The Fall

The Fall - Justin O'Brien, Albert Camus The Fall is an appropriately titled book in which we meet the personification of what Camus called "The Absurd Man". He did not use this term to refer to someone who was merely ridiculous. The Absurd Man is one who has come to realize the absurdity of life, the resulting despair, yet chooses to live and try to find dignity in what life there is. This is, of course, Camus' worldview and as such is projected into all of his fiction. This may be, however, the clearest example of his worldview I have yet read.The protagonist is a lawyer, and the story is his autobiography, told in the first person to the reader. From him, we learn that he seemed to live a charmed life, possessing those things which many deem to be truly important in life; good looks, good health, success in his work, the esteem of his colleagues and clients, success in his romantic pursuits, and wealth. He appeared to others to be generous, courteous, and noble, frequently taking up the cause of the poor, going to great lengths to help the infirm, and so on. All of these things gave him great self satisfaction. This is, so to speak, his state of grace, his garden of Eden. Of course, there must be a fall.Through a series of seemingly insignificant circumstances, the lawyer, Jean-Baptiste Clemence, realizes that his life may not be as idyllic as he thought. His generosity, his concern for the poor and infirm, his nobility, all of his most laudable character traits are in fact nothing more than an attempt to call attention to himself. There is nothing genuine behind his actions. Clemence realizes that others have seen through him, and thus the good esteem he thought he enjoyed does not really exist. He hears the world laughing at him and his shallow egotism. There is a moment when, through a physical fall, he has an opportunity to redeem himself, but he fails to act. His failure is the catalyst for deep self examination, and he sees the depth of his self deception. Clemence then experiences a psychological and spiritual fall from his state of grace. His expulsion from the garden takes the form of a descent into hedonism, self hatred, even a form of crime. Ultimately he finds an equilibrium of sorts in Camus' absurdity, and it is there that the book leaves him. He is not the Nietzschean superman, yet his full awareness of the absurdity of reality elevates him, in a sense, above his fellow men, such that he is in a position to truly judge himself and others.The Fall is dark and hopeless. In some ways, it parallels the Biblical book of Ecclesiastes, in which the author sees vanity all around him, and can find true satisfaction in nothing that is apart from God. Clemence, though, has no God, thus there is no hope for him, no satisfaction. He is not an appealing figure; he is the logical conclusion of Camus' thought, and Camus is to be commended for not compromising his integrity in order to manufacture a happy ending. For Camus, there is none. Because it is well written, unwavering to the author's convictions, and engrossing, the book deserves high praise. As stated elsewhere, though, the presuppositional flaws compromise its excellence, resulting in a three-star rating.