...getting cozy by the fire with "The Zahir"
"The Zahir" was my first Paulo Coelho experience, recommended to me by a good friend of mine whom probably later regretted telling me about it for all the times he had to hear me go on and on about during and after I read it each time (...three times that year alone!). And, when I sat down to write my first review for the blog's book club, I knew right away that this had to be the book that I shared first. If you’ve not heard of Paulo Coelho, then omergah I am so pleased to introduce you- you're in a for a treat and will, like so many of us who read his books, want to buy them all!! But if you’re already a Coelho fan, then I don’t have to tell you what a gifted writer he is. For me, this particular book will always be one of my favorites as it was my first dose of Coelho's incredible writing style and wisdom and, because it reminds me of the light of a special friend.
"Zahir" is a Arabic word that means present, visible, incapable of being unnoticed. It is something that grabs our thought, mind and spirit and demands our full attention... I know. What a word. I get goosies just reading the definition. The Zahir is a story about one man's obsession and journey to find his lost wife. Like many of Coelho's story's this is a tale of pilgrimage, full of wisdom and inspiration.
The main character and protagonist (who's name is not revealed), a successful writer living in Paris lives is very blessed with the fame and fortune of his writing career. However, we find him in agony over the disappearance of his wife, Esther, a war correspondent who during a dry spot in the marriage becomes restless and leaves to find her own happiness. He is tormented and traumatized by the mystery of what has happened to her: has she been kidnapped, killed, or has she left him for another lover?
Despite other women, book signings, power lunches with film industry people, and interviews with journalists he cannot escape his wife's memory and one day remembers a story by Jorge Luis Borges about a mystical coin: "A year later, I wake thinking about the story by Borges, about something which, once touched or seen, can never be forgotten, and which gradually so fills our thoughts that we are driven to madness. My Zahir is not a romantic metaphor — a blind man, a compass, a tiger, or a coin. It has a name, and her name is Esther."
The main characters struggle is that of a man trying to come to terms with something he cannot understand or control: the mystery of Esther's absence. It is very hard for him to let go of his feeling that she is the only one who fills his life with meaning. He sets out to find her, convinced he must find her to be happy once again but along the way journey's into himself as he forced to look at his life and face the challenges that existed in the marriage. He seeks to find Esther and ultimately finds himself.
I love the story for the wisdom and interesting insight on obsessive love, the emptiness of status and success, and the courage needed to square off against the mysteries and rewards of letting go of ego and stepping into the dark unknown. I especially love how the book left me with total faith that the Divine knows what it is doing: that everything that happens along the way, happens because it is meant for you and that because of this, even when faced with troubling situations, we suffer not in vain.
Below is one of my favorite quotes from the book... Happy Reading!!
“When I had nothing more to lose, I was given everything. When I ceased to be who I am, I found myself. When I experienced humiliation and yet kept on walking, I understood that I was free to choose my destiny. Perhaps there's something wrong with me, I don't know, perhaps my marriage was a dream I couldn't understand while it lasted. All I know is that even though I can live without her, I would still like to see her again, to say what I never said when we were together: I love you more than I love myself. If I could say that, then I could go on living, at peace with myself, because that love has redeemed me.” -Paulo Coelho, The Zahir