An awareness of death encourages us to live more intensely.
In my younger days I remember attempting to read The Alchemist and giving up halfway. Since then I have never attempted to read any of Paulo Coelho’s works, as I’ve always assumed that I wouldn’t be into books that attempt to convey deep philosophical or motivating ideas. So, when the other day I was scanning through one of my friend’s book shelves my choice tended to go elsewhere; but Vishnu Raghav, the bespoken friend, insisted that I read Veronika Decides to Die. I don’t quite know why he was so adamant that I read it, but boy! am I glad. So here’s me thanking him for his choice of the book for me. Now let’s dive into the book.
This story is about a young, pretty and bright 23 year old, Veronika, who has a job, a place to stay, a fair number of boyfriends and everything that gives us an impression of being a fairly good life. But, she is not only unhappy but she also decides to end her life. She has two reasons, that sound profoundly remorseful, to substantiate her decisions. One, that her life is a monotonous trail of events which would only grow worse with time and old-age kicking in. Two, that the whole world was perhaps falling apart and that gave her a sense of “complete powerlessness”.
So, Veronika decides to sway into the dreamy arms of death by popping a few sleeping pills; she really seemed to enjoy it. But, her plan fails and she later opens her eyes in a hospital bed, in a mental asylum, where the doctor informs her that her heart was failing her. The doctor tells her that the coma had caused her heart muscles to deteriorate and that she has less than a week to live. The story begins here.
This story here is about Veronika’s life in her week long journey towards death. It’s her time to re-evaluate her decision, even though she knows it to be futile. After all, what good is to come out of wanting to live when you know that all you have is a week more? But life has other plans for her. Not only is she re-evaluating her position and attitude towards life, she also causes the people around her evaluate their lives. Many residents in the asylum had come to accept their lives in the asylum. She inadvertently causes them to rethink the validity of their lives. This books is about that; about finding hope in life in the face of death, about being “mad” to achieving meaning in life, about being courageous to strive for your dreams and about understanding the value of your life.
Death. I seem to be seeing a lot of it in books these days. It used to be an icy cold, chills-down-your-spine, grim and morbid topic for me. But that changed while I started reading Book Thief. What that book is, is tale for another day. But like many have pointed out earlier in their works, death may not always mean the physical cessation of life. It could have several metaphorical meanings. To me here it means to give up- on your life, your dreams or on all the societal influences that surround you.
All this is what I take away from this story. This book urges me to be hopeful and to find purpose in live to overcome death in all it’s metaphoric glory. I’m at a place in life where I’m taking a few chances, courageous ones-bordering on what some might call careless- to follow my dreams. My choices may turn out any way as I don’t know what destiny holds for me, but I’ll always know that it is what I wanted and what I chose. As they say, the heart wants what the heart wants.
Verdict: If you are feeling low for some reason, then this could raise your spirits and give you that quick boost of energy you need. The book is quite a small one to read but is best read all at once.
Author : Paulo Coelho
Pages : 191 pages
Harper Collins, 1998
For those of you who are interested, here’s the trailer of the movie version of the book, starring Sarrah Michelle Geller as Veronika.
Keep reading. Have fun. Ciao!