Doubts, despair, and falling in place
With his 16th major book, Paulo Coelho continues to enthrall readers despite there being no surprises about his manner of story-telling. The title suggests it all, Adultery. But this story of Linda is not one about the crude act of adultery, but about the whys, and hows, and what-ifs around it.
Linda is a successful journalist in her thirty’s, has two lovely children, a boy and a girl, a wonderful husband who loves her no end and is rich enough to never have Linda have to work at all. They have a quiet and peaceful life in the city of Geneva. Despite it all, what makes Linda question her existence and have doubts about herself is what she intends to figure out through
random acts of secret eccentricity, and serendipity.
A chance encounter with her high-school boyfriend is a release from this air-tight stillness, until she realises this is only for the time being, and essentially no solution to what’s gnawing at her. This is her private <g data-gr-id="54">secrete</g> that she lets devour her while struggling to set things right.
Curiously, the problem is not the presence of an outwardly untoward situation. The problem is that things are too normal and regular and set right for her to feel the dynamic flow of life. Linda’s problem is everyone’s problem at some point of time. Even an eighty year old woman in her city protests against banning smoking in bars, and then there is Linda, feeling a complete lack of purpose in being secretive about her exclusive private life, and yet not being able to do anything otherwise. Professional assistance does not come in very handy for her.
There can be a thin line between a disease and a disorder. But Linda is just bored and fed up. And so, this tale tells about just how dangerous boredom could be. But she is not bored with her job, or her children, or her <g data-gr-id="117">arriage</g>. Nor is she bored with how her life is progressing because everyone can see it, she is <g data-gr-id="64">successful,</g> and charismatic, and a beautiful and desirable woman. But still she stays in <g data-gr-id="63">shower</g> for long and cries hard for no apparent reason. She makes sure not to turn her husband away more than two times in a row. And rolls up her car windows on her way to work and cries again.
Jacob is now a well-known politician who has a narcissistic and haughty wife who plays her part with him in a most detached and explicit manner. She is a professor and her intellectual arrogance is there in plenty. The apparent adult fantasy of both Jacob and Linda to escape into their high-school days of carefree merry-making is an illusion that Linda soon snaps out from. The uninhibited expressions of desperation for just life drive her to realise that Jacob can only withhold, suppress, and eventually just prolong her sufferance.
Adultery is not a story that could be completely put across in a line or a paragraph. This is a story that leads to adultery, as an escape and as a mirage of <g data-gr-id="77">meaning</g> of <g data-gr-id="78">life,</g> and transcending this enchanting delusion. Linda’s husband all along is a passive character who can be blamed for Linda’s condition. But as the novel progresses, we learn that he is a man with some deep understanding and <g data-gr-id="74">awareness,</g> and tremendous composure. He takes his wife paragliding one day. Linda is scared of the activity and of the mere thought of it. This episode of adventure goes far beyond paragliding. For Linda, it is facing her fears, being receptive of the unexpected, and having faith. Her husband loves her immensely and lets her know in an intimate moment that his love is no shackle for her. If she wishes to leave she is free to do that as long as it makes her happy. This interaction gives Linda what she did not know was lacking in her life – a sense of meaning and purpose, in continuity.
Adultery is not always an act of the mighty devil inside a person. Often times it is just a cry out for something that is not yet known but the absence of which is haunting and devouring. It is not exclusive to the relationship of marriage but life in general. Infidelity is a symptom of a deeper issue. Adultery is not necessarily about character or the lack of it, but about a vacuum that one may seek to fill. This is not to justify it but to understand it. Life is sacred in all its aspects. And wading through the snarls of life, stumbling upon its meaning is the liberation we all seek without always knowing.