The Zahir

By Paulo Coelho, Margaret Jull Costa

71,205 ratings - 3.58* vote

The narrator of  The Zahir  is a bestselling novelist who lives in Paris and enjoys all the privileges money and celebrity bring. His wife of ten years, Esther, is a war correspondent who has disappeared along with a friend, Mikhail, who may or may not be her lover.Was Esther kidnapped, murdered, or did she simply escape a marriage that left her unfulfilled? The narrator d The narrator of  The Zahir  is a bestselling novelist who lives in Paris and enjoys all the privileges money and

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Book details

Paperback, 336 pages
July 3rd 2006 by HarperOne

(first published 2005)

Original Title
O Zahir
0060832819 (ISBN13: 9780060832810)
Edition Language

Community Reviews


I believe the quotation below will be sufficient to show how brilliant Coelho is:

‘Marie, let’s suppose that two firemen go into a forest to put out a small fire. Afterwards, when they emerge and go over to a stream, the face of one is all smeared with black, while the other man’s face is completely clean. My question is this: which of the two will wash his face?

‘That’s a silly question. The one with the dirty face of course.’

‘No, the one with the dirty face will look at the other man and assume that he looks like him. And, vice versa, the man with the clean face will see his colleague covered in grime and say to himself: I must be dirty too. I’d better have a wash.’

‘What are you trying to say?’

‘I’m saying that, during the time I spent in the hospital, I came to realize that I was always looking for myself in the women I loved. I looked at their lovely, clean faces and saw myself reflected in them. They, on the other hand, looked at me and saw the dirt on my face and, however intelligent or self-confident they were, they ended up seeing themselves reflected in me thinking that they were worse than they were. Please, don’t let that happen to you.’

Ahmad Sharabiani

O Zahir = The Zahir, Paulo Coelho

The Zahir is a 2005 novel by the Brazilian writer Paulo Coelho.

Just as in an earlier book, The Alchemist, The Zahir is about a pilgrimage. The book touches on themes of love, loss and obsession. The Zahir was written in Coelho's native language, Portuguese, and it has been translated into 44 languages. The Zahir means 'the obvious' or 'conspicuous' in Arabic.

The story revolves around the life of the narrator, a novelist, and in particular his search for his missing wife, Esther. He enjoys all the privileges that money and celebrity bring. He is suspected of foul play by both the police and the press, who suspect that he may have had a role in the inexplicable disappearance of his wife from their Paris home.

عنوانها: «زهیر»، «ظاهر»؛ نویسنده: پائولو کوئیلو؛ تاریخ نخستین خوانش: روز نخست ماه مارس سال 2004میلادی

عنوان: زهیر؛ نویسنده: پائولو کوئیلو؛ مترجم: آرش حجازی؛ تهران، کاروان، چاپ دوم 1384، در 436ص؛ شابک 9648497303؛ موضوع داستانهای نویسندگان برزیلی - سده 20م

عنوان: ظاهر، مترجم: سوسن اردکانی؛ تهران، نگارستان کتاب، 1385، شابک 9648155402؛ در 420ص؛

عنوان: زهیر، مترجم: دل آرا قهرمان؛ تهران، نشر فرزان روز، 1394؛ در 329ص؛ شابک 9789643214319؛

عنوان: زهیر، مترجم: زهره معصومی؛ مشهد، آوای رعنا، 1396؛ در 350ص؛ شابک 9786007725009؛

