Veronika Decides to Die book. Read reviews from the world's largest community for readers. In his latest international bestseller, the celebrated a. Veronika Decides to Die (Portuguese: Veronika Decide Morrer) is a novel by Paulo Coelho. It tells the story of year-old Slovenian Veronika, who appears to have everything in life going for her, but who decides to kill herself. This book is partly based on Coelho's experience in various mental. The bestselling Brazilian author of The Alchemist delicately etches this morose but ultimately uplifting story of the suicidal Veronika, who creeps along the.
|Language:||English, Arabic, French|
|Genre:||Politics & Laws|
|ePub File Size:||27.47 MB|
|PDF File Size:||9.43 MB|
|Distribution:||Free* [*Registration Required]|
Twenty-four-year-old Veronika seems to have everything -- youth and beauty, boyfriends and a loving family, a fulfilling job. But something is missing in her life. He had probably told his fellow journalists on Veronika decides to die by Paulo .. So let us allow Paulo Coelho and his friend Veronika to leave this book for. reffirodonverm.tk: Veronika Decides to Die: A Novel of Redemption ( ): Paulo Coelho: Books.
Poets loved the full moon; they wrote thousands of poems about it, but it was the new moon that Veronika loved best because there was still room for it to grow, to expand, to fill the whole of its surface with light before its inevitable decline. That NIGHT she felt like going over to the piano in the living room, and celebrating that night with a lovely sonata she had learned at school.
Looking up at the sky, she had an indescribable sense of well-being, as if the infinite nature of the universe had revealed her own eternity to her. She was separated, however, from her desire by a steel door and a woman who was always, endlessly reading a book. Besides, no one played the piano at that hour of night; she would wake up the whole neighborhood. Veronika laughed. Her sense of well-being continued, though. Anyway, today I feel more vigilant. A few days ago I wanted to get out of here, and this woman even went with me to the toilet.
What is she talking about? I think it must have something to do with my heart. Do what you like. There they sat for almost half an hour, one crying, the other consoling, though neither knew why or what.
Veronika Decides to Die
The sobbing finally ceased. The nurse helped her up, took her by the arm, and led her to the door. When you were first admitted, full of drips and tubes, I kept wondering why a pretty young girl, with her whole life ahead of her, should want to kill herself. Then all kinds of rumors started flying around: What if she decided to do something like that?
Why do certain people try to go against the natural order of things, which is to fight for survival whatever happens? Or the eternal fear of being wrong, of not doing what others expect. How could she ask me that? What does she want, to understand why I was crying? As she was walking down the corridors, lit by the same faint light as in the ward, Veronika realized that it was too late: She could no longer control her fear.
She was intransigent about the easy things, as if trying to prove to herself how strong and indifferent she was, when in fact she was just a fragile woman who had never been an outstanding student, never excelled at school sports, and had never succeeded in keeping the peace at home. She had overcome her minor defects only to be defeated by matters of fundamental importance. She had managed to appear utterly independent when she was, in fact, desperately in need of company.
She gave all her friends the impression that she was a woman to be envied, and she expended most of her energy in trying to behave in accordance with the image she had created of herself.
Because of that she had never had enough energy to be herself, a person who, like everyone else in the world, needed other people in order to be happy. But other people were so difficult. When someone more open to life appeared, they either rejected them outright or made them suffer, consigning them to being inferior, ingenuous. She might have impressed a lot of people with her strength and determination, but where had it left her?
In the void. Utterly alone. In Villete. In the anteroom of death. Now she was feeling something she had never allowed herself to feel: Something almost as physical as walls, pianos, or nurses. She could almost touch the destructive energy leaking out of her body. She allowed the feeling to emerge, regardless of whether it was good or bad; she was sick of self-control, of masks, of appropriate behavior.
Veronika wanted to spend her remaining two or three days of life behaving as inappropriately as she could. She had begun by slapping an old man in the face, she had burst into tears in front of a nurse; she had refused to be nice and to talk to the others when what she really wanted was to be alone; and now she was free enough to feel hatred, although intelligent enough not to smash everything around her and risk spending what remained of her life under sedation and in a bed in a ward.
At that moment she hated everything: She was in a mental hospital, and so, she could allow herself to feel things that people usually hide. We are all brought up only to love, to accept, to look for ways around things, to avoid conflict. Veronika hated everything, but mainly she hated the way she had lived her life, never bothering to discover the hundreds of other Veronikas who lived inside her and who were interesting, crazy, curious, brave, bold.
Then she started to feel hatred for the person she loved most in the world: A wonderful wife who worked all day and washed the dishes at night, sacrificing her own life so that her daughter would have a good education, know how to play the piano and the violin, dress like a princess, have the latest sneakers and jeans, while she mended the same old dress she had worn for years.
How can I hate someone who only ever gave me love? But it was too late; her hatred had been unleashed; she had opened the door to her personal hell.
She hated the love she had been given because it had asked for nothing in return, which was absurd, unreal, against the laws of nature. It was a love that for years had tried to hide from her the difficulties and the corruption that existed in the world, ignoring the fact that one day she would have to find this out, and would then be defenseless against them.
