Book Review: The Fall by Albert Camus

I finished up The Fall by Albert Camus late last night, and so I just thought I'd do a quickie review of it while it's still fresh in my mind.  I ran off some of my major thoughts on Goodreads as soon as I finished it, and I'll expound on those thoughts here.

I picked this book up from a used book shop earlier this year, mostly because I was buying as many classics as I could, and also because I wanted to read Camus.  I knew Camus has a different set of beliefs than I do, and as I am a huge proponent of reading/learning about worldviews different/contrary to my own, I picked it up.

The school of thought Albert Camus is known for is called absurdism, and it is the belief that any attempt to determine the inherent meanings of anything, including human existence, are absurd because the qualities of information available to the human mind, and relationships within reality makes any certainty about such impossible.  It is a relativist theory, in which everything is relative and there are no absolutes.  The definition of absurdism, however, is self-refuting because it itself is an attempt to determine the inherent meanings of things – that nothing has any meaning.  Which, in effect, makes absurdism's claim absurd.  The theory explains itself away.

I researched Camus's beliefs before going into this book, and they were fairly apparent throughout.  There are lots of examples of relativism in this book.

Besides knowing the author's worldview going into this book, I didn't know much about it.  That said, it was different than what I expected.  It was quite a bit more philosophical/analytical than I was expecting, and it was kind of mind-blowy towards the end, in a way I'm not sure is good or bad yet.  Camus's critique of Christianity is that it is out-dated, a fairy tale, etc.  He never backs this claim up, but it is there.  In regard to his critiques of Christianity, I do want to note that I did feel challenged in some areas (this is what he thinks of Christians – is this what I look like, etc.).  Hint: that's the point of the whole book.  He does critique Religion more generally, and I agree with his criticisms.  (Religion here being separate from Christianity).  He criticizes Religious people for doing good as a way to justify themselves and to put God in their debt, if you will, so that He'll HAVE to bless them, etc.  Obviously, I disagree with him when he says that faith is dead, but I do agree with him when he criticizes Religious people for using their good deeds as a sort of power play.

Moving on, I found the writing pretty unremarkable.  It's dry and spare, witty at times and darkly ironic.  His writing style definitely matches the tone of his subject.  This book is written in an interesting narrative style.  The main character (the only character) Clamence, is in a conversation with a man he met in a bar (the reader) for the entirety of the book, and the expectation is that you, the reader, project yourself into the character he speaks to.  I found this style rather unnerving and startling at times and it kept me engaged for the most part.

Speaking of the main character, I found him despicable.  He's an ex-pat French lawyer living in Amsterdam and in order to justify his judgment of others, he gets to know them and confesses his faults, tells his life story.  He quite literally removes the beam from his own eye so that he can pick out the grains of sand in the eye of his acquaintances.  He calls himself the Judge-Penitentiary and compares himself to God, the Judge.  The irony and hypocrisy of his actions are so apparent and he is vain and self-righteous.  He made me really angry at times.  This book also prompts the reader to self-analyze, which is what Clamence intended.  It's dark and implicating, and forces the reader to look at his own motives.

I did happen to read, after I began this book, that it's actually the most advanced/abstract of Camus's three major novels (this always happens to me) and that it's best to start with the others and work your way up.  Despite that, I didn't think this book was inaccessible or an impossible place to start.  I will definitely read Camus's other books because I found his way of writing/thinking really interesting and also because I love analyzing books like this.

Those are my thoughts on The Fall by Albert Camus!  I really enjoyed doing this more laid back style of review, so hopefully I can spit out a few more of these this month.  Thanks for reading!

I gave this book 3 out of 5 stars on Goodreads.  You can check out that review here.

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