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Veronika Decides to Die: A Novel of Redemption Paperback – May 23, 2006

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Editorial Reviews Review

When Paulo Coelho (The Alchemist) was a young man, his parents had him committed to mental hospitals three times because he wanted to be an artist--an unacceptable profession in Brazil at the time. During his numerous forced incarcerations he vowed to write some day about his experiences and the injustices of involuntary commitment. In this fable-like novel, Coelho makes good on his promise, with the creation of a fictional character named Veronika who decides to kill herself when faced with all that is wrong with the world and how powerless she feels to change anything. Although she survives her initial suicide attempt, she is committed to a mental hospital where she begins to wrestle with the meaning of mental illness and whether forced drugging should be inflicted on patients who don't fit into the narrow definition of "normal." The strength and tragedy of Veronika's fictional story was instrumental in passing new government regulations in Brazil that have made it more difficult to have a person involuntarily committed. Like any great storyteller, Coelho has used the realm of fiction to magically infiltrate and alter the realm of reality. --Gail Hudson --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

The bestselling Brazilian author of The Alchemist delicately etches this morose but ultimately uplifting story of the suicidal Veronika, who creeps along the boundary between life and death, sanity and madness, happiness and despair. Veronika, 24, works in a library in Ljubljana, Slovenia, and rents a room in a convent; she is an attractive woman with friends and family, but feelings of powerlessness and apathy tempt her to find "freedom" in an overdose of sleeping pills. When Veronika awakens in the purgatory of Villete, the country's famous lunatic asylum, she is told her suicide attempt weakened her heart and she has only days to live. At this point, Coelho takes a role in the novel; he describes the circumstances under which he discovered Veronika's story and then recounts his own youthful incarceration in a Brazilian sanatorium, consigned there by parents who couldn't understand his "unusual behavior." As quickly as he drops in, however, he drops out again, relying on interior monologues to set scenes. In a sedative-induced haze, Veronika finds companionship in white-haired Mari, who suffers from panic attacks, and Eduard, an ambassador's son who has been diagnosed as schizophrenic, and she begins to question the definition of insanity. It is her supposed death sentence from the devious Dr. Igor, who is trying to shock her back into reality, that allows Veronika to reacquire the will to live and love. Employing his trademark blend of religious and philosophical overtones, Coelho focuses on his central question: why do people go on when life seems unfair and fate indifferent? The simple, often banal prose contrasts Veronika's bleak inner landscape with the beautiful contours of Slovenia, gradually culminating in an upbeat ending with the message that each day of life is a miracle. Coelho's latest will appeal to readers who enjoy animated homilies about the worth of human existence.
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Harper Perennial; Tra edition (May 23, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0061124265
  • ISBN-13: 978-5955000831
  • Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 0.5 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 6.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (351 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #24,517 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

The Brazilian author PAULO COELHO is considered one of the most influential authors of our times. His books have sold more than 165 million copies worldwide, have been released in 170 countries and been translated into 80 languages.

Born in Rio de Janeiro in 1947, he soon discovered his vocation for writing. He worked as a director, theater actor, songwriter and journalist. His collaboration with Brazilian composer and singer Raúl Seixas gave some of the greatest classic rock songs in Brazil. In 1986, a special meeting led him to make the pilgrimage to Saint James Compostela (in Spain). The Road to Santiago was not only a common pilgrimage but a turning point in his existence. A year later, he wrote 'The Pilgrimage', an autobiographical novel that is considered the beginning of his career.

In the following year, COELHO published 'The Alchemist'. Slow initial sales convinced his first publisher to drop the novel, but it went on to become one of the best selling Brazilian books of all time.

Other titles include 'Brida' (1990), 'The Valkyries' (1992), 'By the River Piedra I Sat Down and Wept' (1994), the collection of his best columns published in the Brazilian newspaper Folha de S. Paulo entitle 'Maktub' (1994), the compilation of texts 'Phrases' (1995), 'The Fifth Mountain' (1996), 'Manual of a Warrior of Light' (1997), 'Veronika decides to die' (1998), 'The Devil and Miss Prym' (2000), the compilation of traditional tales in 'Stories for parents, children and grandchildren' (2001), 'Eleven Minutes' (2003), 'The Zahir' (2005), 'Like the Flowing River' (2006), 'The Witch of Portobello' (2006), 'The Winner Stands Alone' (2008), 'Aleph' (2010), 'Manuscript found in Accra' (2012) and 'Adultery' (2014).

He has received numerous prestigious international awards. He is member of the Academy of Letters of Brazil since 2002 and Messenger of Peace by the United Nations since 2007. In 2009 he received the Guinness World Record for the most translated author for the same book (The Alchemist).

The man behind the author likes to write and practices Kyudo - a meditative archery. He loves reading, walking, football and computers. In that sense, he has always maintained a close contact with his readers but now, and thanks to the new media, he has established an incredible feedback with them. Paulo was the second most influential celebrity on Twitter in 2010 according to Forbes and he is the writer with the highest number of followers in the social media.

In the past years Paulo Coelho has expanded his presence in the internet with his daily blogs in Wordpress (, Facebook (, Twitter ( & Instagram (, among others. He is equally present in media sharing sites such as Youtube ( and Flickr ( , offering on a regular basis not only texts but also videos and pictures to his readers.