And her father? She hated her father too, because, unlike her mother, who worked all the time, he knew how to live; he took her to bars and to the theater, they had fun together; and when he was still young, she had loved him secretly, not the way one loves a father, but as a man. She hated him because he had always been so charming and so open with everyone except her mother, the only person who really deserved such treatment. She hated everything. Why did they make them learn so much algebra or geometry or any of that mountain of other useless things?
Veronika pushed open the door to the living room, went over to the piano, opened the lid, and, summoning up all her strength, pounded on the keys. A mad, cacophonous, jangled chord echoed around the empty room, bounced off the walls, and returned to her in the guise of a shrill sound that seemed to tear at her soul.
Yet it was an accurate portrait of her soul at that moment.
She pounded on the keys again, and again the dissonant notes reverberated around her. I can hate, I can pound away at the piano.
Since when have mental patients known how to play notes in the right order? Then, once more, a deep peace flooded through her and Veronika again looked out at the starry sky and at the new moon, her favorite, filling the room she was in with gentle light. As she had been walking from the ward to that room, she had felt such pure hatred that now she had no more rancor left in her heart.
She had finally allowed her negative feelings to surface, feelings that had been repressed for years in her soul. She had actually felt them, and they were no longer necessary, they could leave.
She sat on in silence, enjoying the present moment, letting love fill up the empty space left behind by hatred. When she felt the moment had come, she turned to the moon and played a sonata in homage to it, knowing that the moon was listening and would feel proud, and that this would provoke the jealousy of the stars. Then she played music for the stars, for the garden, for the mountains she could not see in the darkness but which she knew were there.
While she was playing that music for the garden, another crazy person appeared: Eduard, a schizophrenic who was beyond all cure.
She was not frightened by his presence; on the contrary, she smiled, and to her surprise, he smiled back. The music could penetrate even his remote world, more distant than the moon itself; it could even perform miracles. Igor, as he opened the door to his small consulting room in Villete.
The old one was falling to pieces, and a small decorative metal shield had just fallen to the floor. IGOR bent down and picked it up.
What should he do with that shield bearing the Ljubljana coat of arms? He might as well throw it away, although he could have it mended and ask them to make a new leather strap, or else he could give it to his nephew to play with.
Both alternatives seemed equally absurd. Igor could still not bring himself to throw it out, however, so he put it back in his pocket; he would decide what to do with it later on. That was why he was the director of the hospital and not a patient, because he thought a lot before making any decisions. He turned on the light; as winter advanced, dawn came ever later.
Dislocation, divorce, and the absence of light were the main reasons for the increase in the number of cases of depression. Igor was hoping that spring would arrive early and solve half his problems. He looked at his diary for the day. He needed to find some way to prevent Eduard from dying of hunger; his schizophrenia made him unpredictable, and now he had stopped eating. Eduard was a strong young man of twenty-eight, but even with an IV drip, he would eventually waste away, becoming more and more skeletal.
He had been one of the people behind the delicate negotiations with Yugoslavia in the early s. He, after all, had managed to work for years for the Belgrade government, surviving his detractors, who accused him of working for the enemy, and he was still in the diplomatic corps, except this time he represented a different country.
He was a powerful and influential man, feared by everyone. Igor felt momentarily worried, just as before he had been worried about the shield on his key ring, but he immediately dismissed the thought.
Eduard was in Villete, and there he would stay forever, or at least as long as his father continued earning his nice fat salary. Igor decided to stop the intravenous feeding and allow Eduard to waste away a little more, until he felt like eating again.
If the situation got worse, he would write a report and pass responsibility on to the council of doctors who administered Villete. Once Dr. According to the report Zedka Mendel had completed her course of treatment and could be allowed to leave. Igor wanted to see for himself.
There was nothing a doctor dreaded more than getting complaints from the families of patients who had been in Villete, which was what nearly always happened, for it was rare for a patient to readjust successfully to normal life after a period spent in a mental hospital. Just as prison never corrects the prisoner — it only teaches him to commit more crimes — so hospitals merely got patients used to a completely unreal world, where everything was allowed and where no one had to take responsibility for their actions.
There was only one way out: And Dr. Igor has engaged his heart and soul in just that, developing a thesis that would revolutionize the psychiatric world.
In mental hospitals, temporary patients who lived alongside incurable patients began a process of social degeneration that, once started, was impossible to stop. Zedka Mendel would come back to the hospital eventually, this time of her own volition, complaining of nonexistent ailments simply in order to be close to people who seemed to understand her better than those in the outside world. If, however, he could find a way of combatting vitriol, the poison which Dr. Igor believed to be the cause of insanity, his name would go down in history and people would finally know where Slovenia was.
That week, he had been given a heaven-sent opportunity in the shape of a would-be suicide; he was not going to lose this opportunity for all the money in the world. Igor felt happy. They argued that, for humanitarian reasons, they should give the recently cured the option of deciding for themselves when would be the best moment for them to rejoin the world, and that had led to a group of people deciding to stay in Villete, as if at a select hotel or a club for those with similar interests and views.
Thus Dr. Igor managed to keep the insane and the sane in the same place, allowing the latter to have a positive influence on the former.
