Book Review: THE FALL, by Albert Camus

Oh no. I hate to admit this. But: I didn't get it. Even finishing THE FALL, I did not understand it, though there were lines in the book that gave me chills because they rang either perfectly true or chillingly contrary to the notions I've accepted, the things that I believe. It is especially bitter for me to confess that this thin little book swept clear over my comprehension because it was given to me at the recommendation of a friend who named it one of his very favorite books. A recommendation like that always gives me extra incentive to read a book closely, especially when it comes from somebody who has rarely failed in the area of excellent recommendations, but in this case, I don't know what to think except that this friend is possibly much smarter than I am.

THE FALL is written as a confession, as the dominent side of a dialogue between two characters: Jean-Baptiste Clamence, the narrator, a lawyer who once practiced in Paris, initiates a conversation with an unnamed man he encounters in a seedy bar in Amsterdam (the bar is called, oddly, Mexico City), and the conversation resumes over the course of several days, all told solely through Clamence's voice. No description, no opinion, no movement or narrative comes into the book save through Clamence's observation. Even the gaps in which the second man speaks are filled with Clamence repeating or responding to the man's expression.

By the end of the book, I took to reading out loud just so I could concentrate on the big ideas and, yes, big words, because I found the book getting further and further away from me. (This got a laugh out of my husband, who came home once or twice to find me curled up on the couch, reading Camus aloud to the cats.) I think I will have to reread The Stranger, wait a few years until I'm (hopefully) smarter, and try THE FALL again.


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