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The Fall by Albert Camus
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The Fall (1956)

by Albert Camus

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IRL I would have ignored the narrator after about two minutes. ( )
  michaeljoyce | Dec 4, 2017 |

“One plays at being immortal and after a few weeks one doesn't even know whether or not one can hang on till the next day.”
― Albert Camus, The Fall

“A single sentence will suffice for modern man: he fornicated and read the newspapers.” So pronounces Jean-Baptiste Clamence, narrator of Albert Camus’s short novel during the first evening of a monologue he delivers to a stranger over drinks at a shabby Amsterdam watering hole. Then, during the course of several evenings, the narrator continues his musings uninterrupted; yes, that’s right, completely uninterrupted, since his interlocutor says not a word. At one point Clamence states, “Alcohol and women provided me, I admit, the only solace of which I was worthy.” Clamence, judge-penitent as he calls himself, speaks thusly because he has passed judgment upon himself and his life. His verdict: guilty on all counts.

And my personal reaction to Clamence’s monologue? Let me start with a quote from Carl Jung: “I have frequently seen people become neurotic when they content themselves with inadequate or wrong answers to the questions of life. They seek position, marriage, reputation, outward success of money, and remain unhappy and neurotic even when they have attained what they were seeking. Such people are usually confined within too narrow a spiritual horizon.” Camus gives us a searing portrayal of a modern man who is the embodiment of spiritual poverty – morose, alienated, isolated, empty.

I would think Greco-Roman philosophers like Cicero, Seneca, Epictetus, or Marcus Aurelius would challenge Clamence in his clams to know life: “I never had to learn how to live. In that regard, I already knew everything at birth.”. Likewise, the wisdom masters from the enlightenment tradition –- such as Nagarjuna, Bodhidharma and Milarepa -- would have little patience listening to a monologue delivered by a smellfungus and know-it-all black bile stinker.

I completed my reading of the novel, a slow, careful reading as is deserving of Camus. The Fall is indeed a masterpiece of concision and insight into the plight of modern human experience.

Here is a quote from the Wikipedia review: “Clamence, through his confession, sits in permanent judgment of himself and others, spending his time persuading those around him of their own unconditional guilt.”

Would you be persuaded?


( )
1 vote GlennRussell | Feb 16, 2017 |
Wow!

Camus was a master at writing the powerful book. “The Fall” is an easy book to read in that it is short and conversational, but it forces the reader to think, which can be exhausting. It forces one to think about oneself, one’s self-image and one’s behaviour to others.

The technique used for writing the book is giving one side of a conversation between the main character and his chosen interlocutor. Mohsin Hamid used this approach to great effect in his book, “The Reluctant Fundamentalist”.

Camus’s story is a real ripping away of the masks people wear and is a fundamental questioning of the real reasons behind why people do what they do and say what they say. A key element of Camus’s argument, or should I say, the argument of his character, is paradox. He questions why people do good things: is it because they want to make the world better for others or because they want to feel good about themselves and appear to morally soar above their peers? It is the old chestnut of all charity being selfish because it is ultimately self-serving.

This story tells of the success and decline of a high flying lawyer in Paris, full of self-confidence, a master of his own destiny, who has a momentary doubt about himself. This momentary doubt, this sudden crisis of confidence, plays on his mind. It grows. It takes over his life. “The Fall” leads the reader to the discovery of these facts through the conversation in which the protagonist “confesses” his weaknesses and flaws, and in which he justifies his views and turns the tables on every member of the human race.

Having reached the end of the book I have to recover my breath. I have underlined more quotes and comments in this book per page than in any other book I can think of, but rather than sharing these quotes and ideas here I am inclined to say, “Read the book. Enjoy the quotes in their natural surroundings.”

“The Fall” is a worthwhile read and I think it is a book that everyone will get something from. Whether you agree with the protagonist’s views or not, it will help you think about life and put things in perspective. ( )
1 vote pgmcc | Nov 25, 2016 |
Jean-Baptiste Clamence would be your worst nightmare to happen upon if you were attempting to have a quiet drink in a bar. He commences to tell you the details from every moment of his past life and goes on for five evenings! Really, I wonder what sort of a man it was who showed up on the second night to hear more. It would take a lot of gin to make me expose myself to that.