To prevent things from degenerating and to stop the insane having a negative effect on those who had been cured, every member of the Fraternity had to leave the hospital at least once a day. Besides, the public health system ran a number of first- class mental hospitals of its own, and that left Villete at a disadvantage in the mental health market.
When the shareholders had converted the old barracks into a hospital, their target market had been the men and women likely to be affected by the war with Yugoslavia. The war, however, had been brief. Moreover, recent research had shown that while wars did have their psychological victims, they were far fewer than, say, the victims of stress, tedium, congenital illness, loneliness, and rejection.
When a community had a major problem to face — for example, war, hyperinflation, or plague — there was a slight increase in the number of suicides but a marked decline in cases of depression, paranoia, and psychosis. These returned to their normal levels as soon as that problem had been overcome, indicating, or so Dr. Igor thought, that people only allow themselves the luxury of being insane when they are in a position to do so.
He had before him another recent survey, this time from Canada, the country an American newspaper had recently voted to have the highest standard of living. Igor read: It is thought that one in every five individuals suffers some form of psychiatric disorder and one in every eight Canadians will be hospitalised at least once in their lifetime because of mental disturbances.
The happier people can be, the unhappier they are. Igor analyzed a few more cases, thinking carefully about those he should share with the council and those he should resolve alone. By the time he had finished, day had broken, and he turned off the light. He immediately ordered his first appointment to be shown in: How is my daughter? Igor wondered if he should tell her the truth and save her any unpleasant surprises — after all, he had a daughter with the same name — but he decided it was best to say nothing.
If you like, I could show you the statistics for Canada. Igor saw that he had managed to distract her and went on. How old is she? What has that got to do with your marriage or with the sacrifices that you and your husband made? How long has she lived on her own? But, because of what a certain Austrian doctor — Dr. Tell me. Perhaps he was influenced by his patients. Do the Japanese commit suicide because a son of theirs decides to take drugs and go out and shoot people? The reply is the same: And, as we all know, the Japanese will commit suicide at the drop of a hat.
The other day I read that a young Japanese man killed himself because he had failed his university entrance exams. Igor, slightly annoyed by the interruption. Do you understand?
Veronika decides to die
Igor seemed relieved. If, for example, we all decided to eat only when we were hungry, what would housewives and restaurants do? We have to wake up at a certain hour every day and rest once a week.
Christmas exists so that we can give each other presents, Easter so that we can spend a few days at the lake. How would you like it if your husband were gripped by a sudden, passionate impulse and decided he wanted to make love in the living room? What is the man talking about? I came here to see my daughter. To make love anywhere else would set a bad example and promote the spread of anarchy. Igor gave up. He rang the bell and his secretary appeared.
It was best that her mother should think of her as dead. Veronika had always hated good- byes. The man disappeared whence he had come, and she went back to looking at the mountains.
After a week the sun had finally returned, something she had known would happen the previous night, because the moon had told her while she was playing the piano. If the moon spoke to anyone, it was to that schizophrenic.
The very moment she thought this, she noticed a sharp pain in her chest, and her arm went numb. Veronika felt her head spinning. A heart attack! She entered a kind of euphoric state, as if death had freed her from the fear of dying. So it was all over. She might still experience some pain, but what were five minutes of agony in exchange for an eternity of peace?
The only possible response was to close her eyes: In films the thing she most hated to see were dead people with staring eyes. But the heart attack was different from what she had imagined; her breathing became laboured, and Veronika was horrified to realize that she was about to experience the worst of her fears: She was going to die as if she were being buried alive or had suddenly been plunged into the depths of the sea.
Worst of all, death did not come. She was entirely conscious of what was going on around her, she could still see colors and shapes, although she had difficulty hearing what others were saying; the cries and exclamations seemed distant, as if coming from another world. She felt someone touch her and turn her over, but now she had lost control of her eye movements, and her eyes were flickering wildly, sending hundreds of different images to her brain, combining the feeling of suffocation with a sense of complete visual confusion.
After a while the images became distant too, and just when the agony reached its peak, the air finally rushed into her lungs, making a tremendous noise that left everyone in the room paralyzed with fear. Veronika began to vomit copiously. Once the near-tragedy had passed, some of the crazy people there began to laugh, and she felt humiliated, lost, paralyzed. A nurse came running in and gave her an injection in the arm. How can you be so heartless?
Find a copy in the library
The doctor went out again and returned with two more male nurses and another syringe. The men grabbed the hysterical girl struggling in the middle of the room, while the doctor injected the last drop of sedative into a vein in her vomit- smeared arm She was in Dr.
He WAS listening to her heart. In your state of health, you could live to be a hundred. Someone had taken her clothes off. Did that mean he had seen her naked? Igor, trying to cover up.
Veronika Decides to Die: A Novel of Redemption
When faced with a serious case, doctors always say: But what if I werel Being an experienced physician, Dr. Igor remained silent for some time, pretending to read the papers on his desk. Igor was hoping that the girl would start talking so that he could collect more data for his thesis on insanity and the cure he was developing. She may still be suffering from a high level oj Vitriol poisoning , thought Dr.
Igor, and decided to break the silence, which was becoming tense, irritating, unbearable. Yesterday there was a guy listening who was utterly transfixed. Who knows, he might start eating normally again.