Customer Reviews

4.2 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

40 of 44 people found the following review helpful By Judith E. Pavluvcik on August 30, 2000
Format: Hardcover
I am great fan of Coelho's and absolutely love his books and the messages that they impart. This is the third book of his that I have read and I found his latest book to be no different! This is an excellent book - it will have you questioning your own life and the value that you do or don't place on it.
As some of the reviewers have said - this is a book about life and not about death and I could not agree more. After an unsuccessful attempt at suicide, Veronika awakens in a mental hospital with a grim death sentence hanging over her head of only having five days left to live. Her conformist way of life, her mediocrity, her stifled creativity, as well as her unwillingness to take risks or challenges, are all brought into the limelight for the reader to "feel". The reader experiences many emotions on Veronika's journey during the remaining five days of her life. We are treated to what her dream "would have been" if she followed her heart and allowed her emotions and passions to shine through.
Veronika's five-day metamorphosis is in effect her rebirth into life. She allows her buried feelings, passions and creativity to surface and to be acknowledged. Her brief stay also influences other patients in the hospital, as they too undergo their own rebirth into the joy of living.
The ending of this tale will come as a surprise to some readers, to others maybe not. Nonetheless, this book is excellent and will re-confirm to the reader just how precious, joyous and love-filled life is. This book also brings home many messages, the most important one being - life is what you make it - it is your choice and your choice alone - one can either live life to the fullest or be a walking zombie as Veronika was.
I thoroughly recommend this book as another inspiring and thought provoking book by Paulo Coelho. I very much look forward to his next book.
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18 of 20 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on June 19, 2000
Format: Hardcover
Having been recommended this book by a good friend of mine, who knew me as a lost young person in this world, I read the book not only to feel excited but also had a renewed outlook on life. There were many points in the book that still stick in my mind ever so clearly as if I had read it yesterday. But Paulo Coelho wrote that book in a way that made me say, 'yeah, how did he hit the nail so precisely?' Reading some passages gave me shivers because Paulo was so right.
Many times, we tend to hold back on questioning or spilling our brains out for the sake of pleasing others because they would thing that we are crazy for asking such question. However, I have learnt a valuable lesson through this book - that is to be mad (mad in a good way)once in awhile. To do things once in awhile that we might not otherwise do and may never repeat but something that makes people say, 'He/She is MAD!'. Through this book also, I have come to realize that being myself and portraying the real me in a world filled with people who are extremely afraid to show their real feelings and expressions, is OK. I can be myself and be different and not feel as though it is a grave sin to be ME. - "Is Wanting to be different a serious illness?.....It is if you force yourself to be same as everyone else: it causes neuroses, pschoses and paranoia. It's a distortion of nature, it goes against God's laws, for in all the world's woods and forests, He did not create a single leaf the same as another." p. 153
Paulo Coelho wrote it so well that I have come to conclude: You only live once. Therefore, enjoy life to the fullest!
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on August 13, 2000
Format: Hardcover
At the end of this novel the reader is given the gift of a second chance at life, but only if the reader dares to defy conformity and live according to their heart's passion, assuming of course that the heart has a recognizable passion. That's the catch. If you are satisfied with your own mediocrity then I don't recommend reading this because you might just find yourself identifying with Veronika, who never dared to take any real chances or go against the flow, one day after another being that of mundane existence. You may in fact find yourself quite jealous of Veronika's remarkable foresight when she analyzed the reasons for not finishing her life, and then for having the calm courage to end her life of monotonous conformity.
This book challenges you to examine the value of your own life, and the cost of sacrificing whatever it is that is unusual about you for the sake of acceptance by others. If you aren't afraid of holding up a mirror to yourself then read away, and enjoy the spiritual jewels the authors lays at your feet.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Rashid on December 30, 2000
Format: Hardcover
The Book
Veronika Decides to Die
The Author
Paulo Coelho
If you have ever wondered why a keyboard is laid in QWERT order or what is the purpose of a Tie, or what it means by being normal or why some people become mad; then this book has its answers. Here Paulo Coelho is talking to himself; one finds some whisperings that we have all known and felt sometime or the other in our lives.
The Skeleton
The book begins with Veronika, a twenty-four year old Slovenian's decision to die. She finds no reason to live. Everyday was the same for her, nothing seemed to change. The suicide turns out to be a failure and she is admitted in an asylum in Vilette.
Here she is introduced to a new world, a world where she is free to do whatever she wanted, for the simple reason that she was mad. She discovers that a shadow of her life existed in the lives of Eduard, Zedka, and Mari who were the inmates. The author spins a magical web exploring the lives within the protective walls of Vilette where in the patients are allowed to rediscover their `madness' without criticism or harm. Their discovery turns out to be the message of the book.
Authors View
Q. What is the main idea in your new book?
Ans. That we have been educated to accept what society imposes on us. We never ask why we must do this or stop doing that. Those who accept such an imposition and do what the majority recommends are considered normal people. On the other hand, those who try to escape a pre-manufactured life and start fighting for their dreams are generally considered fools. In "Veronika Decides to Die", I tell the story of people that, for one reason or the other do not follow the path of normality and feel obliged to find a new way.
Read more ›
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