زَهیر (به پرتغالی: او زهیر) عنوان رمانی از «پائولو کوئلیو» است؛ نامی که خود «کوئلیو» از واژه ی عربی «الظاهر» اقتباس کرده بود؛ اما از آنجا که بار معنایی «ظاهر» فارسی با همتای عربی‌ خویش یکی نبود، در نهایت با مشورت با نویسنده، نام کنونی «زهیر» بر نسخه ی فارسی کتاب نهاده شد؛ عنوان «زهیر» از داستان «خورخه لوئیس بورخس» اقتباس شده «بورخس» مفهوم «زهیر» را وامدار به سنت اسلامی میداند، و حدس میزند، در آغاز سده ی هجدهم میلادی، مطرح شده باشد؛ «زهیر یا الظاهر» در عربی، یعنی «بیش از حد تابناک»، «مرئی»، «حاضر»، چیزی که نمیتوان نادیده اش گرفت؛ چیزی یا کسی که، وقتی برای نخستین بار، با آن ارتباط پیدا میکنیم، اندیشه ی ما را از آن خودمیکند، تا جاییکه نمیتوانیم به چیزهای دیگر بیندیشیم؛

نقل از کتاب: دو آتش نشان وارد جنگلی میشوند، تا آتش کوچکی را خاموش کنند؛ آخر کار وقتی از جنگل بیرون میآیند و میروند کنار رودخانه، صورت یکیشان کثیف، و پر از خاکستر، و صورت آن یکی به شکل معصومانه ای تمیز است؛ پرسش: کدامشان صورتش را میشوید؟ اشتباه کردید، آن که صورتش کثیف است، به آن یکی نگاه میکند، و فکر میکند صورت خودش هم همانطور است؛ اما آن که صورتش تمیز است میبیند که سرتاپای رفیقش را غبار گرفته است، و به خودش میگوید: حتما من هم کثیفم، باید خودم را تمیز کنم؛
برایم دنیایی خلق کن که وقتی احتیاج دارم بتوانم به آن پناه ببرم، دنیایی که آنقدر دور نباشد، که به نظر برسد مستقل از تو زندگی میکنم و آنقدر نزدیک نباشد که به نظر برسد میخواهم به دنیای تو تجاوز کنم؛
پایان نقل

در این رمان، «پائولو» ضمن اشارات فراوان، به زندگی شخصی خویش، داستانی بسیار شجاعانه، ارائه داده، آکنده از عناصری که هر خوانشگری را، به بازاندیشی، در کنش و باورهای خود، وامی‌دارد؛ راوی (نویسنده) همسرش «استر» را دوست دارد؛ همسر او، ناپدید میشود، و ردی از او نمیماند...؛ از او فقط «زهیر» میماند؛ «زهیر» با یک نظر ساده و همان اندیشه ی گذرا، آغاز میشود، اما ذهن و روح انسان را، تسخیر میکند؛ نویسنده ای مشهور ‍پی میبرد، که همسرش که خبرنگار جنگ است، ناپدید شده، و اثری از او نیست؛ هرچند، گذر زمان برای این نویسنده، موفقیت بیشتر، و عشقی تازه به همراه میآورد، اما غیبت همسرش، او را سرگشته نگاه میدارد؛ چه بر سر همسرش آمده؟ او را دزدیده اند، کشته اند، یا فقط از زندگی زناشویی اش خسته شده و رفته؟

جستجوی نویسنده، به دنبال همسرش؛ و حقیقت زندگی خودش؛ او را از «فرانسه» به «اس‍پانیا»، «کرواسی»، و سرانجام به دشتهای غم انگیز و زیبای «آسیای میانه» میکشاند، و فراتر از اینها، ایشان را از محیط امن دنیای خودش، به جاده ای کاملا ناشناخته میبرد، به دنبال ادراکی تازه از معنای عشق و قدرت سرنوشت؛

تاریخ بهنگام رسانی 07/10/1399هجری خورشیدی؛ ا. شربیانی


So far my least favorite of Coelho's books. A woman leaves her husband with no explanation to find out how to be happy. She leaves no note, no messenger, takes nothing, just seems to disappear. He finds himself in the journey and learns he needs to look for her because he loves her, not because he is obsessed. Along the way other hearts get broken.


"When someone leaves, it's because someone else is about to arrive - I'll find love again."

"In order to be able to find her, I first had to find myself"

"The energy of hatred won't get you anywhere; but the energy of forgiveness, which reveals itself through love, will transform your life in a positive way."