And he mentioned it to someone else? A schizophrenic is a person who already has a natural tendency to absent himself from this world, until some factor, sometimes serious, sometimes superficial, depending on the individual circumstances, forces him to create his own reality. It can develop into a state of complete alienation, what we call catatonia, but people do occasionally recover, at least enough to allow the patient to work and lead a near-normal life.
It all depends on one thing: Your answer is the logical, coherent answer an absolutely normal person would give: A lunatic, however, would say that what I have round my neck is a ridiculous, useless bit of colored cloth tied in a very complicated way, which makes it harder to get air into your lungs and difficult to turn your neck. If s not even purely decorative, since nowadays if s become a symbol of slavery, power, aloofness. Nevertheless, if I were to ask a madman and a normal person what this is, the sane person would say: Igor, who was an authority on the subject, with various diplomas hanging on the walls of his consulting room.
Attempting to take your own life was something proper to a human being; he knew a lot of people who were doing just that, and yet they lived outside the hospital, feigning innocence and normality, merely because they had not chosen the scandalous route of suicide.
They were killing themselves gradually, poisoning themselves with what Dr. Igor called Vitriol. Vitriol was a toxic substance whose symptoms he had identified in his conversations with the men and women he had met.
Now he was writing a thesis on the subject, which he would submit to the Slovenian Academy of Sciences for its scrutiny. It was the most important step in the field of insanity since Dr. Pinel had ordered that patients should be unshackled, astonishing the medical world with the idea that some of them might even be cured. As with the libido — the chemical reaction responsible for sexual desire, which Dr. Freud had identified, but which no laboratory had ever managed to isolate — Vitriol was released by the human organism whenever a person found him- or herself in a frightening situation, although it had yet to be picked up in any spectrographic tests.
It was easily recognized, though, by its taste, which was neither sweet nor savory — a bitter taste. Igor, the as-yet-unrecognized discoverer of this fatal substance, had given it the name of a poison much favored in the past by emperors, kings, and lovers of all kinds whenever they needed to rid themselves of some obstructive person.
A golden age, the age of kings and emperors, when you could live and die romantically. The murderer would invite his or her victim to partake of a magnificent supper, the servant would pour them drinks served in two exquisite glasses, and one of the drinks would be laced with Vitriol.
Imagine the excitement aroused by each gesture the victim made, picking up the glass, saying a few tender or aggressive words, drinking as if the glass contained some delicious beverage, giving his host one last startled look, then falling to the floor. But this poison, which was now very expensive and difficult to obtain, had been replaced by more reliable methods of extermination — revolvers, bacteria, and so on.
Igor, a natural romantic, had rescued this name from obscurity and given it to the disease of the soul he had managed to diagnose, and whose discovery would soon astonish the world. It was odd that no one had ever described Vitriol as a mortal poison, although most of the people affected could identify its taste, and they referred to the process of poisoning as bitterness.
To a greater or lesser degree, everyone had some bitterness in their organism, just as we are all carriers of the tuberculosis bacillus. But these two illnesses only attack when the patient is debilitated; in the case of bitterness, the right conditions for the disease occur when the person becomes afraid of so-called reality.
Certain people, in their eagerness to construct a world no external threat can penetrate, build exaggeratedly high defenses against the outside world, against new people, new places, different experiences, and leave their inner world stripped bare.
It is there that bitterness begins its irrevocable work. The will was the main target of bitterness or Vitriol, as Dr. Igor preferred to call it.
The people attacked by this malaise began to lose all desire, and, within a few years, they became unable to leave their world, where they had spent enormous reserves of energy constructing high walls in order to make reality what they wanted it to be.
In order to avoid external attack, they had also deliberately limited internal growth. They continued going to work, watching television, having children, complaining about the traffic, but these things happened automatically, unaccompanied by any particular emotion, because, after all, everything was under control. The great problem with poisoning by bitterness was that the passions — hatred, love, despair, enthusiasm, curiosity — also ceased to manifest themselves.
After a while the embittered person felt no desire at all. He or she lacked the will either to live or to die, that was the problem. That is why embittered people find heroes and madmen a perennial source of fascination, for they have no fear of life or death. Both heroes and madmen are indifferent to danger and will forge ahead regardless of what other people say.
The madman committed suicide, the hero offered himself up to martyrdom in the name of a cause, but both would die, and the embittered would spend many nights and days remarking on the absurdity and the glory of both.
It was the only moment when the embittered person had the energy to clamber up his defensive walls and peer over at the world outside, but then his hands and feet would grow tired, and he would return to daily life. The chronically embittered person only noticed his illness once a week, on Sunday afternoons. Then, with no work or routine to relieve the symptoms, he would feel that something was very wrong, since he found the peace of those endless afternoons infernal and felt only a keen sense of constant irritation.
Monday would arrive, however, and the embittered man would immediately forget his symptoms, although he would curse the fact that he never had time to rest and would complain that the weekends always passed far too quickly. Most embittered people, though, could continue to live outside, constituting no threat to society or to others, since, because of the high walls with which they had surrounded themselves, totally isolated them from the world, even though they appeared to participate in it.
