Reading Paulo Coelho: Adultery (Part 1)

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“Apathy. Pretending to be happy, pretending to be sad, pretending to have an orgasm, pretending to be having fun, pretending that you’ve slept well, pretending that you’re alive. Until there comes a point where you reach an imaginary red line and realize that if you cross it, there will be no turning back. Then you stop complaining, because complaining means that you are at least still battling something. You accept the vegetative state and try to conceal it from everyone. And that’s hard work. “

Apathy. Indifference. A woman on the edge. Coelho’s Adultery is riveting. It follows the adventures and indiscretions of a bored Swiss journalist, tired from sameness, who conducts an affair with the politician Jacob Konig (among others, or so implied)–as a means to escape the monotony of her married/professional life.

The book tackles its heady themes lightly–never taking itself too seriously. There’s a comic quality about the opening chapters; but in phases, it confronts its subject with a ferocity that is distinctly Coelho:

“After a certain age, we put on a mask of confidence and certainty. In time, that mask gets stuck to our face and we can’t remove it. 

As children, we learn that if we cry we’ll receive affection, that if we show we’re sad, we’ll be consoled. If we can’t get what we want with a smile, then we can surely do so with our tears.

But we no longer cry, except in the bathroom when no one is listening. Nor do we smile at anyone other than our children. We don’t show our feelings because people might think we’re vulnerable and take advantage of us.”

Sleep is the best remedy”

I am a quarter of the way in and already I’m drawn to Linda–the protagonist. Her nuances are relatable and any married woman can identify with the stultifying routine of Linda’s married life. Even I, a man, can empathize with Linda’s ennui on some level.

Her first encounter with Konig is portrayed so vividly, and explicitly, insomuch that the bit reads like erotica; like a scene from an Anne Rice novel only better and far superior.

At this point, the book dissects marriage as an institution. Coelho seems to imply that marriage is constricting, limiting and that it dulls the human experience. Marriage makes life colorless and repetitive–well of course this completely depends on perspective.

It’s too early to tell but the characters in the novel are so drawn, and so well-developed that you cannot help but feel for them, and their plight, no matter how small or superficial.

Stay tuned for part 2! 🙂

*bracelet by Call It Spring, shorts by Cotton on, jewelry by SilverWorks.

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