The Zahir (Coelho) Essay Questions

Essay Questions

  1. 1

    How is Esther the protagonist’s Zahir?

    At the very beginning of the novel, the author mentions the writer Jorge Luis Borges the idea of the Zahir from Islamic tradition. It means something visible, present, incapable of going unnoticed., it takes over every thought. The narrator gives different examples of the Zahir. He says that in Buenos Aires the Zahir is a common 20-cent coin. In Gujarat at the end of the eighteenth century, the Zahir was a tiger. In Java, a blind man from the Surakarta Mosque who was stoned, in Persia an astrolabe that was thrown in to the sea and a small compass in the Mahdi's prison. In a sense, Esther is all of these things. She is a woman that has common feelings like any other women but she is also the obsession of the narrator, all he does is think about her. After she has left, in retrospect, she has been his compass by helping him write his books and continues to guide him when he is lost. All the fame in the world does not make him feel complete and he must find Esther to feel true love and meaning.

  2. 2

    What is the author arguing that real love is?

    Freedom in a relationship is different than commitment. The author goes through different phases in the different relationships that he has. He excuses his behavior by saying that he was afraid of rejection in his childhood and that he was feeling insecure. When his life leaves him he acts uncaring and cold, take advantage of this time to be with other women. He tries not to feel the abandonment of his wife or process his feelings, instead he gets involved with another woman. Towards the end of the story, the author realizes that true love is not about denying how you feel, it is about vulnerability, you can't control how the other person feels either, you have to accept them how they are and respect their journey as well. In order to truly love someone else you have to be at peace with yourself. The narrator even says, "love had spoken to me: 'I am everything and I am nothing. I am the wind, and I cannot enter windows and doors that are shut' and I said to love: 'But I am open to you'" The author is letting the reader know that love has to be free, there are no rules, instead there is forgiveness and room to grow.

  3. 3

    Why is the conversation between Hans and Fritz important in the novel?

    Esther asks the narrator to imagine what the world would be like if Nazism has prevailed. Hanz and Fritz two characters that go for a beer are products of Nazism, they are tall and have blue eyes, the "supreme race". Hans wonders if the world had always been that way. Fritz replies by saying that the world has always been that way. She compares those two characters to them. How they are passively living life accepting things the way they are without questioning them. Esther then talks about the cross and how people wear them around the neck but that it was originally intended to be a torture device. The same thing is said about love and relationships. There are certain behaviors that are supposed to be accepted in relationships and others that are not, they are only performed because people things that its supposed to be that way. Esther wants to feel things more deeply and not just do things because that is what everyone else is doing.

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