Veronika Decides to Die by Paulo Coelho

Harper Perennial (May 8, 2001), 224 pages

A friend recommended this long long ago but just because I thought the title and the cover were too depressing, I decided to hold reading it. Time passed and I was able to read The Alchemist and By The River Piedra I Sat Down and Wept. I didn’t like both, so I had more reason not to read Veronika. Another lesson learned for me, don’t judge a book by its author (does this make sense?)

Veronika Decides to Die is simply beautiful! I wish I read it sooner, so I can justify my craziness. Just reading the first few pages and I loved the book already. I am not very impressed by novels like this (“life enhancing” fiction) but this one relays a really great message and life lesson.

Veronika, a young girl from Slovenia one day decides to die—that is to commit suicide by overdosing on pills. She fails to kill herself and wakes up at a famous mental institution. She was told that although she wasn’t successful enough to have totally taken her life, she has damaged her cardiovascular system so much that she only has 5 days to live.

And on the next days, Veronika suddenly gets the urge to live and survive. She meets 3 people inside the institution, Zedka, Mari and Eduard. They are people who are deemed ‘mad’ by the normal society. And with their enlightenment, Veronika lives and explores her life to the fullest over the next days. On her fifth day, her supposed last day, Veronika finds out she is still alive. Unbeknownst to her, and all the other patients of the mental institution, the head physician, Dr. Igor, has come up with this technique to cure people of their ‘illness’. If someone was brushed closely by death, and was told that he/she hasn’t got much days to live, they will start to embrace and appreciate life as opposed to going down the drain. And Veronika will therefore, take everyday as a miracle knowing that she should have been dead (unless she seeks the second opinion of a normal doctor).

The best part for me, is how it tackles the reason why human beings go ‘mad’. We are all designed to be unique individuals, and act as we please, that is the human nature. And for the longest time, man’s actions have been confined to what society deems ‘normal’.

Ive always been an advocate of “f*ck what other people think” (as long as you are not harming any other human being). And this book really says it all. People are always consumed of what people think of them, and because of this, they are also pressured to act a certain way, say certain things. And the everyday battle of trying to be normal is what kills people.

Even if the facts and main plot of the book may seem abit unrealistic, I cannot say enough good things about what insights this book brings.

I am already in love with the book, and definitely, most certainly RECOMMEND this.

I will end this review with an excerpt that I completely love: (thought/said by Zedka, as she is leaving the mental clinic)


“When I came here I was deeply depressed. Now Im proud to say I’m mad. Outside, I’ll behave exactly like everyone else. I’ll go shopping at the supermarket, Ill exchange trivialities with my friends, I’ll waste precious time watching television. But I know that my soul is free and that I can dream and talk with other worlds, which, before I came here, I didn’t even imagine existed.

Im going to allow myself to do a few foolish things, just so that people can say : she’s been released from Villete. But I know that my soul is complete, because life has meaning. Ill be able to look at the sunset and believe that God is behind it. When someone irritates me, Ill tell them what I think of them, and I wont worry what they think of me, because everyone will say: she’s been released from Villete.

Ill look at men in the street, right in their eyes, and I wont feel guilty about feeling desired. But immediately after that, Ill go into a shop selling imported goods. Buy the best wines my money can buy and I’ll drink that wine with the husband I adore, because I want to laugh with him again. And laughing he will say: “Youre mad!” And Ill say : ‘Of course I am, I was in Villete, remember! And madness freed me. Now, my dear husband, you must have a holiday every year, and make me climb some dangerous mountains, because I need to run the risk of being alive.”

Paulo Coelho


2 responses to “Veronika Decides to Die by Paulo Coelho

  1. I read this book when I was getting close to graduate highschool. I am aware that Paulo Coelho is not writing high-quality literature, like the one to be studied in Philology universities. Usually those famed, highly prased books which are in vogue disappoint me. However, this one made for an interesting read. I believe it’s a phase in some (young) people’s lives, to get depressed and wish to end it all. I am interested in Psychoanalysis and Psychology and I am currently trying to find out what makes people wish to commit suicide – like, is this caused by mental problems? Lately I found out that Bipolar Disorder may lead to severe depression and sucide thoughts/ attempts. It was also interesting to witness those scenes in the mental hospital and the questions about what is madness, etc.

  2. I’m a junior college student from Xavier University, Mindanao, Philippines. I have always loved reading the book of Paulo. And i have introduced his writings to my friends. Veronika Decides to Dies was the latest that i have read. I have seen it before in the bookstore but I thought it would only leave me depressed because of the title so i bought it just a month ago.
    Wow! Just as I expected, the book was so…. I don’t know how to describe it. One thing’s for sure, I learned a lot, about my life. It made me reflect on what am i doing with my life.

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