1 Albert Camus’ short story “La femme adultère” and Richard Ford’s novella “Abyss” do not immediately invite comparison: Camus’ story traces a middle-aged woman’s growing awareness of the price she has paid for choosing and remaining in a marriage founded on mutual need rather than love, while Ford’s explores the calamitous consequences suffered by protagonists whose sexual affair leads them to betray their spouses and the values and important meanings of their lives.
In the comparative analysis to follow, the emphasis will indeed fall on literary motifs and not on literary reception: Richard Ford has, of course, read Camus, but had not read “La femme adultère” when he wrote “Abyss.”  2 The symmetry between the stories can best be appreciated initially by an overview of their shared structure and emplotment: a woman and a man in intimate relation to each other leave their familiar urban environment and travel together into the desert.
There, they are exposed to a world that is unfamiliar in both its physical and human aspects, eliciting radically different responses from the female and male protagonists.
The male characters are variously impatient with, dismissive of and hostile to the physical and cultural otherness of the desert world, while both female protagonists are deeply affected by their desert experiences, culminating in both cases in a spiritual transformation – fully realised in one protagonist and developing in the other before being brutally terminated.
3 The basic narrative structure of Camus’ story is adequately captured by this summary, as is the essence and intention of this story about a woman whose senseofherselfandherlifearetransformedbyherexperience inthe enigmatic and mysterious world of the desert.
This plot summary, however, does not adequately convey the thrust of “Abyss”; the journey to and experience of the desert in Ford’s story are elements of a narrative whose greater intention is to offer a modern parable on the inescapable causal relation between acts and consequences in the moral context of infidelity.
Structurally, both narratives, in the manner in which their teleological energies are directed towards their respective climaxes, imitate their central thematic metaphor, that of the journey.In Camus’ story this delimitation and focus are transparent, and are employed to emphasise the story’s overarching narrative theme: “La femme adultère” moves Janine through the requisite stages of her journey so as to deliver her to her epiphanic moment of transformation, leaving one with the sense of a tightly knit and goal-oriented emplotment.Ford’s story, however, being a novella, is much longer and thematically more expansive, although no less determined to transport its protagonists to their fate.But it accords itself the means to do so in more leisurely fashion, thus allowing itself both a greater breadth and depth of thematic exploration, and the textual space to present the perspective of both the male and female protagonist. 4 Indeed, it is the different narrative intentions and focus that render the congruence of the stories all the more intriguing.One may reasonably speculate, on the evidence of their texts, that Camus and Ford set out to write stories that were not destined to be thematically related, yet both writers found themselves drawing upon similar and familiar literary motifs, to a degree that engenders a mutually reinforcing thematic narrative paradigm.