Book Review: The Fall by Albert Camus

“Men are never convinced of your reasons, of your sincerity, of the seriousness of your sufferings, except by your death. So long as you are alive, your case is doubtful; you have a right only to their skepticism.”

WP_20180305_13_50_44_ProRead: 11th November 2017 and 6th March 2018

Estimated Reading Time: 12 minutes. Contains 2500 words approx.

My Rating: 5 Stars

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Description: Jean-Baptiste Clamence, a successful Parisian barrister, has come to recognize the deep-seated hypocrisy of his existence. His epigrammatic and, above all, discomforting monologue gradually saps, then undermines, the reader’s own complacency.

“I’ll tell you a great secret, dear fellow. Don’t wait for the last judgement, it takes place every day.”

Sartre said, ‘perhaps the most beautiful and the least understood work’ of Camus, but as it turned out this book totally spoke to me. Today, I read it for the second time, last time when I read it, I was in some kind of hurry and really didn’t look deep into this book, only this time while reading some other book, I understood few things and it only made sense for me to read it again.

I’m reading this book currently, “The Power of Myth” by Joseph Campbell and in this book his conversations with Bill Moyers about myths led me to few ideas and gave me a very different perspective about few things that Camus is trying to convey in his book, The Fall. I had so many “ahha” moments while reading this book, that I had to read, The Fall, again. So, I did just that.

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Page 47, The Journey Inward

The title of the book can be read in several different ways, the biblical story of Adam and Eve, human struggle with sin(again a relation with Christian theology), the fall of the character, and fall of that woman(in a very literal sense).

Camus in this book takes the reader into the darkness of human condition.

The character is guilty of a crime of passivity and inability to act. The central scene of the bridge kind of drives the whole story, where he does not act and from there we witness his downfall, The Fall.

“Reaching the end of the bridge, I turned along the quai toward Saint-Michel, where I was then living. I had already gone some fifty meters when I heard the sound – a sound which, despite the distance, seemed immense in the silence of the night- of a body hitting the water. I stopped dead, but without turning round. Almost at once, I heard a shout, repeated several times, which was also travelling down the river, the abruptly stopped. The ensuing silence seemed interminable, as though the night has stopped dead. I wanted to run, but couldn’t move. I was trembling, I think, with cold and shock. I told myself that I had to act quickly, but I felt an irresistible weakness flood through my body. I forgot what I thought at the moment. ‘Too late, too far away…’, or something like that. I kept on listening, not moving. Then slowly, I walked away through the rain. I reported the incident to no one.”

So, I was reading this chapter called ‘Sacrifice and bliss’ in the book, The Power of Myth, where Campbell talks about an incident, about a policeman saving the life of a boy who is trying to jump. Here he is talking about Sacrifice.

Joseph Campbell: “Well, a police car was on its way up early, a little road that used to go up there(he is talking about Golden Gate Bridge), and they saw just beyond the railing that keeps cars from rolling over, a young man actually clearly about to jump and prepare himself to jump. The police car stopped. The policeman on the right jumps out to grab the boy and grabs him just as he jumped and was himself being pulled over, and would have gone over if the second cop hadn’t gotten around, grabbed him and pull the two of them back. There was a long description of this, it was a marvelous thing, in the newspapers at that time.

And the policeman was asked, “Why didn’t you let go? I mean, you would have lost your life?” And you see what had happened to that man, this is what’s known as one pointed meditation everything else in his life dropped off. His duty to his family, his duty to his job, his duty to his own career, all of his wishes and hopes for life, just disappeared and he was about to go. And his answer was, “I couldn’t let go. If I had let that young man go, I could not have lived another day of my life.”

There is a saying, “Love thy neighbor as thyself” which can also be interpreted as, Love your neighbor because he is yourself. Campbell also talked about Schopenhauer’s metaphysical realization that you and other are one and that our true reality is in our identity and unity with all life. So, when you let the other person die in front of you without you acting upon it then you to die with that person.

The passive response of this character in that situation, his inability to act, to save a life caused him all the sufferings, it is not that those sufferings were not part of him, but after this incident, he came face to face with them. He realized that all this time he was wearing a mask for others to see. He wanted to see himself above everyone, but now he knew that he was a hypocrite, and he was not the one he let everyone see. He was ashamed of his duplicity.

“I found myself on a cruise ship – on the top of deck, of course. Suddenly, far off, I noticed a black spot on the iron-grey ocean. I immediately turned away and my heart started to beat faster. When I forced myself to look, the black spot had vanished. I was going to shout, to call for help – ridiculously – when I saw it again. It was one of those patches of rubbish that ships leave in their wake. Yet I had not been able to bear looking at it: I immediately thought of a drowned person.”

