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Veronika Decides to Die by Paulo Coelho
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Veronika Decides to Die (1998)

by Paulo Coelho

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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6,1651421,102 (3.6)169
"Another of Coelho's spiritual journeys, this time by the 24-year-old protagonist who, after a failed suicide attempt, rediscovers in an insane asylum in Slovenia the preciousness and precariousness of life. Costa's translation is competent, but cannot save Coelho's novel from its by now familiar and conventionally inspirational tone and message"--Handbook of Latin American Studies, v. 58.… (more)
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» See also 169 mentions

English (110)  Spanish (10)  Dutch (5)  French (4)  German (3)  Portuguese (Portugal) (3)  Italian (2)  Polish (1)  Portuguese (1)  Portuguese (Brazil) (1)  Finnish (1)  All languages (141)
Showing 1-5 of 110 (next | show all)
Not to get controversial at the outset, but most books have flaws. Some books are too long, some books have been poorly edited, some books are boring, some books are written by Judy Collins, etc. There is a distinction to be made, though, between a book that has flaws and a truly reprehensible work. Veronika Decides to Die is without a doubt the latter.

The writing is ass. Every page has something that feels like it was run through google translate (it genuinely might have been, so I guess it might not be Coelho's fault?) To her surprise, though, the first line of text shook her out of her natural passivity (the tranquilizers had not yet dissolved in her stomach, but Veronika was by nature passive)... IS SHE NATURALLY PASSIVE?? I CAN'T TELL!!

Coelho makes himself a character in the novel solely to let you know that the book is loosely based on experiences he had, which would have been a far cooler thing to just fucking say somewhere else other than as a fake guy in your own fucking book. Somehow we know A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man was about James Joyce without James Joyce having to create a character named James Joyce who says in Chapter 2, "Hey guys! This shit's about me!" Besides hubris, the only reason for Coelho to put himself in the book was if he thought he'd be dead by the time it came out, which means he thought he was going to kill himself, which THEN means he didn't learn the lesson he's trying to teach through the book in the first place.

What lesson is that, pray tell? Well, for starters, don't kill yourself, which is a good baseline message. If you're reading this, don't kill yourself. Beyond that, any ideas that can be taken from the book are either anodyne platitudes or absurd misunderstandings of what mental illness is.

Let's focus on the latter. The majority of the novel is set in a mental hospital with weirdly antiquated treatments, and in Coelho's eyes, not a single one of the POV characters really needs to be there. For example Veronika's first friend at the mental hospital, a lady named Zedka, is depressed, but that's not really addressed. What matters is that she's a fucking astral traveller, which is as ridiculous as it sounds and also doesn't end up mattering in the book at all. Coelho might as well have written that Zedka has teeth made out of jelly beans and boobs full of red cream soda. Looking back, I'm finding it more and more incredible how useless every digression in this book turns out to be. None of them are interesting, and none of them move the story in any direction.

In fairness to Coelho, he really kind of screwed himself with the premise of the book. A girl tries to kill herself but doesn't die, only to then be told that she did enough damage to herself that she'll die soon. What could possibly happen here? Either she decides she was right to kill herself and then dies, she decides she was wrong to kill herself and then dies, or some bullshit happens and she doesn't die. Those are very narrow plots within which he could have worked, and they all kind of suck anyway, so none of it's worth it.

If there was one cliché that Coelho most clearly wanted to amplify, it was "Live like you've got nothing to lose!" Once Veronika was told that she was about to die, ergo having nothing to lose, she abandoned all false pretenses and lived the way she wanted to, which was to... whack off in front of a mute schizophrenic??? How rewarding!

The message is a pretty bad one within the context of the book, seeing as Veronika is a shitty doofus, but even in general, what a stupid way to live life. We all have something to lose, and understanding the value of whatever that 'something' may be and being humble enough to place it above one's own interests is part of being a good person. Anyone with children (or other people that depend on them) that chooses to live like they've got nothing to lose is a real asshole.