"in love there is neither good nor evil, there is neither construction nor destruction, there is merely movement. And love changes the laws of nature."

"Love is an untamed force. When we try to control it, it destroys us. When we try to imprison it, it enslaves us. When we try to understand it, it leaves us feeling lost and confused."

"The most important thing in a ll human relationships is conversation, but people don't talk anymore, they don't sit down to talk and listen"


1 star. Self-congratulatory, conceited wankery. Only earns it's 1 as the prose was easy to read and well written for what it was. If you would like to read a book about how fantastic Coelho thinks he is, this is for you.

By demand, my blog post on this book:

I am just going to come out and say it.

Paulo Coelho is a knob.

I dislike this man, his opinions and his writing. I have read The Alchemist and the The Fifth Mountain in the past and have felt that they were completely over rated. Then a friend links all these "insightful" quotes from him all the time on Facebook. And then there is this article from earlier this month. But all of these were forgivable. Until I read this book. This book lead me to one conclusion.

Paulo Coelho is a complete wanker.

This book, The Zahir, is about an amazing author who is famous, incredibly successful with the ladies, intelligent, accomplished, and did I mention a brilliant writer? Maybe I need to tell you again how good a writer the author is. He is married, but has many girlfriends as he is incredibly attractive, and his wife who is a journalist goes missing. He mopes for a bit, while being a brilliant, amazing writer, but then gets an actress girlfriend. He then gets approached by a man who knows where his wife is, and he has to rediscover himself, by writing another ground-breaking book and some other stuff, before he can go find her. But the actress stays with him until he leaves, because he's great.

In case you forget how wonderful he is, he points out randomly how many languages (nearly all the languages in the world) he has been translated into. The books themselves, while wonderful, are not him or his ideas. 'Everything that's written in my books is part of my soul...' (p101). Yeah right. Get your hand off it.

Also he mentions the Zimbardo prison experiment at one stage, because he can. Why? No idea. It wasn't important or necessary. It was in fact completely out of place, not to mention wrong, and seemed to be mentioned to show off how intelligent he was.

My "favourite" part, was after he came home from spending all night out wandering Paris with the "Tribe" and then come home and didn't want to turn on the tv because they had "run out of things to talk about" so were covering a story of a rebellion in Haiti. So he goes on this whole rant about how is a rebellion important to him as a rich, incredibly successful author in Paris! Who cares! I just wanted to slap him the narrow minded prick! Urgh.

As well as all of this he seems incredibly unhinged as well. He screams at his girlfriend after being out all night with the Tribe, mentioned above, and she doesn't ask him where he was. So therefore as she is not jealous (not interested, jealous) he screams at her for not loving him any more. Besides the fact he has been moaning on about his wife who he loves who has left him for the whole book. I was beyond loving him at p5, no wonder the girlfriend seemed to have had enough by p200. But she hadn't really. She really thought he was great. You know why? Because this unnamed author is fucking fantastic, just ask him.

Why did I finish it? Because I wanted to find out what happened to his wife and girlfriend as I liked them (not worth it, it ended all about him), it was only 270pp, and it was orange (for a rainbow challenge). It gets 1.5 stars as it was well written for self-congratulatory masturbation. Actually, no. After writing this, 1.


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I have to say, at times I found myself obsessed with this book about obsession. At times, it didn't quite flow or seemed to bring in random points, but I felt like I just "got it" and completely understood where he was coming from. Coelho's words resonated deeply within me, and in fact, helped me to "see" and unlock some feelings that I haven't been able to understand for quite some time. In that sense, it was like an Eat, Pray, Love for me. Not to compare authors, literary styles, or anything like that - I'm only making the comparison in terms of what both books evoked in me. So for those of who you weren't such fans of Ms. Gilbert's book, don't let that dissuade you from reading this one.

A few quotes from the Zahir that I particularly liked were:

"...I came to realize that I was always looking for myself in the women I loved."