His failure to save that woman haunted him for life. And now only his death could relieve him. He thought about suicide, but it was no fun for him, as he said, I like life, that’s my real weakness.

Also, he thought that people would judge him for that as well and he didn’t like getting judged by others. He wanted to avoid that at all cost.

” ‘He killed himself because he could not bear to…’ Oh, my good friend, how feeble is the imagination of men. They always think that people commit suicide for a reason. But one can very well commit suicide for two reasons. No, that idea doesn’t enter their head.” 

And now not only he was guilty of not saving the woman but also about his duplicity, he heard laughter everywhere and thought that everyone was laughing at him, judging him. He didn’t like that, he didn’t want to be laughed at, so he got away from everyone he knew. And first time in his life he felt that he was living a life of double and no more he wanted to continue it.

“So much so that we rarely confide in those who are better than we are; rather, we avoid their company. Most of the time, on the contrary, we confess to those who are like us and who share our weaknesses. This means that we do not want to correct ourselves to be improved: for that, first of all, we should have to be judged and found wanting. All we need is to be pitied and encouraged in our course. In short, we would like at the same time to be no longer guilty and not taking the effort to purify ourselves.” 

In his monologue, Jean-Baptiste Clamence takes the reader on a journey which he took in order to solve his biggest problem and that was Judgement. Here he talks about, love, sexual conquests, debauchery(meaningless sex) and infuse it with bigger ideas of freedom, slavery, and innocence, and most importantly his frustration with humanity.

Don Juanism:

“Some people shout: ‘Love me!’ Others: ‘Don’t love me!’ But there is a group, the worst and most miserable, who say: ‘Don’t love me, but be faithful!'”

Camus’ reflection on Don Juanism can be seen in this book as well(after his essay, The Myth of Sisyphus).

In the starting of the book also we can see Clamence as a womanizer, who loved to be with different women and seeks pleasure in seducing them and binding them just for himself, while he fools around with other women.

“So true is this that even when some of them provide me with only a small degree of pleasure, I still tried to resume our relations from time to time, helped no doubt by that peculiar desire which is stimulated by absence, followed by a suddenly rediscovered intimacy; but also to make sure that the bond between us was still there and that it was up to me alone to revive it. Sometimes, I would even go so far as to make them swear that they would not belong to any other man, in order to set my mind at rest on that point once and for all…

…But by swearing, they freed me while binding themselves. Once they would not be anyone else’s, I could bring myself to break with them – something that, otherwise, it was almost always impossible for me to do.”— Oh how I cringed while reading this, I also cringed when I read about Don Juan in The Myth of Sisyphus, kind of makes me hate men, but then we also have Don Juana, so I can’t really complaint.

But later in the book, he takes refuse among women and alcohol, they made him forget his suffering or I would rather say his life crisis, at least for a while, or at least when he was in their company.

“Because I desired eternal life, I slept with whores and drank for whole nights on end. The next morning, of course, I had the bitter taste of mortality in my mouth; but for long hours I had glided blissfully.”

On Freedom, Slavery, and Innocence:

“Surely the great thing that stops us escaping from it is that we are the first to condemn ourselves. So we must start by extending condemnation to everyone, without discrimination, so as to start extenuating it.”

I’m innocent so I’m free, because if I was guilty then I would be in a prison, but since I’m not in a prison, I’m innocent. But by saying all of this to yourself, you really don’t solve the problem, you are still you and you do know what is true. A person may approve himself to be innocent but even then deep down he knows what he truly is and then even though he has his freedom, he dies in the prison of his own thoughts. So, for Clamence even his freedom didn’t help him escape his problems, and for him, it turned out to be a burden in the long run. Now, it was not only the judgement of others he feared but also his personal judgement. You can fool people into believing what you want them to believe in, but how can you fool yourself once you know yourself.

“I didn’t know that freedom is not a reward or a decoration that you toast in champagne… Oh, no! On the contrary, it’s hard graft and a long-distance run, all alone, very exhausting…

…Alone in a dreary room, alone in the dock before the judges, and alone to make up your mind, before yourself and before the judgement of others. At the end of every freedom there is a sentence, which is why freedom is too heavy to bear, especially when you have a temperature, or you are grieving, or you love nobody.”

Since freedom didn’t work for him because it put a burden on him to prove himself to be innocent over and over again. So, he became a supporter of slavery, he thought it was better to accept your guilt, give up your freedom and submit yourself, he now supported the idea that no one really is innocent, everyone is guilty of something, then why bury yourself in constant obligation of proving yourself innocent, when in reality you are not.