Some of the more air-headed parts of the book reminded me of another piece of trash, Jonathan Livingston Seagull, but then I remembered that for as vapid and useless as it was, at least JLS wasn't wrong. At least the magical seagull book didn't paint psychiatric care in a dubious light, trivialize schizophrenia, or have a character jill off in front of a near stranger in order to free herself of her inhibitions. Now that I think about it, though, maybe that book could have used some seagull masturbation. It couldn't be any worse than Slovenian masturbation. ( )
  bgramman | May 9, 2020 |
Read as book 2 of The Trilogy "And On The Seventh Day" ( )
  ElizabethCromb | Apr 27, 2020 |
I liked Paulo Coelho's novel "Veronika Decides to Die" more than his more famous book, "The Alchemist," which I thought was so-so.

Veronika is a young woman who leads a sort of humdrum life not of her own choosing -- she decides to attempt suicide after realizing things aren't like to get better and will in fact decline as she ages. She ends up in Villette, a mental hospital in Slovenia and meets others who have checked out of society.

Coelho had an odd way of inserting himself in the story, but other than that I liked the way it all unfolded, even if the doctor's tactics were pretty transparent from the get-go. ( )
  amerynth | Jun 13, 2019 |
Review: Veronika Decides To Die by Paulo Coelho.

It could have been a depressing read but Paulo Coelho made the story entertaining. The book weights highly on Paulo Coelho own personal experience when he was institutionalized. Coelho’s description of the motivation behind the story is when he was younger in Brazil around 1960’s the emphases to artist was synonymous with homosexual, communist, drug addict, and low-life is similar to the same as USA’s views of the artist who drank and smoked with simplistic behavior, sometimes occasionally functional, at times completely unstable with society and the subtlety of influences that they had to face.

The story is about a young Slovenian woman, Veronika, who attempts suicide a few times, fails, and is institutionalized. While in the confines of the facility Veronika is told that by overdosing on pills she had damaged her heart and only has five days to live. She now has to come to grips with what it means to be dying.

Coelho writes about the effects of Veronika’s death sentence diagnosis and how she interacts with other patients. The first patient she interacts with is Zedka who is a depressive person who offers Veronika advice and insight. Than there is Maria, who withdrew from her family, friends and society because she was having severe panic attacks. Plus there is Eduardo, a schizophrenic, who befriends Veronika who is unsure if she wants a friend. Veronika still wants to die but decides she doesn’t want to hide out at the facility like the others who are free to defy rules without judgment and the feeling of being safe and secure…She is still confused about what it means to die…! ( )
  Juan-banjo | Nov 12, 2018 |
Bedre enn Alkymisten! Men fortsatt en litt merkelig historie for min del. ( )
  henriette89 | Apr 21, 2018 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Coelho, Pauloprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Costa, Margaret JullTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Epigraph
Behold I give unto you power to tread on serpents ... and nothing shall by any means hurt you.
Luke 10:19
Dedication
For S.T. de L., who began to help me without my realising it
First words
On November 11, 1997, Veronika decided that the moment to kill herself had - at last! - arrived.
Quotations
Half shy, half extrovert, he had the desire to be an "artist," something that everyone in the family considered a perfect recipe for ending up a social outcast and dying in poverty.
In a world where everyone struggles to survive whatever the cost, how could one judge those people who decide to die?
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Veronika är ung och vacker, har vänner och beundrare att gå ut med, fast jobb och en familj som tycker om henne, men det är ändå något som fattas i hennes liv. Morgonen den 11 november 1997 bestämmer hon sig därför för att dö. Hon tar en överdos sömntabletter bara för att lite senare vakna upp på närmaste sjukhus. Där berättar man för henne att även om hon lever, så är hennes hjärta skadat och hon har bara några få dagar kvar att leva…

Berättelsen följer Veronika genom dessa intensiva dagar medan hennes erfarenheter får henne att stilla undra vad galenskap egentligen är. Hon inser nämligen att varje ögonblick vi lever är resultatet av ett medvetet val mellan liv och död.

Romanen tar sig an kanske det svåraste ämnet av alla, döden, men Coelho lyckas trots detta genomsyra texten med värme, optimism och livsvilja.

Rättigheterna till boken är sålda till 40 olika länder och mer än 5 miljoner exemplar har sålts världen över. Med boken medverkade Coelho bland annat till att få igenom en Brasiliansk lag mot tvångsintagning på mentalsjukhus.

"Jag tycker mycket om Paulo Coelhos roman Veronika bestämmer sig för att dö. Den har verkligen berört mig djupt."
UMBERTO ECO, författare

"…den mest fantastiska bok jag någonsin läst."
SINÉAD O'CONNOR, musiker
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