In this world, who decides what’s normal and what’s not? Apparently, the majority does. If the majority of people agree that this particular way of holding hands in normal then it is; similarly if the majority agrees that this manner of holding hands is vulgar or crazy, then it becomes the norm of normalcy. In Veronika Decides to Die, the author of the famous book, The Alchemist, Paulo Coelho, explores this very subject but in his own peculiar and entertaining style. Veronika, a lady of only twenty-six years of age, has given up on her life. Although she has everything in her life, she does not feel content. She doesn’t see how living for another decade would turn out to be any different than it is now. So, she decides to take the matter into her own hands and attempts suicide; however, she survives and finds herself in Villete, a lunatic asylum. Later, she comes to know that although she survived her attempt at taking her life, she has only a few days to live. She has a severe heart condition that cannot be cured. This realization that she has only a few days of life left fills her with a desire to prolong her death.
The author has an excellent way of imparting wisdom, and the words that he chooses to transfer his knowledge to his readers are incredible. He has defined Villete as a place where a person can talk about anything, behave in any manner, and be anyone he pleases to be without feeling any sort of judgment because here everybody is considered mad. Who can define what’s right and what’s not to a mad person? Therefore, people prolonged their stay at this place for as long as they could. I could feel what the author meant by this. In our daily lives, we are living in a box of norms. It has been decided by “normal” people that doing this particular thing in this particular manner is right and anything other than this is wrong. These definitions are not limited to how we act; these extend to how we feel.
There is a discussion between Mari and Veronika, where Veronika is worried if what she did was forbidden. What Mari says is quite intriguing and beautiful; she asks her not be confused between the law created by men and God. This was really thought-provoking part to read. We are afraid of feeling a certain way thinking that we might end up committing a sin. What we fail to realize, however, is that by not following our heart’s desire (as long as we are not hurting anyone) we are confining ourselves to an illusion of normalcy. The more we restrict ourselves, the more we lose ourselves.
Veronika Decides to Die reminded me of a conversation Hatter and Alice in Alice in Wonderland — another one of my favorite books. Let me share the dialogue here,
“You’re entirely bonkers. But I’ll tell you a secret all the best people are.”
― Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland
Quotes Credit: Goodreads
If all the best people are mad, then why do we continue to make sense of our surrounding. Why not just follow our soul and do what pleases us? We all know the answer: we are afraid to be embarrassed, of being judged, of being called mad.
The authenticity of the plot comes from the fact that the author wrote this book based on his own life experience. He went through a period of being in a mental hospital and then felt so attached to the freedom (to be himself) that it offered that he started finding ways to go back there. As the book is connected to his own life, all the characters are really genuine. Their stories are impressive and relatable, which enhanced the overall experience of reading this magnificent piece.
Veronika Decides to Die is a philosophical and thought-provoking read. It is fit for the readers who wish to spend time with a book of substance; a book that would leave them pondering over their own lives. This is a book that would force its readers to re-evaluate what really matters in life.
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