"...I had convinced myself that I could only be happy with her, not because I loved her more than anything and anyone in the world, but because I thought only she could understand me; she knew my likes, my eccentricities, my way of seeing the world.......I was used to seeing the world through her eyes."

"...suffering occurs when we want other people to love us in the way we imagine we want to be loved, and not in the way that love should manifest itself - free and untrammeled, guiding us with its force and driving us on."


The Zahir tells an incredible journey of a man whose wife has left the house without letting him know.

His search for her and the meaning of their marriage and above all, Paulo Coelho's writing is spectacular to watch.


I was diasspointed with this and I would consider myself a fan of Paolo Coelho. I just don't think this lived up to his usual work. The plot was weak and there was a lot of annoying, sentimental stream-of-consciousness drivel about the meaning of love and the meaning of life. It's true that these are Coelho's usual themes but I think he's gotten a bit carried away with all the sentiment in this novel and forgotten the story in the process. The only thing that kept me reading until the end was my enduring hate of the main character....he's one of those 'love to hate him' characters.


The Zahir is "someone or something which, once we have come into contact with them or it, gradually occupies our every thought, until we can think of nothing else. This can be considered either a state of holiness or of madness." This, and the spellbinding dedication page to Coelho's wife, Christina, made me want to read this novel. Plus, the story initially lured me. A writer's war correspondent wife goes missing. At first he's treated like a suspect until it's determined that she wasn't abducted. But where did she go and why did she leave him? Who did she leave with? The otherness of their relationship appeals. Imagine settling in with this book to see how the story ebbs and flows, to see where the self-revelatory journey takes the main character. Only to be disappointed later.

A year later, I wake thinking about the story by Jorge Luis Borges, about something which, once touched or seen, can never be forgotten, and which gradually so fills our thoughts that we are driven to madness. My Zahir is not a romantic metaphor - a blind man, a compass, a tiger, or a coin. It has a name, and her name is Esther.

This book doesn't end the way you would think. In fact, what happens in between this search, what the narrator uncovers, isn't what you would have envisioned. The events that center around spirituality and self actualization, events that center around the energy placed into the world by certain thoughts or actions, sometimes come across as trivial, and in some instances, forced. And those restaurant scenes, how people who live in poverty, and people who choose a different path in spiritual and physical life are depicted, were just exasperating. The gist is, a man is on a quest to love the wife he's undervalued for years (although he has a lover at home), and in this quest he meets people whose lives she's inspired, even if you don't truly get to see the evolution in these lives. I'm not sure which one bothered me the most: that the first part of the book didn't realistically set the plot, the continuous parables inside of dialogue, seeing the perspective of the character Mikhail often (instead of Esther's), the allusion to the zahir that didn't feel quite like one, and something else that I won't say because of spoilers. In any case, read if you simply want to try another Coelho book, or if you want to compare it to the last. Who knows, it could be your cup of tea.


The (Zahir) is a concept that was totally new to me , I had to do some further research to find out that it is related to the Sufi , I read the book in English but after noticing the Arabic edition , I would have preferred if it was titled (Al zaher الظاهر ) as a translation not as a repetition !
I liked the definition he reached at the ednd :
(The zahir was the fixation on everything that had been passed from generation to generation ; it left no question unanswered , it looks up all the space ; it never allowed us even to consider the possibility that things could change )

This book represented a lot of interesting thoughts concerning marriage institution ..happiness ..selfishness , how can our relation with our beloved ones collapse when we loose ourselves to our own individual interests & stop to share ..listen & understand , he dealt more caring about the meaning of commitment & freedom , from my side I was not compassionate with the protagonist , but his experience made me make more effort on concentration on my own life .
This my 3rd book for Coelho , his spiritual world takes me through multiple journeys among various religions , from Judaism , Christianity & Islam To Paganism , sometimes it makes me uncomfortable , but from anther side it is interning to see the variety in human accumulated reactions towards – or understanding of – life & her mysterious phenomena .