Plague and Terror, Priest and Atheist
6. The Fall – Self-Doubts of a Narcissist 135
135 CHAPTER 6 The Fall – Self-Doubts of a Narcissist The Fall (La Chute) was first conceived in about 1954 as one of the stories composing Exile and the Kingdom, but it grew rapidly into a short, tightly constructed novel, published separately in 1956. It is framed as an autobiographical monologue by one Jean-Baptiste Clamence, named for John the Baptist who also declaimed in the wilderness. Clamence had been an eminently successful, self-congratulatory legal counsel in Paris, strong, handsome, chivalrous, etc., but his self- image was shaken by an incident in which he failed to go to the rescue of a young woman who had apparently jumped or fallen from a bridge over the Seine. He managed to deny this fault, but the traumatic impact was reinforced a couple of years later on another bridge when he heard laughter coming from an invisible source in the river, which he took to be directed against him. He gave up his practice in Paris and went to live in Amsterdam, where he offered cynically distorted legal counsel to the patrons of a sleazy bar called Mexico City, and tried to get rid of his guilt-feelings over the drowning.1 There are many personal associations in the book, although they do not compose its most important subject matter. For example, some scholars have traced parallels between Clamence’s ironical self- accusations and the critical remarks about Camus’s attitudes and personality made by Sartre and Jeanson in the controversy over Camus’s The Rebel. Clamence admits airily that...
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