Published:  08:52 AM, 11 June 2024

Adultery: A Woman's Journey from Sin to Atonement

Adultery: A Woman's Journey from Sin to Atonement
Paulo Coelho is currently the best-known Brazilian novelist. His novels The Alchemist, The Fifth Mountain, Eleven Minutes, Veronika Decides to Die, Brida have ornamented his profile with eminence and glory. Some of his non-fictional books are highly acclaimed too like Confessions of a Pilgrim and Manual of the Warrior of Light. This illustrious author came up with a catchy tale of despair, lust and sin in 2014 that sparked off  a considerable degree of sensation among readers and critics in the wake of its publication. The novel's title is Adultery which is suggestive enough to help readers prognosticate its thematic points. Linda, the Swiss narrator of this novel introduces herself as a woman who apparently seems complacent with everything she possesses. In her 30s, Linda has quite a well-off husband who loves her. She has two children and holds quite a good job at one of the most popular newspapers of Geneva. However, some words by Linda in this novel sound rather flippant when she confesses, "I arouse desire in men and envy in other women." It should be noted that some novels by Paulo Coelho examine different aspects of lust, sex and other carnal appeals inherent in human beings and this distinctive dimension is vividly found in Adultery too.

Despite all the wealth and good fortune around her, Linda feels tied down in her invariable daily chores, immersed in a life fully mechanized. She says to herself, "In the safest country in the world since I married … time has stopped." She further adds to ignite speculation in the minds of readers, "Who haven't felt the urge to drop everything and go in search of their dream?" Linda, as transpires from these quoted lines, is an envoy of all the men and women of the current impassive world whose lives have been enclosed by depression and monotony.

Linda takes interviews of different people—businessmen, writers, actors and so on and while figuring out their visions of life, she compares her own life story to the variegated facts expressed by those who speak to her of their own pleasures and agonies.

Linda explored the stolidity of her life when she heard one line told by a writer during an interview, "I haven't the slightest interest in being happy. I prefer to live life passionately, which is dangerous because you never know what might happen next." This remark by the writer etched a deep mark on Linda's mind and she became frantic to make her life a blithe one by seeking passion, amusement and mirth. Her quest for these things at one point challenged the moral principles of her married life, but she was too carried away to look back on morality.

Linda's grief at the bleakness of her glittering but vapid life is exposed through the following line extracted from the novel, "And yet, every morning, when I open my eyes to this ideal world that everyone dreams of having but few achieve, I know the day will be a disaster." The words "this ideal world" sounds ironical in this context as it is something we all crave for but very few of us can get hold of it.

Linda talks to a politician in one interview who turns out to be her school friend Jacob. That man, as found by Linda during the interview, is totally focused on himself. All his words are unexceptionally linked with his career. But as at one segment of the conversation they recall their school-time hookups, their professional dissimulations evaporate and they kiss each other like a pair of lovers locked in full-on romance. This unforeseen event causes a dichotomously blended feeling of guilt, enchantment and piquancy in Linda's thinking stream. 

This occurrence appears to Linda like a break from her tedious marital life. She becomes more and more inclined towards Jacob even though Jacob does not always reciprocate the same emotions. Linda identifies Jacob's wife Marianne as the only obstacle for a full-fledged affair between her and Jacob. She runs out of her wits so much that she conspires to get Marianne jeopardized by planting illegal narcotics inside Marianne's office.

Linda's predicament underlines the frequent instances of dissolved relationships, troubled marriages and gloomy conjugal lives that prevail all around us in today's world. She reminds us of Rosy in R.K. Narayan's masterpiece The Guide, Jennifer Parker and Lara Cameron in Sidney Sheldon's novels Rage of Angels and The Stars Shine Down respectively. 

Paulo Coelho imparts a literary gloss to Adultery by making Linda comparable to some classic literary characters and thus allowing readers to trace her behavioral homologies in women like Sophocles's Electra and Gauri in Jhumpa Lahiri's latest novel The Lowland.

Towards the closure of the novel, Linda realizes that what she is doing is indicative of an imbalanced psychological state. She visits psychiatrists and tells them about the tempestuous phase she is going through and seeks remedies for her disoriented mental riff which is how the author reopens to her the gateway to light and sanctity.

Ananda Rahman is a freelancer
and a columnist.

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