I had a copy of The Devil and Miss Prym and planned to read it, but when I pulled it off the shelf I found out it was the part of the And On the Seventh Day trilogy after By the River Piedra I Sat Down and Wept, which I’d read already, and Veronika Decides to Die. This is hilarious, because I definitely wrote about the trilogy in December of 2012, but either way I picked this up from the library earlier this week.
As I said last time, and I will probably say again, it’s been far too long since I last read anything by Coelho. I somehow let myself forget how beautiful his writing is and I can’t help but wonder how beautiful it must be in the original Portuguese! These are the same thoughts I think whenever I read Murakami, just imagine how beautiful it must be in the original language and credit clearly is clearly due to the translators! I can’t remember what author said it, but someone said that a work of translation is a different work and is just as artistic and I truly believe it with these two authors.
The novel wasn’t as great as The Alchemist, but it was incredibly beautiful. The story centers around Veronika who decides to commit suicide and the results. I feel like each of these focuses on love, but through a different lens. The Alchemist felt like love in its purest form, By the River Piedra I Sat Down and Wept dealt with love through religion and this novel focuses on love through the lens of perceived mental illness/difference and rejection of societal standards.
I’m struggling to describe how this book is different from the other two without revealing anything. I think what the novel most turned on was one characters manipulation of the other characters. You don’t really find out for sure what’s happening until the end, but there are definitely moments where you have to stop and think about ethics, patients rights and corporations among others.
Ultimately, the story boils down to love and the experience of love. What is love? What causes love? How does one find love? Why does imminent death inspire/encourage you to live? As many questions as Coelho answers he raises and he forces you to think about yourself, society and the broader world. I think my favorite quote from the novel was
“Haven’t you learned anything, not even with the approach of death? Stop thinking all the time that you’re in the way, that you’re bothering the person next to you. If people don’t like it, they can complain. And if they don’t have the courage to complain, that’s their problem.” (98)
I mean the other two below are great, but this one was perfect. It really is about finding yourself in wherever and whenever you are. It’s a great way to look at the world and your place in the world and it just spoke to me.
Recommendation: These are incredibly beautiful, but if you’re only going to read one novel by Coelho, read The Alchemist. But really, they’re all short enough that you could read all of them without taking too much time.
Opening Line: “On November 11, 1997, Veronika decided that the moment to kill herself had—at last!—arrived.”
Closing Line: “Meticulously he began to write up his experiments with Veronika; he would leave the reports on the building’s lack of security until later. – St. Bernadette’s Day, 1998” (Whited out.)
Additional Quotes from Veronika Decides to Die
“To say good-bye. That was the really difficult part. Once in a mental hospital, a person grows used to the freedom that exists in the world of insanity and becomes addicted to it. You no longer have to take on responsibilities, to struggle to earn your daily bread, to be bothered with repetitive, mundane tasks.” (53)
“This time I’m not going to tell you a story. I’ll just say that insanity is the inability to communicate your ideas. It’s as if you were in a foreign country, able to see and understand everything that’s going on around you but incapable of explaining what you need to know or of being helped, because you don’t understand the language they speak there.” (62)