That being said, I read through the whole thing in what amounted to about five nights! With mostly no gin. So, what made me continue to show up? It was the insight into human motivations, the mirror for examination, and the fact that Camus is an author who is a stretch for me, so I wanted to know. Having read this at the same time I was reading The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis, I was amazed at how the two tales dovetailed to give the complete story. Reading this is like reading the success story for the demons. I just realized that both tales are written in second person, although Lewis' is in the form of correspondence so you don't get the whole "self-obsessed monologue conversation" thing. ( )
2 vote MrsLee | Nov 7, 2016 |
This is a philosophically important work of fiction, for the modern ethos which exists today, especially in American academia.

Modern academia rests all of its authority upon the unchallenged theory of Deconstruction. Deconstruction is a French epistemological attack upon traditional metaphysics popularized by J. Derrida. Derrida finished his academic career at University of California, Irvine. Most of his important works had already been published before he took up his post there.

The Fall (c1956), can be seen as the absurdist basis for current day deconstructive analysis. This is my conclusion about its place in comparative world literature.

The novel's main character and narrator is Parisan Jean-Baptiste Clamence now living in Amsterdam, after having done some globe trotting.
The book is categorized as a novel but it more of an essay or novella (150 pp). No wasted words but is a hymn to the Jean-Baptiste himself and his mission to convolute readers into being persuaded of his inward journey toward truth or the absence of truth.
Jean-Baptiste is John the Baptist in English and Clamence will claim the title 'prophet' for himself and will offer Jesus as a kind, lovable man but not God incarnate.
Camus' narrator has discovered an empty feeling of disconectedness within himself and tries various emotional tests to see if it can be excised from his daily living condition. He feels that this empty void will never go away and he must, through years of introspection, deal with it as his life's mission.
His conclusion is that to assuage his feelings of unoriginated guilt (not a Catholic nor Jewish fall from Grace) he must reverse the logic and attribute guilt to everyone equally even if they feel they have no reason to find themselves blameworthy. Jean-Baptiste says that Jesus knew himself to be guilty of his death sentence due to the martyrdom of the Holy Innocents which Jean-Baptiste claims Jesus caused to occur.
Interesting that although Camus was Algerian, he does not include Mohammed in his reflections.
He calls this universalizing of human guilt his Copernican revolution. The title of the book comes from one is his many recollections of a woman throwing herself into Paris' River Seine. Jean-Baptiste knows something is amiss but ignores the drowning pleas coming from the water before silence overtakes the early night. 'The Fall' is a suicide which no one cares about and which doesn't matter anyway. This is the philosophy of life or death which Jean-Baptiste has come to see as the most convincing feeling to have about the world.
The interesting thing about the book, for me, is that it is all premised on the French cowardice during World War II. The narrator says this and takes glee that he is living in the former Jewish ghetto made vacant by the Nazi extermination policy.
If you know anything about World War II, you know that the French never fought (except while retreating during the Phony War) and surrendered their entire standing army to Nazi Germany. French surrender en mass had never happened before to such a large army in the history of warfare. Jean-Baptiste says that he was not a fighter in the army and was interned and refused to fight for the Resistence or Underground. The Resistence and Underground did heroic work during the World War II but it is little known to most people. Basically the philosophy of Camus is the philosophy of a coward in the face naked aggression.

No one will read this book today except maybe a few select Roman Catholics since The Fall is an attack on Catholic beliefs. It's worth reading, since it gives an indication for the absurdist foundations of current Deconstructive thought. This is my personal opinion since I haven't read all of Derrida's books to compare the two theorists on this topic.

Camus was the second youngest person to win the Noble Prize for Literature. This was his last book before he died in a car crash. ( )
  sacredheart25 | Aug 1, 2016 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Albert Camusprimary authorall editionscalculated
Buss, RobinTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Maclaine Pont, AnneTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
O'Brien, JustinTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Some were dreadfully insulted, and quite seriously, to have held up as a model such an immoral character as A Hero of Our Time; others shrewdly noticed that the author had portrayed himself and his acquaintances...A Hero of Our Time, gentlemen, is in fact a portrait but not of an individual; it is the aggregate of the vices of our whole generation intheir fullest expression. LERMONTOV
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May I, monsieur, offer my services without running the risk of intruding?
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0679720227, Paperback)

Elegantly styled, Camus' profoundly disturbing novel of a Parisian lawyer's confessions is a searing study of modern amorality.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:14:37 -0400)

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Elegantly styled, Camus' profoundly disturbing novel of a Parisian lawyer's confessions is a searing study of modern amorality.

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