Adultery means indulging in a physical relationship with a person other than your spouse. However, In Albert Camus’ ‘The Adulterous Woman’, adultery is internal and consequence of a stagnant relationship.
The story unfolds Janine’s life events. During a road trip, Janine recalls her years of marriage to Marcel. She has a feeling of emptiness, causing her to question her existence and attachment to Marcel. She recalls her adolescent years and craves for freedom.
She presents a negative perception of Marcel being materialistic, primarily concerned with his job that keeps him too busy to pay attention to her. Yet, she does not want to leave him because he showers her with love and security. He is a reason for her to exist, yet she is not satisfied and is desperate for liberation. She wants to escape from the confines of her life.
The stare from the French soldier causes her to acknowledge her sexual desirability and erotic narcissism. She feels desirable in a mature way. At the fort, she acquires a broader perspective of the world. Alone at the fort, she senses freedom and takes absolute control of her woman power; she is aware of her feminism and has sensual thoughts. Under the vastness of the sky, she gets increasingly filled with excitement, and experiences pleasure.
The title of the story is ironic; no adultery takes place. Janine’s actions at the fort are her adultery - her transition from an existence for her husband to a part of the world. The ending scene raises question such as: What will become of Janine? Will she lead a normal life?
‘Spring in Fialta’ by Vladimir Nabokov presents a different scenario of adultery. The story touches upon the themes of unrequited love, lust and transience. Adultery in this story too results from a desire for more. We learn later how one-sided love leads to fatal circumstances.
Victor’s confrontation with Nina triggers his memoirs. Even after marriage, Victor and Nina harbor romantic feelings towards each other. By strange luck, they meet at the oddest places and reaffirm their passionate relationship.
Victor cannot find the right word for his relationship with Nina. He is confused; he meets her for brief periods then forgets about her. His desires are absurd; he questions fate the reason for these encounters and contemplates over the possibility of sharing his life with Nina. He has been stuck with her for 15 years; he cannot ignore her and is agonizingly obsessive about her.
Nina shares a casual relationship with Victor without thinking of the consequences. She is transient in the sense that she appears for only short periods, and then vanishes completely. She is permanently fixed in his mind. Her death proves her a real self, a living human being and a mortal.
The stories entail the idea that marriages are not enough to keep spouses happy, resulting in marital infidelity. Both Janine and Victor have much to look forward to with their family, yet they feel dissatisfied. The narrow view of life is probably reflective of the authors’ own pessimism towards existence - that everything is temporary and comes to a drastic end.