tjir5-1_2g - The Postmodern Penelope: Coelhos The Zahir and...

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92 The Postmodern Penelope: Coelho’s The Zahir and the Metamorphosis in Gender Relations Wisam Mansour* Coelho’s narrator tells us “if a book isn’t self-explanatory, then the book is not worth reading” (248). Though such a statement may not appeal to a Formalist critic in the sense that literature should alienate, defamiliarize and make difficult the literary experience, Coelho proves in The Zahir the assumption of his narrator. The book is so simple and its narrative flows so smoothly like a running stream of water in the early months of spring. Coelho’s narrative magically transfixes its readers and absorbs them into the mystical and mythical world of its narrator. A brief summary of the novel will do it great injustice as the novel’s forte lies in the smoothness, richness, spirituality and simplicity of its narrativity. In The Zahir 1 , Coelho tells us the story of its male narrator who, like Coelho himself, is a celebrated artist, lyric writer and novelist. The narrator-artist, whose name significantly remains incognito, finds himself obsessed with the mysterious and sudden disappearance of Esther, his third wife. Esther, a journalist and a war correspondent, in spite of her love and support to the narrator artist disappears and leaves the artist confounded and confused. For him she becomes the “Zahir” 2 that haunts his days and nights. Though he forges various love affairs during the enigmatic absence of Esther, he cannot 1 Coelho, Paulo. The Zahir . Trans. Margaret Jull Costa. London: Harper Collins Publishers, 2005 2 The title comes from a tale by Jorge Luis Borges, published in his book The Aleph . Coelho in the introductory pages of the novel states that “according to the writer Jorge Luis Borges, the idea of the Zahir comes from Islamic tradition and is thought to have arisen at some point in the eighteenth century. Zahir, in Arabic, means visible, present, incapable of going unnoticed. It 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.” P. viii.
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93 suppress Esther’s virtual existence in the data banks of his brain and heart cells. Eventually, the writer begins to collect clues about the whereabouts of Esther. He enlists the aid of Mikhail, an epileptic visionary young man whom Esther helped bring to France from Kazakhstan after he worked as her interpreter in his region. The writer learns that his wife lives in a village in the steppes of Kazakhstan weaving carpets and teaching French to the locals. In order to solve the enigma of her sudden disappearance and to free himself of the Zahir
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This note was uploaded on 02/01/2012 for the course GENBUS 304 taught by Professor Greed during the Fall '11 term at Boise State.

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tjir5-1_2g - The Postmodern Penelope: Coelhos The Zahir and...

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