It ends with a glimpse or a passing thought. It ends in obsession. I read the cover of The Zahir. Not impressed yet. It is not the first time that I have thought of buying it. I read the short summary at the end- it’s about a famous writer who discovers to his horror that his wife of many years has left without saying a word.
I start thinking. What can this story mean to me? The thought of a wife leaving a husband under mysterious circumstances is that fascinating to me. Nothing. In fact, I think that it is in contrast to The Alchemist that was about following your dream, or to give a kiss to a woman waiting for you miles away just by blowing it to the desert wind. I hesitate and read the epigraph. It is from the Gospel of St.Luke. Still not as interesting as to own a copy of it.
Then I turn two more pages and I read :
“According to the writer Jorge Louis Borges, the idea of the Zahir comes from the 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”.
Immediately I understand that it holds an answer to something that I was searching for. Obsessions-ideas, people, songs and books- that's something I really identify with.
There are only a few books that I have read burning the midnight oil. The gripping, un-put-downable handful like Anna Karenina, Memoirs of a Geisha and The French Lieutenant’s Woman. The Zahir was one such book.
It is not really a search for the absconding wife, just as The Alchemist is not about a shepherd boy’s journey for treasure. The Zahir is a tale of self-discovery after long years of wandering in search of love.