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The Zahir: A Novel of Obsession Paperback – July 3, 2006

3.9 out of 5 stars 202 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

The press chat cites 65 million copies of Coelho's eight previous novels in print, making the Brazilian author one of the world's bestselling novelists (150 countries and 56 languages). This book, whose title means "the present" or "unable to go unnoticed" in Arabic, has an initial staggered laydown of eight million copies in 83 countries and 42 languages. It centers on the narrator's search for his missing wife, Esther, a journalist who fled Iraq in the runup to the present war, only to disappear from Paris; the narrator, a writer, is freed from suspicion when his lover, Marie, comes forward with a (true) alibi. He seeks out Mikhail, the man who may be Esther's most recent lover and with whom she was last seen, who has abandoned his native Kazakhstan for a kind of speaking tour on love. Mikhail introduces the narrator to a global underground "tribe" of spiritual seekers who resist, somewhat vaguely, conventional ways of living. Through the narrator's journey from Paris to Kazakhstan, Coelho explores various meanings of love and life, but the impact of these lessons is diminished significantly as they are repeated in various forms by various characters. Then again, 65 million readers can't be wrong; the spare, propulsive style that drove The Alchemist, Eleven Minutes and Coelho's other books will easily carry fans through myriad iterations of the ways and means of amor. (Sept.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

Subtitled A Novel of Obsession, this tale is the philosophical and spiritual chronicle of one man's quest for self-discovery. Stunned by his wife's inexplicable disappearance from their Paris home and immediately suspected of foul play by the authorities and the press, the unnamed protagonist, a best-selling writer, is forced to reexamine both his marital relationship and his own life. What he eventually discovers with the help of a -mysterious stranger named Mikhail--a man he suspects is somehow involved in Esther's disappearance--is that he must first "find himself" before he can ever hope to find his wife. Although Esther is physically and emotionally lost to him, he rediscovers her as he retraces both her footsteps and the disintegration of their visceral connection. Finally able to release the past and his anger, he can accept the uncertainty of the present by traveling to Kazakhstan with Mikhail in search of Esther and the remote possibility of resurrecting a dormant love. As in The Alchemist (1993), Coelho continues to prove himself a contemporary fabulist, spinning irresistible stories while seeking enlightenment at the same time. Interwoven with details drawn from his life, the mesmerizing narrative offers a highly personal meditation on the meaning and the power of love. Margaret Flanagan
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Harper Perennial; Reprint edition (July 3, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0060832819
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060832810
  • Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 0.8 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (202 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #55,345 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
I've returned once again to one of my favorite authors to review his latest work. Paulo Coelho of international fame for The Alchemist, 11 Minutes and The Devil and Miss Prym, has released his latest The Zahir. According to the book, the Zahir in Arabic means present, visible, incapable of being unnoticed. It is something that grabs our thought, mind and spirit and demands our full attention. It is believed to lead to either Holiness or madness. In this book, the Zahir is a woman, an idea of a woman, a longing. Our main character sounds very familiar to our author; in fact our hero is a famous author now living in Paris, with his books being published in nearly every language. (which sounds like Mr. Coelho. This book is being published in 50 countries/languages this year alone. [...]) The author writes books that millions love, adore, and claim changes their lives. Yet he appears to have stopped living the type of deliberate life he writes about. He has settled into a complacent life.
Then one day his wife disappears. Over time she becomes his Zahir; he writes a book about love and for a while the Zahir fades. Then he meets the man he believes she had left with and the Zahir returns.
This is a wonderful story about becoming, and remembering who you were meant to be, not who you settled into. It will stir in you a passion to be more than you think you can be, and, to give more, and love more purely. Follow a man who goes in search of an estranged wife, only to find himself.
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Format: Hardcover
I am a big fan of Paulo Coelho's work. I believe time will show him to be an important writer.

I first discovered him with "Veronica Decides to Die" on an airplane flight. It made me want to rush out and do something wonderful with my life, and I've recommended it to friends. Several of his titles are permanent parts of my library.

That said, however, I was frankly disappointed by "The Zahir." I don't believe there's the moment of transformation for any main character which we've come to expect from Paulo Coelho. I don't believe there's an adequate exploration of the conflict that gets his tale going in the first place. Things just seem to meander from one place to another until the story fills enough pages to call it a day. I sincerely believe a first time author would have found it difficult to get this published.

Buy the rest of Paulo Coelho's books. Loan them to friends. Keep them in your library so you can read them again and again. But if you really want to read this one, check it out from the public library so that you can return it when you're done.
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Format: Paperback
Master storyteller Paulo Coelho's stories are all semi-autobiographical in nature, read well, are set in fascinating locations, and leave you thinking the author has somehow seen more deeply into the human spirit than most of us. It's hard to read his books without feeling deeply touched, and The Zahir is no exception.

There are themes of love, belonging, separation, anxiety, heartbreak, understanding, alienation, need, want. Many settings, in many places including Paris, Madrid, Kazakstan. The themes are ones that absorb all humankind whether we realize them or not.

I read this book at a bad time in my life, pulling it randomly from my wife's bookshelf, and being pulled into the book as if it were somehow the correct choice of all the books I could have picked. It spoke to me deeply of love and understanding, in a way that I think many couples, many who have loved or lost will instantly empathize with. Following in the narrator's steps, we arrive where he does, gain wisdom as he does, and achieve enlightenment as he does. And hopefully, find and regain true love that had been neglected, as he does.

Coelho's native language is not English, yet none of his writing feels "translated" or stilted like happens to many foreign writings when they appear in English.

It is as if the author has a special gift for storytelling that transcends individual languages, the the vast number of countries in which his books have been published seems to support that.

Whether you are looking to be entertained by a lively tale, or are seeking solace and understanding as I was, The Zahir will fill your need. If you are in need of both then it behooves you to read everything this master storyteller has written.
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Format: Paperback
God, how I hated this book! It starts out OK: a best selling but critically disliked author (the narrator of the book) and his wife become too complacent in their marriage and start taking each other for granted. The wife splits, and, after some serious soul searching, she becomes the author's "Zahir" (which means "obsession" or "great desire." The word is repeated in the book about a thousand times just to clue us in on the profundity of the concept). He then commences on a spiritual quest to get her back (which, at one of the novel's low points, includes frolicking with insightful street beggars). Less than 100 pages in, the book devolves into a silly philosophical surrealistic dissertation on the "energy of love." I swear, it almost reminded me of that dreadful early 70's musical "Godspell," except without the soundtrack. OK, I get it! We should try to love each other! Why not write a three page essay instead of this la-la land book?

To me, "The Zahir," is an author out-of-control with his self-indulgent egoism. I'm wondering if Paul Coelho believed he would start a movement based on the "energy of love," kind of how Ayn Rand started "Objectivism." Fortunately, the type was large and the chapters short -- otherwise I would never have finished the book.
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