Elegantly styled, Camus' profoundly disturbing novel of a Parisian lawyer's confessions is a searing study of modern amorality.
The book is told in the form of a monologue by Clamence, but Camus loads it with plenty of imagery - conveying the atmosphere both of Amsterdam and of Paris. Clamence takes his acquaintance back to the time when he was a successful lawyer, then tells of his growing guilt at his self-indulgent philanthropy. Thereafter, there's a decline into moral impotence and a rejection of social and moral norms as he views his life and actions as essentially meaningless.
Much of this is pretty deep stuff, and I thought that I could give "The Fall" a second and third reading and still get a lot out of it. What was Camus's message in the novel? Well, it might be a savage critique of the veneer of altruism beneath which the wealthy operate - indeed does social snobbery rather than genuine concern truly underpin their acts of charity? Yet I felt that Camus balked at Clamence's nihilism because it was too destructive of the self and of others. Perhaps he thought that greater honesty and realism need to be tempered by/encouraged by greater humanity. Each reader will have their own take. But at least this fine book has value precisely because it provokes such thoughts.
As the title indicates, this books plays off of Christian themes heavily. The very idea of "the fall" is a fundamentally Christian notion of lost innocence (which is very much at the heart of this work); "Jean-Baptiste" - "John [the] Baptist" in English - describes himself as a type of prophet crying in the wilderness but refusing to come forth; the bar he frequents is described as a church (and one could argue that, by extension, his life in the bar is something of a participation in an inverted communion); entire discussions about redemption, forgiveness, and repentance fill the pages of this work.
Despite all of its religious imagery and imagination, however, it is a work that is completely devoid of any notions of real redemption, forgiveness or love. Clamence's/Camus' view is basically that this world is, indeed, fallen but that there is nothing else.
It is interesting that an entire discussion about the death of God takes place within this book. As Camus - like Nietzsche before him - notes, without God all meaning and transcendence is lost. The picture Camus paints of such a world is indeed compelling if God is dead; as Clamence says - tragically - at the end of the book, he would permit himself everything all over again but without laughter the next time.Read more ›