“Behold I give unto you power to tread on serpents.. and nothing shall by any means hurt you.” ( Luke
10: 19 ) The opening lines of Veronika decides to die
written by the Brazilian Paulo Coelho
in 1998. The short novel
was translated into 45 languages and was - after The Alchemist
- again an international bestseller
The story is very simple and straightforward. Veronika, a young woman in her middle twenties from Slovenia, decides to kill herself after having read an article in a magazine that is asking where Slovenia was.
” The final act of her life would be to write a letter to the magazine, explaining that Slovenia was one of the five republics into which the former Yugoslavia had been divided. The letter would be her suicide note.”
She takes sleeping pills, writes the letter and reflects on her life. She has two reasons for killing herself: the first being that everything in her life is the same: Work, friends, random men she sleeps with plus the second reason that she is aware of what was going on in the world and she as an individual has no power to change it.
Of course, her plan doesn´t work out and she finds herself in Villette, a famous and much- feared lunatic asylum. But Veronika hasn´t been saved from death. Her heart is irreversibly damaged and the doctors give her five days before her heart will stop beating altogether. Five days she spends at Villette waiting for death.
You could argue that Veronika decides to die is a very predictable novel. In the sense that certain events occur as the story unfolds, because they just HAVE to occur I agree. Coehlo has a message he wants to convey – how precious life can be, every single moment to be treasured if you only open your eyes to the magic and are not afraid to live.
Although Coelho is a very religious man himself and everything he let´s his characters say can be interpreted as a religious parable, a guide to faith and believing in God, it can also be considered a philosophical novel that questions how many of us live and the priorities we establish.
Veronika and Eduardo, a Brazilian, that is diagnosed as being schizophric, fall in love. Eduardo, coming from a rich family, the father an ambassador, wants to become a painter. His parents, though, want him to become a diplomat. Eduardo feels that he is chosen to paint his Visions of Paradise, but can´t live with the feeling of being a complete failure as a son. He slashes his paintings and is soon afterwards put into the asylum. In the end Veronika and Eduardo give their lives respectively a meaning and sense to go on living.
“ Thank you for giving meaning to my life. I came into the world in order to go through everything I´ve gone through, attempted suicide, ruining my heart, meeting you, coming up to this castle, letting you engrave my face on your soul. That is the only reason I came into the world. To make you go back to the path you strayed from. Don´t make me feel my life has been in vain.”
Does Veronika die in the end ? Who knows.