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on 12 September 2000
This is a book written for all romantics at heart. Paulo Coelho has written another superb novel based on the power of love, faith and hope. This book is inspirational, and pushes us to believe and learn to recognise the little miracles that appear to us each day. Dreams do take hard work, patience and a lot of tears, but the author teaches us never to loose hope. Paulo manages to move and inspire through this story. Excellent! It made me trust in love again!
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on 15 June 2017
Wow my favourite story writer. I enjoy reading this book. It did not disappoint.
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on 20 July 2017
I am going to sound repetitive but I was moved beyond what I thought I was capable of.
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on 22 May 2017
Book club read, not my choice. I enjoyed it made a change
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on 22 May 2017
Very good...arrived on time.
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on 1 June 2017
Amazing book!
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on 12 April 2012
I bought "The Zahir" with great anticipation, having recently read "The Witch of Portobello", which I found to be an unbridled joy to read. It is exhuberant, mould-breaking, moving, wise and insightful, holding a microscope to the mysterious labyrinths of the human psyche. So I bought this book with the opinion that Paulo Coelho is an exceptional author, and I still believe that. However, having read "The Witch of Portobello", I was astonished to find "The Zahir" to be a repetitive, obvious, and rather poorly written novel, whose narrative is frequently elbowed aside by authorial intrusion. The novel mentions intriguing-sounding events in the protagonists journey, but fails to weave them into the novel, relegating such important landmarks as a life-changing pilgrimmage to mere asides. The reader is trapped in the narrator's head, but not allowed to see the cartography of the memory and its by-ways. Whilst I understand that the novel is about obsession, Coelho here chooses not to explore anything that can make such a plot more than vaguely interesting. Which is a great pity, because there is a rich seam of creative possibilities running through the text, but it has been flattened into a featureless watermark. It is a long time since I endured a book quite as dull.
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on 25 July 2001
I had never read Paulo Coelho before this, which I was given by a good friend (although she immediately borrowed it so she could read it again!) It's a very beautiful book with very much hope about love, but also exploring ideas about relationships with God, and coming alive again from a cynical and empty life (similar in this way to "Veronica Decides to Die") It related to so many area's of my life, and i think therein lies it's magic. I'd never read anything that touched me like this before. very, very beautiful.
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on 1 March 2013
As it was recommended to me, and it combines exotic locations with an exploration of human relations, I'd hoped I'd find this book at worst interesting,and possibly enjoyable. Unfortunately, the more of it I read the more dire it became.

Several other reviewers have commented that the author is unable to explain his philosophy of human love, despite writing about it for page after rambling page, and how difficult it is to empathise with the bumptious main character/narrator. True though both those points are, the real problem with the book is that the writing is just so wooden. This was highlighted by comparing The Zahir with the books I read immediately before and after it. In Kafka on the Shore, Murakami's plot is far more bizarre and unlikely than that of The Zahir, but his characters emerge as believable individuals the reader can identify with and be concerned about. Coelho's cast, apart from the narrator/main character seem more or less interchangeable. They are not even as complex as stereotypes, just cast members who are defined by what they do rather than who they are. Elephanta Suite by Paul Theroux isn't a 100% success, but he certainly succeeds in showing how complex cultural differences are, and how countries and landscapes differ. By comparison, Coelho's Kazakhstan seems almost identical to the beach at Weston-super-Mare. Both have a great deal of sand, but you cross one on a donkey, the other by horse. The Zahir/heroine sleeps with at least two men who are not her husband while staying in a small Kazakh village, and yet retains the respect of the local women to the extent that they welcome her as a teacher. Such a scenario might be feasible in Weston-super-Mare, but scarcely in an isolated village in Central Asia (or rural Eire come to that matter, I suspect). The Kazakhstan of Coelho is as much a fictional construct as that of Borat, but painted with less detail or panache.

I hope I haven't hurt the feelings of those doubtless sincere people who have explained that this book changed their lives or opened their eyes. It had a very different effect on me.
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I have been a fan of Paulo Coelho for ages and was really looking forward to the release of this novel. I have always loved his books and what they uncover, however, now that I have read it, I am not sure whether I enjoyed it or not.
The story is about a successful author discovering that his wife, who works as a war journalist, has disappeared without trace. Has something terrible happened to her, or has she simply walked out of his life without first giving him a reason? He seems to be unable (or unwilling) to believe the latter, as it was this very woman who encouraged him to write in the first place. However, there is a particular man who seems to know more about his wife than he does, and it is through the help of this man that the author goes on a journey of his own to find his wife again. .
The title of the book itself, The Zahir, comes from a short story by Jorge Luis Borges. It is meant to come from Islamic tradition and it means visible, present and incapable of going unnoticed. Anything can become the zahir, and once a person comes into contact with it, it is all they can think about. In Coelho's novel, the wife of the author becomes his zahir, and she is all he can think about since she went.
Coelho examines the very meaning of what it is to be human in this novel, especially in regards to a human in love. Love and obsession are often quite similar, and both can be just as destructive as the other. This, I think, is the essence of what Coelho is trying to put across to his readers in his latest offering. The fact that the main protagonist doesn't have a name applied to him makes you wonder whether this novel is coming from a very personal space of Coelho's soul. It made me wonder as I was reading, is he trying to say that although he has been regarded as a popular and very successful writer on spirituality for years, he is just human underneath it all, and like anyone, he is just as likely to unconciously neglect a person he loves as he develops his own life/career?
It has been a few days now since I finished the book, and although I have thought about it, I am not completely sure why I didn't enjoy this offering as much as his previous books. Maybe my expectation was so great I was bound to be disappointed. Maybe a second reading would make me see things a different way, and I could appreciate it more. Die hard fans of Coelho will probably enjoy it, but I suggest if you are new to his work begin with THE ALCHEMIST, VERONIKA DECIDES TO DIE, or BY THE RIVER PIEDRA I SAT DOWN AND WEPT.
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