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A Second Chance to Live
Mixing reality with fantasy
Paulo Coelho is a Brazilian writer with many books known internationally. This book in particular was published in 1998. In it, Coelho includes himself in the narrative, since the author, as the protagonist of the book, was interned in a psychiatric hospital. He entered to Rio de Janeiro's Dr Eiras Sanatorium in 1965, 1966,1967, as he mention s in this book,
Shortly after his last stay in that sanatorium, he dedicated himself to continue writing, and since then he keeps surprising us with his novels.
What is it about?
Veronica is a Slovenian 24 year old girl who has parents that love her, she has a job at a Library, rents a a room in a convent, she is pretty and she also has suitors. In other words, she has the life that many people want to have; However, this is not enough for Veronika. Her life is routine and boring and the fact that the world was getting worse day by day ,made her take a desition: to kill herself.
For six months Veronika tried to get sleeping pills, until she finally got them, so on 11 November 1997, she swallow all the pills she could and waited to die. While her organism absorbed the medicine, she read a french magazine called Homme, where it mentioned a brazilian author Paulo Coelho, a man who she actually met some time ago. Also, the magazine included an article that made her angry, the title of it was: "Where is Slovenia?", that was her country! so after reading it she decided to write a letter where she blamed that article for her suicide, after that she didn´t feel anything else.
At the beginning, disoriented, Veronika awakens surrounded by medical devices and does not understand what happens. As a result of her suicide attempt, she was interned in a psychiatric hospital, called Villete, built in 1991, this is a place known by interning only rich people. Also, this place was famous for its reputation: in here, doctors use unorthodox methods to treat the patients. However, Veronika has no worry about this, since the doctor informed her that due to the medication that she swallowed she damaged her heart, leaving her only a few days of life, maybe a week, but Veronika didnt wanted to wait that long, so she rebels against medical staff and even patients
Coleho makes a pause in the narrative to include himself in the book, writting that he knew about Veronika´s case thanks to a friend, daughter of one of the doctors in the Villete 3 months after she entered to the institution.
Continuing with the story, Doctor Igor prescribed her shots that would make her heart resist a bit, but not for so long. While Veronika waits for her death, for second time, she met Zedka a 35 year old woman with clinical depression. She had a beautiful life before she arrived to the Villete, she had kids and a husband, but the memory of her first love affected her so bad that she didn´t eat or go to the bathroom, that was the reason she entered to that hospital.
Zedka found out that Veronika wanted pills to commit suicide, that is why she told her about "The Fraternity", a group of people that could live in that institution whenever they wanted but preffered to live there. In that group, Veronika met Mari, a middle- aged woman that had a succesful career as a lawyer and also had a wonderful marriage before she started to suffer from panic attacks. Mari knew a lot of things, including were to find pills.
But Veronika´s plans changed again when she decided to attend to Zedka´s "treatment", which consisted in induce her to a temporary coma by giving her Insuline shots. According to Zedka doing this let her made astral journeys and to felt better.
After seeing that terrifying scene, Veronika decided to played the piano that was at a separate room, but the nurse didn´t let her, that frustration along with others made her cry, so at the end, the nurse comfort her and let her go to the piano room.
While she was walking there, she thought about her mother, the woman that loved her but that she hated, the reason: the love of her mother didn´t expected anything in exchange. For the other hand, she thought about his father, a working hard man that when she was younger she looked at him as a man, not as a father, that is why she felt guilty towards him and hated him too.
When she arrived to the piano room she started to play like a mad person at the beginning, but then she started to play in such a beautiful way that a patient with schizophrenia, Eduard, admired the melody from outside, something that Veronika noticed but didn´t give importance.
Eduard was a handsome young man that came from a rich family, he is the son of an ambassador. When he was younger, he went to live to Brazil with his parents. There he met a girl, Maria. he was very in loved with her and started to change his attitude, something that made her mother nervous, One day, when he was going to visit her by bike, he had an accident. The next 30 days he stayed at the hospital but he never saw Maria again. Instead of that, a nurse gave him a book, but this had a lot of influence in Eduard, thanks to it he wanted to become a painter, and he was doing it great, nevertheless, his parents convinced him to quit that passion. This fact made him avoid reality and later being diagnosed as a schizophrenic.
The next day, Veronika entered accidentaly to the Fraternity´s Sufi class, which are rituals that mostly consist in prayers. She was ashamed but Mari invited her so while they has a short break, Veronika and Mari spoke about Eduard and how she should not be shy with her sexuality. That made Veronika thought about all she repressed for years and that she really wanted to feel passion, something that tried with Eduard after she played the piano for him. That night, althought Eduard didn´t participate she felt that she wanted to live and that she was falling in love with that young man.
Her time was concluding, so Veronika went with doctor Igor and told him that she wanted to take medicine so she could enjoy her last hours and she also asked him to let her leave the Villete, but he refused and sent her to bed. While she was sleeping she heard screams so she went to check what was happening, what a surprised she received when Eduard said her name, unfortunately, the nurse took him to an electroshock therapy, this was given to him so he could forget recent events and to relax. While Veronika was taking care of him, she felt that her heart started to fail, something taht scared Zedka when she saw her, but it was a false alarm.
After Eduard´s treatment Mari talked to doctor Igor, she wanted to get out of that mental hospital and start a new life, without being afraid, the reason, Veronika, inspired her. So she left, as Zedka did.
When Eduard woke up, he decided to scape with Veronika and be happy together, it doesn´t matter if it was for a day, they wanted to be together, so they scape. As a result of this, doctor Igor saw that his experiment with Veronika was a succes. He lied to her, she didn´t had a heart condition, he simulated the symptoms of a heart attack through the shots he gave her, the point was to make her conscious about death and made her appreciate life.