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Failed Suicide; Failed Storytelling
am 3. Juli 2000
Beginning with his novel's intriguing title, "Veronika Decides to Die," Brazilian author Paulo Coelho, promises something he does not deliver. As Veronika fails as a suicide, so does this parable of madness fail as a narrative. Rhetorical devices abound in this contrived comedy of errors: irony, interior monologue, metaphor.
For followers of the writings of Che and Camus, who may view the choice of suicide as revolutionary, political, and existential act, Veronika not only fails but also reawakens as an artist for whom the personal is apolitical. For fans of Sylvia Plath's "The Bell Jar," Veronika's angst may not ring true. For fun-seeking free spirits who love Ken Kesey's "One Flew Over the Cuckoo Nest," the sane/insane reversals of society/mental asylum may dull in comparison. Nonetheless, this book does have appeal as a fairy tale.
Rather than Veronika, the most interesting character is Dr. Igor, a psychiatrist who views the mental institution as "Skinner box." Through him, in but one of his numerous ironies, Coelho presents his exposition of "doctor playing God," or "God as puppeteer." However, Coelho's hagiography, replete with tortured rendition of Mary as second Eve, reveals his lack of iconographic insight.