Sigmund Freud had discovered the libido and a cure for the problems it caused, in the form of psychoanalysis. Apart from discovering the existence of Vitriol, Dr. Igor needed to prove that a cure for it was also possible. I know the world will not recognize my efforts , he said to himself, proud of being misunderstood. After all, that was the price every genius had to pay. Igor ignored the disrespectful comment. Igor had the light on, but then he did every morning. It was only when she reached the corridor and saw the moon that she realized she had slept far longer than she had thought.
On THE way to the ward, she noticed a framed photograph on the wall: It was of the main square in Ljubljana, before the statue of the poet Preseren had been put up; it showed couples strolling, probably on a Sunday. She looked at the date on the photograph: The summer of There were all those people, whose children and grandchildren had already died, frozen in one particular moment of their lives.
The temperature must have been what it would be today in summer, ninety-five degrees in the shade. If an Englishman turned up in clothing more suited to the heat — in Bermuda shorts and shirtsleeves — what would those people have thought? Igor meant, just as she understood that, although she had always felt loved and protected, there had been one missing element that would have transformed that love into a blessing: She should have allowed herself to be a little crazier.
Her parents would still have loved her, but, afraid of hurting them, she had not dared to pay the price of her dream That dream was now buried in the depths of her memory, although sometimes it was awoken by a concert or by a beautiful record she happened to hear. Whenever that happened, though, the feeling of frustration was so intense that she immediately sent it back to sleep again. Veronika had known since childhood that her true vocation was to be a pianist.
This was something she had felt ever since her first lesson, at twelve. Her teacher had recognized her talent too and had encouraged her to become a professional. But, whenever she had felt pleased about a competition she had just won and said to her mother that she intended to give up everything and dedicate herself to the piano, her mother would look at her fondly and say: A husband likes that kind of thing in a wife; he can show you off at parties.
She finished her studies, went to university, got a good degree, but ended up working as a librarian. She was about to continue on her way when someone took her by the arm. Veronika could not remember having heard it in Villete before. Igor had said: Schizophrenics could move in and out of their separate realities.
I wanted to see the main square in Ljubljana again, to feel hatred and love, despair and tedium — all those simple, foolish things that make up everyday life, but that give pleasure to your existence.
If one day I could get out of here, I would allow myself to be crazy. Or for one of the patients to play the piano, because soon that will end. My world and yours are about to come to an end. When she opened the door, she came upon an unusual scene; the tables and chairs had been pushed back against the walls, forming a large central space.
There, sitting on the floor, were the members of the Fraternity, listening to a man in a suit and tie. When the door opened, everyone in the room looked at Veronika.
The man in the suit turned to her. The man in the suit went on: The thousand seats were completely sold out and more than seven hundred people were left outside, watching the lecture on closed-circuit television. Some got up indignantly, asked for their money back, and left. Even so a lot of people remained both inside and outside the lecture hall.
The working day was coming to an end; it was time to go home. He appeared to be extremely drunk and began to flirt with a beautiful young woman sitting in the front row. How could the man behave like that after making them wait four solid hours? There were some disapproving murmurs, but the Sufi master ignored them He went on, in a loud voice, to say how sexy the young woman was, and invited her to go with him to France.
Disgusted, more people decided to leave, saying it was pure charlatanism, that they would denounce the degrading spectacle to the press. Only nine people remained. As soon as the final group of outraged spectators had left, Nasrudin got up; he was completely sober, his eyes glowed, and he had about him an air of great authority and wisdom.
It is you I will teach. What did you have to lose? Have some respect for nature, watch a few films about animals, and see how they fight for their own space. We all heartily approved of that slap of yours.
Its teachers never strive to show how wise they are, and their disciples go into a trance by performing a kind of whirling dance. All my life, the government taught us that the only purpose of searching for a spiritual meaning to life was to make people forget about their real problems.
Now tell me this: The man in the suit — a Sufi master, according to Mari — asked them all to sit in a circle. From a vase he removed all the flowers but one, a single red rose, and this he placed in the center of the group. Do you think even a Sufi master, with all his knowledge, could do that?
By the way, speaking of the present moment, do you masturbate a lot? What is all that about? Why do you people spend your time thinking about such things? Next time, with a little patience, you might be able to take your partner there too, instead of waiting to be guided by him. He told everyone to concentrate on the rose and to empty their minds. You have two choices: Remember that in the Sufi tradition, the master — Nasrudin — is the one everyone calls the madman.
And it is precisely because his fellow citizens consider him insane that Nasrudin can say whatever he thinks and do whatever he wants. So it was with court jesters in the Middle Ages; they could alert the king to dangers that the ministers would not dare to comment on because they were afraid of losing their positions.
Run the risk of being different, but learn to do so without attracting attention. Perhaps everyone else there knew, but what did it matter: She must learn to care less about annoying others. The man seemed surprised by the interruption, but he answered her question. During those days in Villete, she had felt things she had never before felt with such intensity — hatred, love, fear, curiosity, a desire to live.
Perhaps Mari was right: Did she really know what it meant to have an orgasm? Or had she only gone as far as men had wanted to take her? The man started playing the flute. Gradually the music calmed her soul, and she managed to concentrate on the rose.
It might have been the effect of the sedative, but the fact was that since she had left Dr. She knew she was going to die soon, why be afraid? The music was soft, and the dim light in the refectory created an almost religious atmosphere.