“In any case, we cannot be certain of anyone’s innocence, while we can pronounce everyone guilty. Each man bears witness to the crime of all the others: this is my faith and hope.” 

According to him, it is better to declare your guilt so as to avoid judgement because now what is there for other people to judge. Clamence said, everyone, is riding the same boat, and he makes the reader reflect on his own faults and crisis. He said he is only superior to other people because he knows that he is on that boat and now all he could do is to make people realize that they are also riding the same boat as himself.

“The more I accuse myself, the more I have the right to judge you. Better still: I incite you to judge yourself, which relieves me by that much more. My dear fellow, we are strange and miserable creatures and we have only to go back over our lives to find any number of opportunities to astonish and shock ourselves.”

Camus in this book takes his reader on a ride of self-reflection and universality of human suffering. And in the process also confesses his true being, again as the narrator said, I accuse myself and I incite you to judge yourself. In all this turmoil, he makes the reader see the fall of this character, Jean-Baptiste Clamence and uncovers a person who at the beginning looks flawless and of high morals but within the layers, he is just another monster waiting to be discovered. In this journey, Camus doesn’t give the reader any answer, or any possible solution to solve the problem, but what he does is show the reader everything that doesn’t really work and shows him the absurdity of the whole problem. With the fall of Clamence, Camus actually gives his reader a way to save himself.

“I was wrong to tell you that the main thing was to avoid judgement. The main thing is to be able to let oneself do anything, while from time to time loudly declaring one’s own unworthiness. I allow myself everything, once again, and this time without laughing. I haven’t changed my way of life: I still love myself and I still use people. It’s just that confessing my sins permits me to start again with a lighter heart and to gratify myself twice, firstly enjoying my nature, and then a delicious repentance.”

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Deep Water

“You can’t trust water: Even a straight stick turns crooked in it.” – W.C. Fields

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Indian Ocean, Kanyakumari, 2005

I was a little girl when I traveled to Southern India and that was in the year of 2005, also that was the first time I saw the sea, I was mesmerized by its vastness and stunned by the strange beauty it held, it was strong and wild and at the same time carefree. I was also afraid of it because the place where I was living also suffered from its violent nature in the year of 2004. So, one thing I knew was to stay away from it and enjoy its beauty from a distance. Since then I have learned to follow this rule, “when you see a danger, you stay away.” At least that is what I follow when I see something that can hurt me. But the biggest fear that I have of the sea is that you can never know how far it can come to pull you in.

When I was a kid, I always had this recurring dream, where I’m sitting on a very tall wall which is in the middle of an ocean, I’m afraid of its vastness, afraid of the dark blues of the ocean and the gray sky. There is nowhere to go, and the only thing I could do is jump in it or wait for someone to help me out or maybe find a way to get away from that situation. I always felt very strange about that dream, neither anyone came to my rescue nor did I fall in the ocean and never did I try to get away from it. I still see that dream sometimes but I don’t feel afraid of it anymore I just know how it’s going to end. Now, it’s just a known danger.

I was talking about staying away from the danger but what if you don’t know it’s dangerous. On that very trip, I went to another place near Kanyakumari, a town on Pamban Island called Rameswaram. The sea there was calm and composed and I was very happy that yes I can totally have some fun now. The water was shallow and I could easily stand in it but strangely enough this time the sea engulfed me completely and I must tell you, I don’t even know how to swim, I tried to ask for help but I couldn’t get my hand out of the water and after some time I even stopped trying because I didn’t know how to help myself. However one good thing happened the sea didn’t want me either, it did swallow me but within some time it spat me out.

I think there is no use of fighting the sea, the only thing one can do is follow it and I did just that, I let things happen and after a while I was fine and out of it, safe. I did drink a lot of salt water and I felt nauseated afterward. In the deepness of the sea, when I was drowning, I felt helpless, but since I couldn’t do anything, I resigned. That was the first time I faced death.

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Bay of Bengal, Puri, 2007

I have learned this thing in my life that I can avoid danger when I know it’s dangerous but in other cases I need to test the water and take a plunge and just hope that it will be alright, I can’t avoid everything to keep myself safe, then there is no fun and I will always be afraid of everything. I have been into deep waters but thankfully got out of them at the right time. 

 

“There’s nothing wrong with enjoying looking at the surface of the ocean itself, except that when you finally see what goes on underwater, you realize that you’ve been missing the whole point of the ocean. Staying on the surface all the time is like going to the circus and staring at the outside of the tent.” – Dave Barry

It’s been years since that incident and I still go to different places just to enjoy the vastness and the beauty of the sea and I respect the water and I know its power and how it can caress your hand when you dip them in it and how in a moment it can pull you in.

