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You have entered the realm of my mind where words play with the fabric of our existence. This is the map of my imagination: the very foundations of inspiration, musing, and thought splayed for your wandering eyes. Dive deep into the tides of these forces and experience my reality, my fantasy, my world; and if you should be so inclined, share your words with this land.

Peace and Love!

J Hart F

Thursday, July 15, 2010

"The Zahir" by Paulo Coelho

Profound! Perhaps strangely so because this isn't the kind of novel I usually pick up and I struggled through the book until I read the last quarter. Honestly though, The Zahir touched on so many levels of life which certainly allowed individuals of many different paths to relate this this book. The first three quarters presented so many things easily equated with my life, which is why I struggled so much. However, in the end I felt as rewarded as when I read The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho.

The aspect of a zahir took half the novel to understand. The additive portion of the title ("A Novel of Obsession") helps comprehend what a zahir is: obsession; but the mere acceptance of a zahir as obsession isn't nearly accurate enough. For instance, I am obsessed with beauty (it's true): the beauty of people physically, mentally and spiritually, the beauty of art, the beauty of emotion, the beauty of nature both sublime and serene, etc. Obsessed is certainly the proper word to describe this aspect, but i would never call it my zahir. A zahir is an overwhelming obsession that controlls every aspect of one's life: thought, actions, reasons, etc. According to Coelho in his talk about The Zahir he cites Jorge Luis Borges on the aspect of what a zahir is and says "the idea of the Zahir comes from the Islamic tradition and probably arose in the eighteenth century. In Arabic zahir means 'visible; present; incapable of going unnoticed.'"

In The Zahir the narrator, who is left unnamed until the very end and then only takes the name Nobody, discovers that his wife has left him without reason. His wife was his rock, his strength, his everything it seems because she helped get him into writing and forced him to overcome himself in the writing process. In a sense, the narrator depended on her as much as he depended on his own inspiration. When he lost her, he lost himself and became obsessed with finding her, knowing why she left, who she left with, what she's doing, etc. But the more thought about her and the more he continued on his own journey the more the narrator realizes he is truly obsessed with his history. Thus, one of the central lessons is revealed.

One characteristic of this novel that I LOVED is the allusions to Coelho's own works! He references The Alchemist, Brida, By the River Piedra I Sat Down and Wept, and Warrior of the Light, if not others amongst those. I haven't read his entire work yet, but this book seems to have used all the lessons of his others to put together a wondrous novel about obsession. About the zahirs in life.

As I read through this book, I realized several things about myself. One of which is my obsession with writing and reading and experiencing life in the various different ways reading and writing provide. I also realize that I'm not obsessed with my history. One of the things this book tells the reader is to let go of the past because we can't let it determine who we will become. It may have made who we are, but we can't let that destroy our aspirations, intentions, etc. However, it also helped me understand where my zahirs exist, and which one has most recently destroyed myself: work. My previous job, the one I just got out of, was overwhelmingly overtaking my life in every aspect and I couldn't shake it (except for getting away, I had no other release from this zahir). Finishing this book now helped me release this history, this experience, and those troubles so I can move forward. All in all, this may have been the reason I haven't been writing as much recently.

To wrap things up, I would say everyone should read The Zahir at some point in life, especially if you happen to be going through a time in life you feel is overwhelming and controlling. This novel of obsession will certainly help reawaken yourself. However, I recommend reading Coelho's other novels before picking this one up. It will help understand to a larger degree the allusions and meanings of The Zahir. It's a wonderful book!

1 comment:

  1. Holy crap. When you were telling me about this guy it didn't even click that he wrote "By the River Piedra . . ."

    I love that book! Actually it really stressed me out until the epiloque. Then I was so excited I almost ran outside to spin around like Julie Andrews.

    Except I don't have grassy Austrian hills. I have 13th Street.

    The Julie Andrews thing doesn't work when dodging traffic and/or cursing at drivers.

    But still - pretty happy :)