel and believe without giving in to confirmation bias. I thought this story would be dark, a sort of descent into madness. It turned out to be anything but that. It's rather a story of redemption from obsession, and not just any obsession, but the obsession with the way things are supposed to be. That is the ultimate Zahir, and a Zahir that belongs to all of us at one time or another.
StephenBarkley on LibraryThing 11 months ago
I'm afraid my journey with Coelho is over. I was intrigued by The Alchemist, even though it smacked of neo-gnosticism. Veronica Decides to Die had such a twisted premise, I could overlook the philosophy. The Devil and Miss Prym, again, was such an interesting take on a folksy tale, I half-enjoyed it. In The Zahir, Coelho's mushy spiritualism collided so violently with my worldview it was a chore to read.I did enjoy the cosmopolitan atmosphere of the book¿the cultures of Brazil, France and Kazakhstan combine to make interesting reading. Coelho's prose is beautiful to read, as well. He moves effortlessly between dialogue and thought.In the end, though, I'm tired of people thinking that leaving their old life behind will allow them to "find themselves". That mid-life-crisis myth has spoiled too many relationships for me to take it seriously.
Allzz on LibraryThing 11 months ago
a book about a husband who is searching for his wife and also wants to know why she left him...a good read but depressing at times...
veranaz22 on LibraryThing 11 months ago
A novel following a journey of a novelist in search of his wife, or rather of obsessing over why his wife left. But instead of finding her, he finds out things about himself.This novel had a wonderfully strong start, but started to get very disconnected in the middle. Overall, it was such a joy and such an experience to read. After reading "The Alchemist," I had no interest in reading anymore of Coelho's work, but this novel inspires me to give his work another chance. Looking forward to more Coelho!Three and a half out of five.
bookwoman247 on LibraryThing 11 months ago
When Esther, the wife of a famed author becomes a war correspondent, and disappears, along with her assistant, Mikhael, the author can only assume that the two are having an affair.As hard as he tries to let her go, she has become his zahir, a thing that cannot be forgotten. The desire to find her intensifies, burning ever stronger, the harder he tries to forget her.When Mikhael appears, bearing the news that Esther is in Kazakhistan, the author sets off on a quest, both spiritual and literal, to find her.This book is very typical Coelho. It is obvious that he writes from deep within his soul, with great passion. Although I do find his brand of spirituality interesting, it is not for me. I prefer to read his work as more of a simple, basic quest. I can only take his work in small doses, but find him enjoyable enough to read if I'm in the mood.
vpfluke on LibraryThing 11 months ago
This is Coelho's best novel since the [Alchemist]. I found that I wanted to stay with the story even when its profundity wasn't there. The story is narrated by a person who may be a mirror of the author, I don't know. His wife has left hime for mysterious reasons, much of which deals with the peculiarites of love and relationships. A Kazakh immigrant provdies an alternate spiritual path which attracts a number of young people, and has entwined relationship with the narrator's wife. Much of the story is laid in Paris and provides some look into an aspect of the homeless world.
rayski on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The Zahir is the obsession of a person. The narrator¿s obsession is a lost love, a woman. The narrator is part Coelho. The overall story is not great, but as typical with Coelho the beauty of the book is in individual passages, especially those dealing with letting your past go so you can have a future.
karima29 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
According to the writer Jorge Luis Borges, the idea of the Zahir comes from Islamic tradition and is thought to have arisen at some point in the eighteenth century. Zahir, in arabic, means visible, present, incapable of going unnoticed. It is someone or something which, once we have come into contact with them or it, gradually occupies our every thought, until we can think of nothing else. This can be considered either a state of holiness or of madness.Faubourg Saint-PeresEncyclopedia of the Fantastic (1953)This book, was another journey with Coelho into his world of the spirit, and this time the real essence of love. What it means to love someone, and yourself... And again, the main character appears to be him, with the same background and his life experiences, although I'm not sure that this particular thing ever happened to him. The narrator/protagonist in the story is never named. The book also addresses happiness and wealth. He talks about what it's like to be a celebrity, more importantly, what it's like to be a human being while being a celebrity.
FicusFan on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A strangely written post-modern story of love, the meaning of life, spirituality, and the battle against conformity.The narrator seems to speak directly to the reader for most of the book. He tells the story of his life, and his marriage. His journey to find love, his place in life, and how he lost his wife. His wife becomes his obsession, his Zahir. As he works through the process of trying to figure out how he lost her, where she is, if he wants her back, and how to go about it, he realizes that the Zahir is a symptom of the problem. The narrator explains his philosophy on love and life, and what he has learned, the mistakes he has made, and the spiritual growth he has achieved. At first it was not enjoyable because of the odd method of telling the story, then the narrator seemed unlikeable. But around page 25, it because interesting, and I was hooked. I don't know if I would read more of this type of fiction, but it was a change for me and it sucked me in. The narrator also seemed to be exploring lots of uncomfortable truths about life and living. If the reader has not already done some thinking along these lines, s/he might become uncomfortable and unable to enjoy the flow of his journey. There was a bit of magical realism mixed in with a character who has visions. The story takes place mostly in Paris, and then ends on the Asian steppes of Kazakhstan. All in all very interesting.
kristicw on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
An excellent story about one man's search for his life's love and finding himself along the way.
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