Arnon Grunberg

Without punishment

To find out what the danger is

Yesterday at a reception for the PEN Festival I entered a discussion about unfaithful women in literature and why these women never escape their punishment. Quite the opposite, the lesson is that the unfaithful woman will be punished horrendously.
(In my essay on monogamy, written under the name Marek van der Jagt, I touched on this subject as well.)
I could not think of a novel where infidelity makes the woman happier or at least where the unfaithful woman goes unpunished.
Back home I looked up this aphorism by Adam Phillips: “People have relationships not because they want to feel safe – though they often think they do – but because they want to find out what the danger is. This is where infidelity can let people down.” But bare in mind: that infidelity can let you down when you are looking for danger is not necessarily a punishment.