Book Review: The Fall by Albert Camus

There’s a lot to unpack in this book.

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Ooh, that was interesting.

About the Book

Title: The Fall

Author: Albert Camus

Published: 1956

Series: (standalone)

Genre: classics, literature

My Rating: 4/5 stars

The Premise

Synopsis (from Goodreads) (truncated):

“Jean-Baptiste Clamence is a soul in turmoil. Over several drunken nights in an Amsterdam bar, he regales a chance acquaintance with his story. From this successful former lawyer and seemingly model citizen a compelling, self-loathing catalogue of guilt, hypocrisy and alienation pours forth.”

My Thoughts

The Fall is written in a unique style of prose, a long monologue in first person, addressing the reader directly, as if you are walking alongside Clamence as he details his confession. He’s a former lawyer who has fallen from grace (hence the title) and now spends all of his time hanging out in a bar in Amsterdam.

As he speaks, he peels back the layers of his character to reveal his most secretive and base motivations. No, he’s not a virtuous person, not really, as his good reputation was kept up out of vanity. What he really wanted the entire time was to be admired– to be on a pedestal above everyone else. He wanted to dominate. He wanted to be viewed as the best, but the hypocrisy was too much, and he became aware of the everpresent judgement of the world.

As much consideration as he took to his appearance, he nevertheless realized that he would never escape being judged in the eyes of others. And he realizes that in order to still have the upper hand, you must judge yourself first.

No one is innocent, but everyone is a judge. And he invites you, the reader to judge him– and to judge yourself.

There’s a lot to unpack in this book: the inevitable human need for exceptionalism and self-absolution, the desire for superiority, performative virtue, some ideal to motivate and to devote yourself to throughout the nebulousness of life. I think I will be contemplating it for some time.

“Your success and happiness are forgiven you only if you generously consent to share them. But to be happy it is essential not to be too concerned with others. Consequently, there is no escape. Happy and judged, or absolved and wretched.”

Have you read The Fall by Albert Camus? If so, what did you think of it? Feel free to leave a comment!

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