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Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Veronika Decides to Die (1998) by Paulo Coehlo


Book Review
Veronika Decides to Die (1998)
 by Paulo Coehlo

  Paulo Coehlo is squarely in that category of "international best-seller" whose titles sell equally well in any number of languages.  The rarest sub-category of the internationally best selling author are those who write in a language other than English, and Coehlo, Brazilian, who writes in Portuguese, is one of only a handful of internationally known Portuguese language authors, and certainly the most internationally popular of that handful, with second place going to Nobel Laureate and non-best-seller Jose Saramago.

  For some of Coehlo's most popular titles, The Alchemist is one that come to mind, the question of whether it is literature of mass market fiction is relevant.   Veronika Decides to Die, with it's more somber theme of suicide and institutionalization, is not in that category- the literary pedigree is easy to see, but Coehlo's status as a popular author haunts any reading of his more serious work, like Stephen King writing a stream-of-consciousness novel in the style of James Joyce.

  Like many of the authors who grace both best seller and best of the year lists, Coehlo writes books that are moderate in length- I haven't checked but I'll eat my hat if any of this top five books runs longer than 250 pages.  Coehlo knows his way around a third act twist- and perhaps the inclusion of Veronika Decides to Die is down to his ability to interject such a move here, in the midst of a book which is directly based on his own experience being institutionalized in Brazil during his youth.  Coehlo also performs the meta-fictional trick of including himself as a character while not overdoing it.

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