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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Book Review: Manuscript Found In Accra

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Set in 1099, in Jerusalem, on the eve of an invasion, a man known as the Copt surfaces and provides hope and counsel to the city’s cowering masses.

Paulo Coelho’s Manuscript Found In Accra is a revelation It’s didactic, flowery prose had a poetic quality about it. It read like a secret gospel–the good news according to the Copt. It felt like I was reading something arcane; a peak into the forbidden teachings of a long forgotten philosopher.

Coelho’s novel is structured this way–perhaps as a means to an end, to make it appear like scripture, like sacred text. Coelho forewent of narrative conventions and presented, in place of any discernible dialogue, the observations and uninhibited insights of a man known only as the Copt.

The Copt’s staggering, book length monologue talked largely about the human experience. It dealt with love, beauty, sex and a coterie of other subjects.

The Copt, the only character worth noting, was Christ-like, in fact he preached his Gospel of Love like Jesus did with his a thousand years before and like him, the people were eager to listen, they were drawn to ask, to divine the meaning of his words, and his parables.

Coelho’s Manuscript is a testament to the author’s gifts. This book was no easy feat. To devise an entire novel, rooted on the whims and folly of a singular character takes a lot of guts, and a lot of skill to pull off. It was an entertaining read. Highly recommended

5 stars!

Quotables:

  1. “In solitude, they will discover the love that might otherwise have arrived unnoticed. In solitude, they will understand and respect the love that left them. In solitude, they will be able to decide whether it is worth asking that lost love to come back or if they should simply let it go and set off along a new path. In solitude, they will learn that saying no does not always show a lack of generosity, and that saying yes is not always a virtue.”
  2. “We are used to thinking that what we give is the same as what we receive, but people who love expecting to be loved in return are wasting their time. Love is an act of faith, not an exchange…Life is too short for us to keep important words like ‘I love you’ locked in our hearts. But do not always expect to hear the same words back. We love because we need to love. Otherwise, love loses all meaning and the sun ceases to shine.”
  3. “Elegance is achieved when, having discarded all superfluous things, we discover simplicity and concentration. The simpler the pose, the better; the more sober, the more beautiful”