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Lust in Translation: Infidelity from Tokyo to Tennessee    by Pamela Druckerman order for
Lust in Translation
by Pamela Druckerman
Order:  USA  Can
Penguin, 2008 (2007)
Hardcover, Softcover

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* *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

The author, a former foreign correspondent for the Wall Street Journal, who now lives in Paris, 'visited two dozen cities in ten countries', in order to research attitudes to infidelity around the world. She also read advice columns and interviewed historicans, psychologists and sexologists. The result of her investigation, Lust in Translation: Infidelity from Tokyo to Tennessee, makes it clear that cultural differences in attitudes to adultery are indeed often lost in translation.

And though Americans have someone on the side, while Swedes sneak to the left and Japanese go off the path, it's not just the slang that varies. Druckerman starts with her own homeland, America, which has an 'outsize preoccupation with monogamy' and has created an entire industry - which she calls 'the marriage-industrial complex' - to sell professional help to married couples trying to fix infidelity. In contrast to the American maxim that 'It's not about the sex, it's about the lying', the author tells us that discretion is 'the cornerstone of adultery' in France. In Russia, lies have been important to survival for so long that we're told people are used to cheating on each other.

Moving on to Japan, Druckerman finds a common syndrome of sexless marriage and salarymen who 'have one of the best opportunity structures for affairs' anywhere. There, it seems a major attraction is the lack of responsibity in the adulterous relationship. In 'South Africa, cheating comes with a higher price tag than in even the fanciest Japanese sex club. Because of AIDS, the cost of cheating is often death.' Why then is it still so common? Druckerman speculates on 'how important romantic relationships are in a place where ... life is pretty bleak.' She also looks into adultery in the world of ultra-orthodox Jews, in a context of legal polygamy amongst Muslims in Indonesia, and in modern China where 'Money has created new opportunities for cheating'.

In her Conclusion, Pamela Druckerman tells us that 'some of the stereotypes Americans hold about foreigners are wildly outdated' - as also are false notions they cling to about themselves. Apparently people in wealthy countries don't actually stray very much these days, but attitudes vary greatly - 'Adultery brings heartache everywhere, but context and expectations determine the strength of the heartache.' Read and enjoy Lust in Translation as much for its general exploration of cultural and attitudinal differences around the world as for its often amusing perspectives on global infidelity.

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