Adultery (2014) and the Spy (2016)

In 2014 the first English version of Coelho’s book “Adultery” was published. Adultery (Coelho, 2014e) describes the emic insight of a woman in her 30s who is happily married, who has two children, and is working as a successful journalist. According to her own thoughts, ideas and feelings she should be happy. However, the book describes the journalist’s inner despair, as well as her deep-rooted boredom and frustration (Coelho, 2014e, p. 2): “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.”

The main character of the book meets a former boyfriend from school who has in the meantime become a famous politician. She gets involved in an affair, but is still torn between her new desire for her ex-boyfriend and her feelings of meaninglessness and depression. She finally opens up to her husband about her frustration who tries to help her to cope and overcome the feeling of loneliness and depression. In the end, she stays with her family and starts a new life by embracing each and every day as a new adventure.

“Adultery” is a novel about happiness and lost potential, but it is also about the meaningfulness of life. At the same time, the author comes back to the question of how it is to live a life dream and about love that heals (Coelho, 2014e, p. 121). Generally spoken, the story refers to the societal problems of the upper class in Switzerland with regard to mental health problems of depression, boredom and frustration, as well as loneliness and emptiness. However, in the end, the lesson is hardly new (McAlpin, 2014), namely that love and faith can help to overcome a life crisis.

The book has been criticised particularly for its incorrect descriptions of the political system in Switzerland (Ackermann, 2014), the uninteresting story, the flat and cliched language (Morrison, 2014) and the author’s misunderstanding of the Swiss culture. Paulo Coelho reacted on Twitter and showed his anger about the attacks and reactions in Swiss and international newspapers (Ackermann, 2014).

The book “The Spy” (2016) reconstructs the life of the Mata Hari, a famous dancer and celebrated woman. Again, Coelho choses a female main character to explore her life story as a celebrity and a women who has been accused of espionage. The book was strongly criticised with regard to Coelho’s view on her life in symplistic ways and along simple divisions of the world into black and white (Bayard, 2016).

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