Veronika Decides to Die Paul CoelhoPlot SummaryIn his brilliant novel about the aftermath of a young woman s suicideattempt,Paulo Coelho explores three perennial themes:conformity,madness,and death.Twenty-four-year-old Veronika li es inSlovenia,one of the republics created by the dissolution ofYugoslavia.She works as a librarian by day,and by night carries onlike many single women –dating men,occasionally sleeping withthem,and returning to a single room she rents at a convent.It is alife,but not a very compelling one.
So one day,Veronika decides toend it.Her failed attempt,and her inexplicable reasons for wantingto die,land her in a mental hospital,Vilette.
Veronika s disappointment at having sur i ed suicide is palpable.She imagines the restof her life filled with disillusionment and monotony,and vows not to leave Vilette alive.
Much to her surprise,however,she learns that a fate she desires awaits her anyway:She is destined to die within a week s time,of a heart damage caused by her suicideattempt.
Gradually,this knowledge changes Veronika s perception of death and life.
In the meantime,Vilette s head psychiatrist attempts a fascinating but provocativeexperiment.Can you “shock”someone into wanting to live by convincing her that deathis imminent?Like a doctor applying defibrillator paddles to a heart attack victim,Dr.
Igor s “prognosis”jump-starts Veronika s new appreciation of the world around her.
From within Vilette s controlled environment,she finally allows herself to express theemotions she has never allowed herself to feel:hate and love,anger and joy,disgustand pleasure.Veronika also finds herself being drawn into the li es of other patientswho lead constrained but oddly satisfying li es.Eduard,Zedka,and Mari have beensent to Vilette because there doesn t seem to be any other place for them.Theirfamilies don t understand them,and they can t adjust to the social structure that doesn ttolerate their individuality.Each of these patients reflects on Veronika s situation in hisor her own flash of epiphany,exposing new desire and fresh vision for life that liesoutside the asylum s walls.
Vilette is an asylum in the purest sense of the word:a place of protection,where one isshielded from danger.In this case the danger is society.Those who refuse to acceptsociety s rules have two choices:succumb to the majority s perception that they aremad,or struggle against that majority and try to find their own way in the world.
The protective walls of Vilette are liberating to its patients,allowing them to explore their”madness”without criticism or harm.What they discover is both natural and startling.
A novel that starts out as contemplation on the expression of conformity and madness,turns into a dazzling exploration of the unconscious choices we make each daybetween li ing and dying,despair and liberation.Words/ Pages : 408 / 24
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