Are you ever listening to a friend and you feel like they’ve talked for ages without stopping? Our main character is like that, times ten, with lots of existentialism, realism, and modernism mixed in.
In keeping with my theme of transparency, I must admit that I never read novels like Camus’ The Fall. As I mentioned, this story is full of existentialism and realism, neither of which is my favorite literary movement. In school I read some, Middlemarch, Mrs. Dalloway, and a bit of Ezra Pound’s work, but I almost never pick it up just for fun. Part of it is because I find it annoying when an entire novel is spent on the unanswerable questions of the human condition, and part of it is because when I put down a book, I want to feel better not worse. However if you enjoy spending your free time contemplating man’s plight you’re sure to love Camus’ book.
“Maybe we don’t love life enough? Have you not noticed that death alone awakes our feelings?” p. 32
That does not mean that I can’t appreciate those genres for their genius, it just means I wouldn’t personally choose them as a leisurely pursuit.
Except I did this time. I saw it on a list of “must reads” and figured I ought to spice things up.
Let’s start with a little plot summery; homeboy goes into a bar and meets Jean-Baptiste Clamence. Clamence then speaks on his entire life, including his work, his personality, his nature, his joys and shames, why he quit his work, and ties it all in to the human experience. Then he talks some more about how he now spends his days making people feel guilty and the novel is finished. This is a gross simplification, it discounts the substance that occurs in the conversation, but the plot is a little hard to explain when the entire book is actually one monologue.
People hasten to judge in order not to be judged themselves. What do you expect?” p. 80
Taking that into consideration, this was incredibly impressive. The whole thing is one man talking, no actions or given descriptions, but we can still interpenetrate movements and vividly imagine the stories shared with us. There are some parts that were a little hard to understand but maybe that was just part of the realism bit; I imagine listening to one man speak for several days without stopping would be confusing.
But truth, cher mi, is a colossal bore.” p. 101
So my issue with this novel isn’t the book itself, it’s the idea of it. I don’t want to finish a book and feel hopelessness, confusion, and what could almost be called despair. One of the reasons I’ve included quotes in this review is because I wanted to give a few pieces of evidence as to why I reacted this way.
I’ve heard it argued that a work that can invoke those emotions is beautiful because it reflects real life but I think that’s only partially correct. Life can seem hopeless and confusing, but it’s also got a lot of good. And not matter what, eventually the sun rises and things get better.
Don’t they all have the same meaning? p. 119
I’m a happy ending, or at least hopeful ending, kind of person. However, this book does a great job revealing all the gritty parts of human nature and does so skillfully, so it’s certainly still worth the read.