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Albert Camus

Plague and Terror, Priest and Atheist

John Robert Maze

This book provides a depth-psychological, analytic reading of all Albert Camus’s imaginative literary works including his essays and reminiscences. The chronological procedure reveals an evolution of unconscious themes underlying the conscious views and attitudes to which Camus kept returning over the course of his life. Topics discussed in this study include the analysis of Camus’s rejection of morality as the enemy of affection and self-fulfilment; his atheism; the apparent qualifications in his opposition to terrorism; and his absolute rejection of the death penalty as an instrument of state terrorism. This group of attitudes is located in the Camus family nexus, both in their external and historical reference and in their emerging internal conscious and unconscious meanings, enriched by autobiographical references in the novels to Camus’s adult character and personal and political life experiences.


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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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