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The Fall by Albert Camus
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The Fall (1956)

by Albert Camus

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English (49)  French (4)  Danish (2)  Dutch (1)  Spanish (1)  Portuguese (1)  All languages (58)
Showing 1-5 of 49 (next | show all)
A few years ago my wife and i were in the UK, in Reading, and we had went out for drink with her brother. A gentleman walked over and sat next to us and began unfolding his life story, one rife with accomplishment i.e. he had been kicked out of the French Foreign Legion for being too violent and then he had made millions speculating in global markets. Presently, he "was between things",as it were. He went on and on about the superiority of the German and Japanese people and why ego was all that mattered. This grew uncomfortable and polite asides weren't working. We finally left. I had a similar impression in finally reading The Fall.

Effective, yet I felt it was an essay as monologue and not a novel. It certainly must have been evocative at the time of its publication. ( )
  jonfaith | Feb 22, 2019 |

“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?


( )
  Glenn_Russell | Nov 13, 2018 |
This is the last of Camus' works completed before his death in 1960. First published in 1956, the work is presented as a monologue by Jean-Baptiste Clamence, a Parisian lawyer who has moved to Amsterdam to become a "judge-penitent". I will return to this term later. Clamence has become bitterly cynical about judges, law, and justice, and has taken to womanising, drinking, and generally driving himself into the ground through hard living. I've read other reviews suggesting the work is Clamence's "confession", for others it is his "self-accusation". The story (it is clearly a philosophical work, rather than a novella) incorporates the stolen panel "The Just Judges" of the Van Eyck painting, The Mythical Lamb (also known as the Ghent altarpiece). The panel was actually stolen in 1934 and is missing to this day. There are a few other historical references which I found fascinating, including Girolamo Savonarola (a Florentine precursor to the Reformation and mentioned in Machiavelli's The Prince); Bertrand du Guesclin (a Breton knight and French commander during the 100 Years War); Johannes Vermeer (Dutch painter famous for Girl with a Pearl Earring); and the "Little Ease" (1.2 metre square torture cell in the Tower of London's White Tower where one can neither stand nor lie down); Wagner's Tristan and Isolde (and an earlier reference to Iseult, an alternative name for Isolde in the Arthurian story); and François Achille Bazaine (who rose from the ranks under Louis-Philippe and later Napoleon III, and held every rank from Fusilier to Marshal of France).I was surprised by how others had interpreted the work. Scott Horton (2009) in Harper's Magazine Blog sees Clamence's fall as the fall of society after the Second World War, and draws parallels with the recent past. He also suggests that the The Just Judges symbolises that while the panel is fake, there is an original, and we can live in hope that the just judges will return some time in the future. I find it interesting that this echoes Girolamo Savonarola's prediction of a prophet from the north who would come to remove the corruption of the church. Tony Judt (1994) in the New York Review of Books goes so far as to say that Camus was already in decline before his death, and that he was only "moderately gifted" at philosophy. (Judt also wrote that The Myth of Sisyphus "has not worn well".) I am inclined to make my own interpretation of the work, based on a few things that others (as far as I know) have not mentioned. First, Clamence mentions frequently how he despises the dark, underground, and cramped spaces (like the "little ease") and prefers the heights and mountain-tops. Maybe his work as a lawyer frustrates his desire to be a philosopher? Second, there are several references to the problems with altruism. For example (p. 8): ...he wrote over the door of his house: 'Wherever you come from welcome and enter'. And who do you suppose welcomed his invitation? Why, militiamen, who marched in, made themselves at home and disembowelled him.And (p. 72):Too many people have decided to do without generosity in practising charity.From these, I see the work is much more about the individual. Third, the work addresses the challenge of living a virtuous life. Virtues and vices make numerous appearances, including jealousy (p. 66), cowardice (p. 34), shrinking from responsibility (p. 24), being so self-centred as to not take anyone else seriously (p. 54), and a raft of other issues that resonate with me. For example (p. 52):...we would like at the same time to be no longer guilty and not to make the effort to purify ourselves. Not enough cynicism, not enough virtue.I could go on. For me, the work addresses all of the issues of the self-centred person coming to terms with self-respect, and dealing with the guilt and shame that replays itself in the mind. In particular (p. 70): Don't wait for the Last Judgement. It takes place every day.And avoiding self-reflection has its own price (p. 50):I received all the wounds at once and lost my strength at a single blow. Then the whole universe began to laugh around me. I have written previously about self-respect and how we suffer what Joan Didion referred to as our own home movie, but Clamence refers to as a film (p. 50):I ran this little film a hundred times, with odd variations, in my imagination. But it was too late and for a few days I would suffer from a feeling of bitter resentment.Clearly, Clamence is not happy with his past choices and has no idea of his purpose in life. In assessing his life (he is aged 40 by this time), he laments (p. 55): I measured the years that separated me from my end. I looked out at examples of men of my age who were dead already. And I was tormented by the idea that I might not have time to accomplish my task. What task? I don't know.All Clamence can do is judge himself (the judge-penitent) (p. 53):Some mornings, I would conduct my trial to the very end and reach the conclusion that what I excelled in above all was contempt.Clamence is not free, but wishes to be so (p. 58):I wanted to break up the mannequin I presented to the world wherever I went, and lay open to scrutiny what was in its belly.For me, the fall is not about the fall of society or humankind, but the inevitable residue that greets he who does not learn to live (p. 90):These nights, or rather these mornings, because the fall occurs at dawn, I go out and walk briskly along the canals. Camus presents to us, through Clamence, what it is like to live without philosophy, what it is like to live without self-respect (p. 90):Yes, we've lost the light, the mornings, the holy innocence of the man who forgives himself.Clamence is happy to die, not because of some reconciliation of the self, but because he knows himself, yet is incapable of conquering himself. ( )
1 vote madepercy | Oct 10, 2018 |
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 |
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» Add other authors (30 possible)

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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