The music, however, was leading her elsewhere: Empty your mind, stop thinking about anything, simply be. Veronika gave herself up to the experience; she stared at the rose, saw who she was, liked what she saw, and felt only regret that she had been so hasty. When the meditation was over and the Sufi master had left, Mari stayed on for a while in the refectory, talking to the other members of the Fraternity. Veronika said she was tired and left at once; after all, the sedative she had been given that morning had been strong enough to knock out a horse, and yet she had still had strength enough to remain awake all that time.
Yet the body always does. Igor required the members of the Fraternity to leave Villete every day. She had gone to the movies and fallen asleep again in her seat, watching a profoundly boring film about marital conflict. Was there no other subject? Why always repeat the same stories — husband with lover, husband with wife and sick child, husband with wife, lover, and sick child?
There were more important things in the world to talk about. The conversation in the refectory did not last long; the meditation had left the group members feeling relaxed and they were all ready to go back to their wards, except Mari, who instead went out into the garden. On the way she passed the living room and saw that the young woman had not yet managed to get to bed.
She was playing for Eduard the schizophrenic, who had perhaps been waiting all that time by the piano. Like children, the insane will not budge until their desires have been satisfied. The air was icy. Mari came back in, grabbed a coat and went out again.
She smoked slowly and guiltlessly, thinking about the young woman, the piano music she could hear, and life outside the walls of Villete, which was becoming unbearably difficult for everyone. Society had more and more rules, and laws that contradicted the rules, and new rules that contradicted the laws. Mari knew what she was talking about; until her illness had brought her to Villete, she had spent forty years of her life working as a lawyer.
She had lost her innocent vision of justice early in her career, and had come to understand that the laws had not been created to resolve problems but in order to prolong quarrels indefinitely. Of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil thou shalt not eat. If he had not wanted that to happen, why did he put the tree in the middle of the garden and not outside the walls of paradise? If she were called upon to defend the couple, Mari would undoubtedly accuse God of administrative negligence, because, in addition to planting the tree in the wrong place, he had failed to surround it with warnings and barriers, had failed to adopt even minimal security arrangements, and had thus exposed everyone to danger.
Mari could also accuse him of inducement to criminal activity, for he had pointed out to Adam and Eve the exact place where the tree was to be found. If he had said nothing, generation upon generation would have passed on this earth without anyone taking the slightest interest in the forbidden fruit, since the tree was presumably in a forest full of similar trees, and therefore of no particular value. But God had proceeded quite differently.
He had devised a rule and then found a way of persuading someone to break it, merely in order to invent punishment. He knew that Adam and Eve would become bored with perfection and would, sooner or later, test his patience.
He set a trap, perhaps because he, Almighty God, was also bored with everything going so smoothly: If Eve had not eaten the apple, nothing of any interest would have happened in the last few billion years.
When the law was broken, God — the omnipotent judge — even pretended to pursue them, as if he did not already know every possible hiding place.
With the angels looking on, amused by the game life must have been very dreary for them since Lucifer left heaven , he began to walk about the garden.
Mari thought what a wonderful scene in a suspense movie that episode from the Bible would make: So, by means of a simple trick, pretending not to know where Adam was or why he had run away, God got what he wanted.
Even so, in order to leave no doubts among the audience of angels who were intently watching the episode, he decided to go further. God needed an example, so that no other being, earthly or heavenly, would ever again dare to go against his decisions. God expelled the couple, and their children paid for the crime too as still happens with the children of criminals and thus the judiciary system was invented: Since all of humanity was condemned with no right of appeal, humankind decided to create a defense mechanism against the eventuality of God deciding to wield his arbitrary power again.
However, millennia of study resulted in so many legal measures that, ultimately, we went too far, and justice became a tangle of clauses, jurisprudence, and contradictory texts that no one could quite understand. So much so that, when God had a change of heart and sent his Son to save the world, what happened? He fell into the hands of the very justice he had invented. The tangle of laws created such confusion that the Son ended up nailed to a cross.
It was no simple trial; he was passed from Ananias to Caiphas, from the priest to Pilate, who alleged that there were insufficient laws in the Roman code. From Pilate to Herod, who, in turn, alleged that the Jewish code did not permit the death sentence.
From Herod back to Pilate again, who, looking for a way out, offered the people a juridical deal: Like prosecutors nowadays Pilate decided to save himself at the expense of the condemned man: Finally Pilate used the article of law that gave the judge, and not the person being judged, the benefit of the doubt.
He washed his hands, which means: Mari was glad to be far from all that confusion, although tonight, listening to the piano, she was not quite so sure that Villete was the right place for her. With great pleasure she did what was forbidden, because the great advantage of being there was not having to respect the rules and not even having to put up with any major consequences if you broke them.
She went over to the front gate. The guard — there was always a guard there, after all, that was the law — nodded to her and opened the door. Veronika might feel insecurity, shyness, shame, constraint, but why fear? That was only justifiable when co nfr onted by a real threat: But human beings are like that, she thought. And Mari knew what she was talking about, because that was what had brought her to Villete: In her room Mari had a veritable library of articles on the subject.
