The Zahir (2004)
In 2004, Coelho and Cristina bought an old mill in Saint-Martin in France and renovated it (Morais, 2009). At the same time, Coelho published a new book called “The zahir” (2005). “The zahir” (2005) is dedicated to Coelho’s wife, Cristina (Coelho, 2005, Dedication) with reference to their spiritual walks in the mountainside of the Pyrenees, which Coelho and Cristina consider to be sacred and where they have shared extraordinary moments.
“The zahir” (2005) is about a man who is obsessed by finding his wife who has left him without prior notice. One of the main characters is Esther, a war correspondent who is the winner of two international prizes for journalism and who has just returned from Iraq before disappearing without prior notice (Coelho, 2005, p. 3).
Fig. 3.1 Manual of the warrior of light (Source: Coelho, 2014c)
Esther’s character in the book is based on and inspired by The Sunday Times journalist Christina Lamb (Morais, 2009, 326-327 documentary inlay). She states (Lamb, 2007):
When I stepped off the Ryanair plane in the medieval town of Pau in the French Pyrenees almost two years ago to interview the multi-million-selling author Coelho Coelho, the last thing I expected was to end up as the heroine in his next book.
Coelho was so inspired by her life and experiences as a war correspondent in Iraq that he took her as an inspiration for one of the main characters of this book. “The zahir” was banned in Iran shortly after it was published (Morais, 2009).
The unnamed narrator of the story, Esther’s husband, starts searching for his wife and his search becomes an obsession. He is a novelist and celebrity who lives in Paris with her. However, she is restless, in search of her own happiness. The search for Esther takes him on a totally unknown path on which he experiences a new understanding of the nature of love and the power of destiny. This book is a story about what it means to be a human being in a world full of possibilities. The narrator reflects part of Coelho’s life experiences, being a celebrity, always in search of his path in life, seeking love and fulfilment. At one point in time, the narrator, Esther’s husband, meets Mikhail, a young man who was last seen with Esther and who works with unhappily married couples. Through Mikhail, the narrator experiences a new spiritual perspective on love and starts reflecting his own values and thoughts (Brussat, & Brussat, 2017). The unnamed narrator becomes obsessed with what Coelho calls “the zahir”, which is a concept from the Arabic tradition. The zahir in Arabic means “unable to go unnoticed, someone or something, once in contact, occupies our every thought. The state of mind could be considered holy or maddening” (Calderon, 2009).
In the book, Coelho (2005) refers to concepts of health and ill-health by stating:
... there is always an event in our lives that is responsible for us failing to progress: a trauma, a particularly bitter defeat, a disappointment in love, even a victory that we did not quite understand, can make cowards of us and prevent us from moving on. As part of the process of increasing his hidden powers, the shaman must first free himself from that giving-up point and, to do so, he must review his whole life and find where it occurred (p. 241).
In this section, Coelho refers to resilience as a main concept to overcome trauma or defeat. This thought is - in “The zahir” (Coelho, 2005) - combined with the assumption that a person should not give in and accept his or her own fears that might keep him/her from enjoying and living her/his life to the full. The fear to live and recognise one’s full and true potential must be overcome.
According to Calderon (2009), the book is about a universal feeling, “the sensation of vanished outlooks, dark obsessions and the real meaning of letting go.” Like the book “The winner stands alone” (Coelho, 2008a), “The zahir” (Coelho, 2005) explores what it means to be a celebrity and the element of that lifestyle that gets lost in its false advertisement. According to Calderon (2009), the story teaches the reader to appreciate what human beings inadvertently take for granted.
Two years after the publication of “The zahir”, in 2006, Coelho was invited to a white tie function at Buckingham Palace (Morais, 2009). During the same year he travelled through the world for 4 months. This travel was part of his contract with Jean, his master of the RAM. Morais (2009, p. 436) highlights in the biography on Coelho that from 1986 to 2006 Coelho had to fulfil many responsibilities of RAM: he had to undertake new tasks, he had to have disciples and he had to undergo various tests across these years, such as praying, abstention from sex, walking barefoot and without a shirt through bushes, looking at a tree for 5 min every day and under?going fasting rituals and processes. However, Coelho describes himself as rather lazy and impatient (Morais, 2009, p. 436).
In 2006, Coelho had to travel for three plus 1 months, according to his master’s wish, without going to his two homes, in Brazil and France. Coelho took the opportunity to go onto a trip to Russia with his Russian publisher, Sophia. The publisher organised a promotion tour with Coelho travelling on the Trans-Siberian Railway through Russia. This trip later became the basis for his book “Aleph”, which was published in 2011. However, only a few months after the promotion trip Coelho left the publisher Sophia and moved to a new Russian publisher, Astrel (Morais, 2009).
In the same year, Coelho published a new book: “The witch of Portobello” (Coelho, 2006).