**Read at your own risk. Found this from one of Paulo Coelho’s brilliant books – this is an excerpt from “The Zahir”. This is a conversation between a popular writer and his wife, Esther. I feel for Esther.

In a hotel room in Amsterdam, after a day spent promoting my books and after the usual publisher’s supper and the statutory tour of the sights, etc. Esther is in her nightdress and is looking out the canal outside the window. She has not yet become a war correspondent, her eyes are still bright with joy, she loves her work, travels with me whenever she can, and life is still one big adventure. I am lying on the bed in silence; my mind is far away, worrying about the next day’s appointments.

“Last week, I interviewed a man who’s an expert in police interrogations. He told me that they get most of their information by using a technique they call cold-hot.”

“Yes, I’ve heard about that.”

“Then he told me about something else that really frightened me. In 1971, a group of researchers in Stanford University in California, decided to create a simulated prison in order to study the psychology of interrogations. After just one week, they had to stop the experiment. The guards – girls and boys with normal, decent values from nice families – had become real monsters. The use of torture had become routine and the sexual abuse of prisoners was seen as normal. Everyone who took part in the experiment suffered major trauma, and needed long-term medical help, and the experiment was never repeated.”


“What do you mean ‘interesting’? I’m talking about something of real importance: man’s capacity to do evil whenever he’s given a chance. I’m talking about my work, about the things I’ve learned!”

“That’s what I found interesting. Why are you getting angry?”

“Angry? How could I possibly get angry with someone who isn’t paying the slightest bit of attention to what I’m saying? How can I possibly be angry with someone who isn’t even provoking me, who’s just lying there, staring into space?”

“How much did you have to drink tonight?”

“You don’t even know the answer to that, do you? I’ve been by your side all evening, and you’ve no idea whether I’ve had anything to drink or not! You only spoke to me when you wanted me to confirm something you had said or when you needed me to tell some flattering story about you!”

“Look, I’ve been working all day and I’m exhausted. Why don’t you come to bed and sleep? We can talk in the morning.”

“Because I’ve been doing this for weeks and months, for the last two years in fact! I try to have a conversation, but you’re always tired, so we say, ‘All right, we’ll go to sleep and talk tomorrow’. But tomorrow there are always other things to do, another day of work and publishers’ suppers, so we say, ‘All right, we’ll go to sleep and talk tomorrow’. That’s how I’m spending my life, waiting for the day when I can have you by my side again, until I’ve had my fill; that’s all I ask, to create a world where I can always find refuge if I need it: not so far away that I can’t be seen to be having an independent life, and not so close that it looks as if I’m invading your universe.”

“What do you want me to do? Stop working? Give up everything we’ve struggles so hard to achieve and go off on a cruise to the Caribbean? Don’t you understand that I enjoy what I’m doing and haven’t the slightest intention of changing my life?”

“In your books, you talk about the importance of love, the need for adventure, the joy of fighting for your dreams. And who do I have before me now? Someone who doesn’t read what he writes. Someone who confuses love with convenience, adventure with taking unnecessary risks, joy with obligation. Where is the man I married, who used to listen to what I was saying?”

“Where is the woman I married?”

“You mean the one who always gave you support, encouragement, and affection? Her body is here, looking out at the Singel Canal in Amsterdam, and she will, I believe, stay with you for the rest of her life. But that woman’s soul is standing at the door, ready to leave.”

“But why?”

“Because of those three wretched words: We’ll talk tomorrow. Isn’t that enough? If not, just consider that the woman you married was excited about life, full of ideas and joy and desires, and is now rapidly turning into a housewife.”

“That’s ridiculous.”

“Of course, it is! It’s a nonsense! A triffle, especially considering that we have everything we could possibly want. We’re very fortunate, we have money, we never discuss any little flings we might have, we never have jealous rages. Besides, there are millions of children in the world starving to death, there are wars, diseases, hurricanes, tragedies happening every second. So what can I possibly have to complain about?”

“You have been drinking. Look, I promise, we’ll talk tomorrow, but please, come to bed now, I’m tired.”

“All right, we’ll talk tomorrow, And if my soul, which is standing at the door, does decide to leave, I doubt it will affect our lives very much.”

“Your soul won’t leave.”

“You used to know my soul very well, but you haven’t spoken to it for years, you don’t know how much it has changed, how desperately it is begging you to listen.”

“If your soul has changed much, how come you’re the same?”

“Out of cowardice. Because I genuinely think that tomorrow we will talk. Because of everything we’ve built together and which I don’t want to see destroyed. Or for that worst of all possible reasons, because I’ve simply given up.”

“That’s just what you’ve been accusing me of doing.”

“You’re right. I looked at you, thinking it was you I was looking at, but the truth is I was looking at myself. Tonight I’m going to pray with all my might and all my faith and ask God not to let me spend the rest of my days like this.”


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