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Rethinking Normality

 Madhuri Ganguly |  2016-10-30 14:17:30.0  |  0

Rethinking Normality

In the dark moments of life, riddled with pain and instances of self doubt, one often questions his/ her angst ridden existence. Self confidence dissipates, leaving behind gremlins of despair. 

In ‘Veronika Decides to Die’, Paulo Coelho takes the reader on a journey of self discovery. The book, which is an interpretative literature fiction, questions society’s definition of what is normal and addresses the issue of conformity. 

It also talks about how people gain new a perspective on life, on knowing that death is imminent.

Veronika, a young woman living in the capital city Slovenia, is well settled in life. She has a satisfactory job and a loving family, yet her life seems to be an echo of the emptiness inside her. 

Having succumbed to ennui, Veronika one day, finally decides to end her listless life. She swallows a handful of sleeping pills, expecting to transition peacefully to death but fate has something entirely different in store for her. 

Veronika wakes up to find herself in a psychiatric institution. She now, has a severely damaged heart from an overdose of sleeping pills and is informed that she only has a few days left to live. 

In the days that follow, Veronika discovers all that about herself and life, which she had not known before. Faced with the prospect of her impending death, she finds companionship, rediscovers her passion for piano and develops a rapport with the catatonic Eduard, who she inexplicably falls in love with, later. Having appreciated life in a completely different light now, Veronika, in the face of death, experiences a profound desire to live.

Insanity is liberating, writes Coelho in his book. Living in the confines of the asylum, Veronika and the other inhabitants find a freedom for expression, shunning the various unspoken rules of the society. 

The other two characters who lend themselves to exploring issues in the story are Zedka, a woman who feels that she gave up on love too soonand Mari – who chose to live in the asylum to assuage her fears of separation around an unhappy marriage. 

Vulnerable to irony, some of these characters choose to continue living in the asylum as they feel unaccepted in their own respective worlds.

Coelho, in his book, observes that humans have replaced every other emotion with fear and do not allow themselves to feel emotions to the fullest extent. Like Veronika, terrified of being judged, people hide behind the masks they wear. 

The book provides numerous glimpses into the human psyche and the author, through his characters, urges the readers to embrace life and start living in the way they’ve always wanted to. 

The book which is a symbollic parable, culminates in an unexpected ending withVeronica discovering that she won’t die after all.

Beautifully written in Coelho’s poetic style, the book holds the reader’s attention until the very end, and as is the case with most books written by Coelho, the reader is not disappointed. The book lingers on the mind long after one has finished it.

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Madhuri Ganguly

Madhuri Ganguly

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