The Zahir (Coelho) Literary Elements

The Zahir (Coelho) Literary Elements


Drama, Spirituality, Love

Setting and Context

Paris, 2005.

Narrator and Point of View

Unnamed narrator. The book is in the first person.

Tone and Mood

Tone is nostalgic and obsessive.

Protagonist and Antagonist

The narrator is the protagonist as well as the antagonist, since he drove his wife away with his lack of care.

Major Conflict

The major conflict in the novel is the narrator's obsession with his wife's whereabouts and wonder if she'll ever be back.


The maximum tension in the story occurs as the narrator is met with an accident before he is set to leave to look for his wife.


The location of Esther's whereabouts is foreshadowed as Mikhail mentions his native place of Almaty and Esther's amazement and wonder with the local shaman.


The communist regime that Mikhail faces and which destroys Kazakhstan is understated. Even the atrocities of war are romanticized by Esther, who is a war correspondent.


There are multiple allusions to mythological stories of Ariadne, Ulysses and Penelope and parallels are drawn between there stories and narrator's.


The most vivid imagery is of the stories that people tell to each other and how everyone reacts to them because they can relate to them.


In war, people are aware of their mortality and hence, are able to express them to their fullest which they can't do while they are safe.


Narrator draws a parallel between him and Ulysses, who is cursed by a God and thus reaches his wife after a long time. He finds Esther paralleling Penelope, both of whom have been weaving all this while.

Metonymy and Synecdoche



The books are personified when it is stated that a book writes itself.

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