Now people talked about it openly, and she had recently seen a German television program in which people discussed their experiences. In that same program, a survey revealed that a significant percentage of the population suffers from panic attacks, although most of those affected tried to hide the symptoms, for fear of being considered insane.
But at the time when Mari had her first attack, none of this was known. It was absolute hell , she thought, lighting another cigarette. The piano was still playing; the girl seemed to have enough energy to play all night. Igor had let it be known that, even though she would continue to be given daily injections, her physical condition would visibly deteriorate and there would be no way of saving her.
The inmates had understood the message and kept their distance from the condemned woman. Mari needed to have a word with Eduard; he always respected her opinions.
Did he not realize he was drawing Veronika back into the world, and that that was the worst thing he could do to someone with no hope of salvation?
She considered a thousand ways of explaining the situation to him, but all of them would only make him feel guilty, and that she would never do. Mari thought a little and decided to let things run their normal course. She was no longer a lawyer, and she did not want to set a bad example by creating new laws of behavior in a place where anarchy should reign. But the presence of the young woman had touched a lot of people there, and some were ready to rethink their lives.
At one of the meetings with the Fraternity, someone had tried to explain what was happening. Deaths in Villete tended to happen suddenly, without giving anyone time to think about it, or after a long illness, when death is always a blessing. Some people asked themselves, What if that happened to me? I do have a chance to live. Am I making good use of it? Some were not bothered with finding an answer; they had long ago given up and now formed part of a world in which neither life nor death, space or time, existed.
Others, however, were being forced to think hard, and Mari was one of them Veronika stopped playing for a moment and looked out at Mari in the garden. She was wearing only a light jacket against the cold night air? Did she want to die?
No, I WAS the one who wanted to die. She turned back to the piano. In the last days of her life, she had finally realized her grand dream: Mari had never wanted to kill herself. On the contrary, five years before, in the same movie theater she had visited today, she had watched, horrified, a film about poverty in El Salvador and thought how important her life was.
At that time — with her children grown up and making their way in their own professions — she had decided to give up the tedious, unending job of being a lawyer in order to dedicate the rest of her days to working for some humanitarian organization.
It was impossible that, at the end of the twentieth century, the European Community would allow a new war at its gates. He nodded. Mari had been putting off the decision for a long time, but perhaps now was the moment to talk to him They had been given all the good things that life could possibly offer them: Why not do something for others for a change? Mari had contacts in the Red Cross, and she knew that volunteers were desperately needed in many parts of the world.
She was tired of struggling with bureaucracy and law suits, unable to help people who had spent years of their lives trying to resolve problems not of their own making. Working with the Red Cross, though, she would see immediate results. She decided that, when they left the movie theater, she would invite her husband for a coffee so that they could discuss the idea. Just as a Salvadoran government official appeared on screen to offer a bored excuse for some new injustice, Mari suddenly noticed her heart beating faster.
She told herself it was nothing. Perhaps the stuffy atmosphere in the movie was getting to her; if the symptoms persisted she would go out to the foyer to get a breath of fresh air. But events took on their own momentum; her heart began beating faster and faster, and she broke out in a cold sweat.
She felt afraid and tried hard to concentrate on the film, in an attempt to dispel any negative thoughts, but realized she could no longer follow what was happening on the screen. Mari could see the images and the subtitles, but she seemed to have entered a completely different reality, where everything going on around her seemed strange and out of kilter, as if taking place in a world she did not know.
She had put off making that remark as long as possible, because it meant admitting that there was something wrong, but she could not hold out any longer.
What he said made absolute sense, but everything — the theater, the semidarkness, the people sitting side by side staring up at the brilliant screen — all of it seemed so threatening.
She was certain she was alive, she could even touch the life around her as if it were something solid. And that had never happened to her before. She had never felt so frightened in her life. They are tiny varicose veins that form along the arteries — like the ballooning you get on worn tires — and they can remain there undetected during a whole lifetime. While she was walking down the aisle of the dark theater, Mari remembered the friend she had lost.
The strangest thing, though, was the effect this ruptured aneurism was having on her perception. She seemed to have been transported to a different planet, seeing each familiar thing as if for the first time. And then there was the terrifying, inexplicable fear, the sheer panic of being alone on that other planet: I must stop thinking.
She tried to act naturally, and for a few seconds the sense of oddness diminished.
The two minutes that elapsed between first feeling the palpitations and reaching the exit with her husband were the most terrifying two minutes of her life. When they reached the brightly lighted foyer, everything seemed to start up again. The colors were so garish, the noises from the street seemed to rush in on her from all sides, and everything seemed utterly unreal. She started to notice certain details for the first time; for example, the clarity of vision that covers only the small area on which we fix our gaze, while the rest remains completely unfocused.
There was more. She knew that everything she could see around her was just a scene created by electrical impulses inside her brain, using light impulses that passed through a gelatinous organ called the eye. No, she must stop thinking. By then her fear of an aneurism had passed; she had managed to get out of the theater and was still alive.
The friend who had died, on the other hand, never even had time to leave her seat. Going to a hospital would mean accepting that she really was seriously ill, and Mari was determined to do her utmost to restore everything to normality.
