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Veronika Decides to Die Paperback – May 8, 2001

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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: 210 pages
  • Publisher: Harper Perennial; English Language edition (May 8, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0060955775
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060955779
  • Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 0.5 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 5.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (376 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,077,640 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

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

74 of 80 people found the following review helpful By Stefan on May 20, 2002
Format: Paperback
I am not surprised that �Veronika decides to die� is an international bestseller. It is written by Paulo Coelho, who was born in Brazil.
This book has definitely inspired and/or changed the lives of many people out there. It is a book that will make you think, appreciate life.
It was my first experience of Paulo Coelho and it has made me to read more. He has a gift for writing books, which changes the way you think about life in general. That book is undoubtedly a phenomenon. I really enjoyed reading this satisfying book. I found the story quite gripping. It is a wonderful although bizarre declaration of love to all mad people in our world and to the life itself. The book really touched me very deeply. Paulo Coelho tells from elementary experiences and the readers recognize themselves: with their frailties and fears and also with their yearnings and dreams.
Short summary of �Veronika decides to die�:
Veronika has everything she could wish for. She is young and pretty, with plenty of attractive boyfriends. She has a steady job and a loving family. Yet Veronika is not happy and one winter�s morning she takes an overdose of sleeping pills, only to wake up some time later in a local mental hospital. There she is told that although she is alive, her heart is now irreparably damaged and she has only a few days to live. First Veronika feels a tiny bit happy about that message. Then she begins to think about her life.
This story follows her through these intense days as she starts to question all her ideas about life. Soon she comes to realize that every second of existence is a choice we all make between living and dying.
The way it alters her way of thinking and seeing the world. How she starts to question everything around her and also her own mortality.
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43 of 48 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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39 of 44 people found the following review helpful By Eric J. Lyman on August 27, 2003
Format: Paperback
The first part of Veronika Decides to Die is a bleak journey into the head of the fatalistic young woman who gives the book its name. Author Paulo Coelho does a good job here of describing the mindset that would lead someone to suicide, and in setting the stage for Veronika's rebirth in the later parts of the book. Really understanding the book, I think, requires understanding this part.
But understanding Mr. Coelho requires understanding the rest of the story.
There is a simple beauty to Mr. Coelho's style, in evidence as he describes Veronika's ascent from the depths of her private purgatory to her return to her place among the living. This evolution in Veronika is the crux of the book and it illustrates Mr. Coelho's strengths and weaknesses as a storyteller: his ideas are fresh and original and his sense of plot of solid. But his techniques as a writer, his dialogues, his pacing, are weak.
To be sure, Mr. Coelho's ideas are the cornerstones of his legion fan base. The ideas are not only visible in this book when it comes to Veronika's rebirth but also in interesting but minor parts of the story. One of my favorites was when Mari -- an antagonist to Veronika, a lawyer, and a fellow patient at the Villete hospital where most of the story takes place -- muses about how she would defend Adam in the eyes of God for the role he played in the Fall of Man. I also enjoyed the metaphor from Zedka -- another patient -- about the king and queen who rules a kingdom of mad people and how they reacted.
But I quarrel with Mr. Coelho's development of characters, and especially with his choice of dialogue.
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