I fought for the courage to leave my job on the newspaper and launch myself into the adventure of writing a book, knowing full well that in my country no one in my country could make a living as a writer. I gave up after a year, after having written more than a thousand pages – pages of such genius that even I couldn’t understand them.

While I was fighting, I heard other people speaking in the name of freedom, and the more they defended this unique right, the more enslaved they seemed to be to their parent’s wishes, to a marriage in which they had promised to stay with the other person ‘for the rest of their lives, to the bathroom scales, to their diet, to half-finished projects, to lovers to who they were incapable of saying ‘No’ or ‘It’s over;, to weekends when they were obliged to have lunch with people who they didn’t even like. Slaves to luxury, to the appearance luxury, to the appearance of the appearance luxury. Slaves to a life they had not chosen, but which they had decided to live because someone had managed to convince them that it was all for the best. And so their identical days and nights passed, days and nights in which adventure was just a word in a book or an image on the television that was always on, and whenever a door opened they would say:

‘I’m not interested. I’m not in the mood.’

How could they possible know if they were in the mood or not if they had never tried? But there is no point in asking; the truth was they were afraid of any change that would upset the world they were used to.

Extract from The Zahir by Paulo Coelho.

For my lovely Russian friend Lena.

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