They left the foyer, and the icy cold air seemed to have a positive effect; Mari recovered some control over herself, although the inexplicable feelings of panic and terror persisted. While her husband was desperately trying to find a taxi, which were scarce at that time of day, she sat down on the curb and tried not to look at her surroundings: Finally a taxi appeared. While the taxi was driving them home, her heart rate gradually slowed, and her temperature began to return to normal. When she saw her husband go over to the phone, she asked him what he was doing.
Mari slept heavily that night and awoke convinced that someone must have put some drug in the coffee they had drunk before they went into the theater. It was a dangerous prank, and she was fully prepared, at the end of the afternoon, to call the prosecutor and go to the bar to try and find the person responsible. She went to work, read through several pending lawsuits, and tried to occupy herself with various other tasks, for the experience of the previous day had left a residue of fear, and she wanted to prove to herself that it would never happen again.
She discussed the film on El Salvador with one of her colleagues and mentioned in passing that she was fed up with doing the same thing every day: Why not take a long vacation instead? She went down to the square, had lunch in a more expensive restaurant than the one she normally went to, and returned to the office early. That moment marked the beginning of her withdrawal. The rest of the employees had still not come back, and Mari took the opportunity to look over the work still on her desk.
For a fraction of a second, it occurred to her that her failure to put the pencil back in its proper place was an indication that she was perhaps behaving oddly. That was enough to make her heart start pounding again, and the terror of the previous night returned in full force.
Mari was frozen to the spot. The sun was coining in through the shutters, lending a brighter, more aggressive tone to everything around her, but she again had the feeling that she was about to die at any minute.
It was all so strange; what was she doing in that office? Again she broke out in a cold sweat and realized that she was unable to control her fear. If someone came in at that moment, they would notice her frightened eyes, and she would be lost. Cold air. The cold air had made her feel better the previous night, but how could she get as far as the street?
Once more she was noticing each detail of what was happening to her — her breathing rate there were moments when she felt that if she did not make a special effort to inhale and exhale, her body would be incapable of doing so itself , the movement of her head the images succeeded one another as if there were television cameras whirring inside it , her heart beating faster and faster, her body bathed in a cold, sticky sweat.
And then the terror, an awful, inexplicable fear of doing anything, of taking a single step, of leaving the chair she was sitting in. It will pass. It had passed last time, but now she was at work; what could she do?
She looked at the clock, and it seemed to her an absurd mechanism, two needles turning on the same axis, indicating a measurement of time that no one had ever explained. Why twelve and not ten, like all our other measurements? Perhaps that was the right word to describe what was wrong with her.
Summoning all her willpower, she got to her feet and made her way to the toilets. Fortunately the office was still empty, and, in a minute that seemed to last an eternity, she managed to reach them.
She splashed her face with water, and the feeling of strangeness diminished, although the fear remained. It will pass , she said to herself. Yesterday it did.
She remembered that, the day before, the whole thing had lasted about thirty minutes. She locked herself in one of the toilets, sat on the toilet seat, and put her head between her knees. That position, however, seemed only to amplify the sound of her heart beating, and Mari immediately sat up again. She stayed there, thinking that she no longer knew who she was; that she was hopelessly lost.
She heard the sound of people coming in and out of the toilets, faucets being turned on and off, pointless conversations about banal subjects. More than once someone tried to open the door of the cubicle where she was sitting, but she said something in a murmur, and no one insisted. The noise of toilets flushing was like some horrendous force of nature, capable of demolishing an entire building and sweeping everyone down into hell.
Bestselling Series. Harry Potter. Popular Features. New Releases. Contemporary Fiction Fiction In Translation. Veronika Decides to Die. Description The new novel from internationally acclaimed author Paulo Coelho - a dramatic story of love, life and death that shows us all why every second of our existence is a choice we all make between living and dying.
Veronika has everything she could wish for. She is young and pretty, has plenty of boyfriends, a steady job, a loving family. Yet she is not happy; something is lacking in her life, and one morning she decides to die. She takes an overdose of sleeping pills, only to wake up some time later in the local hospital. There she is told that her heart is damaged and she has only a few days to live.
The story follows Veronika through these intense days as to her surprise she finds herself experiencing feelings she has never really felt before.
Against all odds she finds herself falling in love and even wanting to live again Review quote 'Coelho's writing is beautifully poetic but his message is what counts About Paulo Coelho Paulo Coelho was born in Brazil and has become one of the most widely read and loved authors in the world.The tangle of laws created such confusion that the Son ended up nailed to a cross.
Then she played music for the stars, for the garden, for the mountains she could not see in the darkness but which she knew were there. Obviously she could have thrown herself off one of the few tall buildings in Ljubljana, but what about the further suffering caused to her parents by a fall from such a height?
Dec 27, Irina rated it it was amazing. Pretty, single, year-old Veronika decides to die for two reasons, both of them phony: She finished her studies, went to university, got a good degree, but ended up working as a librarian. She would never want to depend on their help for anything, even if she had to wait five or six days to die. Once, for almost a month, she had felt as if she were walking on air, all because a complete stranger, in the middle of that very square, had given her a flower.
She locked herself in one of the toilets, sat on the toilet seat, and put her head between her knees. Since people always tend to help others—just so that they can feel they are better than they really are—they'll give me my job back at the library.