Veronika Decides To Die

Veronika Decides to die by Paolo Coelho

Veronika, who leads a seemingly perfect life, lives in Ljubljana, Slovenia. She decides to commit a premeditated suicide by ingesting too many sleeping pills. While she waits for her death, she decides to read a magazine.

After seeing an article in the magazine which wittily asks “Where is Slovenia?,” she decides to write a letter to the press justifying her suicide, the idea being to make the press believe that she has killed herself because people don’t even know where Slovenia is. Her plan fails and she wakes up in Villete, a mental hospital in Slovenia, where she is told she has a week to live.

Her presence there affects all of the mental hospital’s patients, especially Zedka, who has clinical depression; Mari, who suffers from panic attacks; and Eduard, who has schizophrenia, and with whom Veronika falls in love. During her internment in Villete she realises that she has nothing to lose and can therefore do what she wants, say what she wants and be who she wants without having to worry about what others think of her; as a madwoman, she is unlikely to be criticized. Because of this newfound freedom Veronika experiences all the things she never allowed herself to experience including hatred, love and even sexual awakening.

In the meantime, Vilette’s head psychiatrist attempts a fascinating but provocative experiment. Can you “shock” someone into wanting to live by convincing her that death is imminent? Like a doctor applying defibrillator paddles to a heart attack victim, Dr. Igor’s “prognosis” jump-starts Veronika’s new appreciation of the world around her.

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4 thoughts on “Veronika Decides To Die

  1. VERONICA DECIDES TO DIE is a story full of gripping psychological insight. As i see it the title could well be ‘WHAT GOES ON BEHIND CLOSED DOORS IN A MENTAL INSTITUTION’

  2. Topics for Discussion

    1. Veronika claims to have chosen suicide in order to achieve “freedom at last. Eternal oblivion.” What would make freedom and oblivion so appealing to a twenty-four-year-old woman?
    2. Of the four patients at Vilette that we come to know — Veronika, Zedka, Mari, and Eduard–with whom, do you identify, and why?
    3. Veronika asks, “In a world where everyone struggles to survive whatever the cost, how could one judge those people who decide to die?” Do people have a right to approve or disapprove of suicide? Do we have a moral obligation to stop someone from trying to kill himself? Can the decision to commit suicide ever be considered rational?
    4. Why would someone who wants to commit suicide be devastated by the thought of dying?
    5. What do you think of Dr. Igor’s theory about Vitriol, the name he gives to a “disease of the soul” that affects people who have grown embittered? Do you recognize evidence of Vitriol in people around you?
    6. How do you feel about Dr. Igor’s experiment on Veronika? Was it morally justifiable?
    7. Has reading this novel changed your perception of what it means to be mentally ill?

  3. This has been one of my top three books for years – given it as a gift to many. The overriding idea that has stuck with me all this time from the book is the philosophical introduction of the idea of “agreements”. The agreements we make, why we make them, if we even know which ones we’ve made, and whether they serve us or harm our ability to live life of clarity and quality. The question is a lifelong one, but the asking offers endlessly fascinating responses.

    Right now I find myself having ‘agreed’ to blog and use online social sites after much time kicking and screaming about them. Why? if the world has “agreed” to communicate this way, and I continue to stand against it – I’ll simply have less daily conversations. A shame really.

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