The Adulterous Woman (Albert Camus)

Photo credit:  Lotus Carroll (Flickr)
Photo credit: Lotus Carroll (Flickr)

The preacher in church today told this story by Albert Camus – The Adulterous Woman.

It’s a really short but one of the most impactful stories I’ve ever read. It’s about a wife accompanying her businessman husband on a trip to Algeria. Janine doesn’t have a good relationship with Marcel and describes him as old, inert, motionless. Unsuitable for him really in all aspects. She reminiscences about her younger days.

On the bus to the hotel, Janine notices a French soldier who seems to be attracted to her and she feels flattered. She feels that hasn’t lost it yet. However, the soldier walks away later without acknowledging her at all.

The couple go to their hotel room and it’s cold. They then head to a nice spot after Janine’s persuasion and there she feels a great sense of release looking at the nomads and the sky and the wide desert horizon. But Marcel just wants to get away from the cold.

Later that night, Janine waits till her husband is asleep and she sneaks out once more to the same place earlier. She feels really good again (Camus describes it really well here unlike me) and ends up lying on her back under the stars moaning.

She returns to her room and Marcel wakes up. Janine starts to weep uncontrollably. Camus then ends with the phrase “he looked at her without understanding” and she replies “It’s nothing.”

Interestingly, Janine did not commit any physical adultery but rather an “adultery” with nature. I’m not a good literature type of guy so I can’t read between the lines a lot!

The preacher concluded that Janine was facing loneliness. Loneliness is a terrible thing when what you thought would make you happy, in the end lets you down.

This story is powerful. It tells us that when people are hurting, it’s easy to not notice them. It’s easy to judge them. When they say “It’s nothing”, let’s hold off all judgement. Let’s go beneath the surface with love and tenderness.

I believe the only cure for loneliness is the Lord Jesus and it’s our job to direct the hurting, the lonely to Him. Since He was hurt and lonely at a point in time, Jesus understands hurting hearts.

He will not crush the weakest reed or put out a flickering candle. He will bring justice to all who have been wronged.

Isaiah 42:3 (NLT)

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