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Arabian Sea, Goa, 2014

I always enjoy the night time, sitting at the shore in the silver moonlight, when strong winds are flowing by, water does look monstrous but you get to feel its strength, the sound it makes while hitting the rocks and sound huge waves make when they hit the shore. Good thing is that both bigger waves and smaller waves fade away, some pound and some lap but both of them goes away. Some caress you and some hit you. Some take things with them into the deep water, some toss away things onto the shore. I like how I can drown in the mystery and darkness of the sea at night.

“There are always waves on the water. Sometimes they are big, sometimes they are small, and sometimes they are almost imperceptible. The water’s waves are churned up by the winds, which come and go and vary in direction and intensity, just as do the winds of stress and change in our lives, which stir up the waves in our minds.” – Jon Kabat-Zinn

Nothing like when you lie awake at night with open windows, letting the air come in with its salty scent while listening to the sound of wind whispering through the trees. Everything about it is comforting and peaceful at least until you don’t get to face the wrath of the sea. So, much like how life is.

Book Review: Demian by Hermann Hesse

“I have no right to call myself one who knows. I was one who seeks, and I still am, but I no longer seek in the stars or in books; I’m beginning to hear the teachings of my blood pulsing within me.”

16171233Read: 12th October 2017

Estimated reading time: 4 minutes 22 seconds. Contain 875 words.

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My Rating: 5 Stars

Description: Emil Sinclair is a young boy raised in a bourgeois home, amidst what is described as a Scheinwelt, a play on words that means “world of light” as well as “world of illusion”. Emil’s entire existence can be summarized as a struggle between two worlds: the show world of illusion (related to the Hindu concept of maya) and the real world, the world of spiritual truth. In the course of the novel, accompanied and prompted by his mysterious classmate ‘Max Demian’, he detaches from and revolts against the superficial ideals of the world of appearances and eventually awakens into a realization of self.

Back when Demian was first published in 1919 it was written under the pseudonym, Emil Sinclair, who is the narrator of the story.

This book is a coming to age novel, and Hesse in this book talks about the meaning of life and celebrating different parts of life and living life under the opposing forces of godly and devilish elements, their interdependence and the idea that both of these elements are necessary.

The protagonist in this book goes through big transitions, from the world where he is safe and secure, where nothing could go wrong, to the world which is harsh and cruel, where he has to fight and protect himself.

“The things we see,” Pistorius said softly, “are the same things that are within us. There is no reality except the one contained within us. That is why so many people live such an unreal life. They take the images outside them for reality and never allow the world within to assert itself.”

Emil Sinclair in this book is confused about life and where it is going, he tries to find mentors throughout the book in different people that he meets while growing up. Max Demian, Eva, and Pistorius are some of the people that influence Emil in finding his true self and make him learn to look within to find answers to life questions. These characters help Emil to develop self-realization and make him learn to listen to the deepest desire of his soul and not to what society has to say.

Most importantly this book shows how our identities are shaped by the people we encounter and how some of them help us in spiritual and intellectual growth.

“An enlightened man had but one duty – to seek the way to himself, to reach inner certainty, to grope his way forward, no matter where it led.”

In this book, both Demian and Eva can be seen as divine figures. Demian was portrayed as both feminine and masculine figure, he was strong and shows a great care for Emil and ultimately leads Emil to self-realization. I thought of Demian and Eva to be divine because they had all the elements of femininity and masculinity infused together in them, these qualities mark some kind of completion and perfection which I’m not sure how to describe. Both of them are also presented as real characters and sometimes as a figment of Sinclair’s imagination. I really enjoyed the conversations between Demian and Sinclair.

I liked how Abraxas was used as a symbol of both good and evil and to show how good and bad are contained together in this world.

“Our God’s name is Abraxas and he is God and Satan and he contains both the luminous and the dark world.”

Midway through the book Sinclair start seeing himself in Demian and Eva, and we can see that he has attained what he admired in them. And in the end when Demian say that if you call I won’t come, but remember I’m in you. I thought with time he developed something in himself that he was looking up for in Demian and Eva and by the end, their purpose was over and he was left on his own.

It is same in the case of life, people can help you, guide you or show you directions but it’s your final decision that counts and it’s your own intuition that you listen to and need so as to function. Seeking input from others is good but yours is more important because, in the end, you need to make a final decision for yourself.

“Gaze into the fire, into the clouds, and as soon as the inner voices begin to speak… surrender to them. Don’t ask first whether it’s permitted, or would please your teachers or father or some god. You will ruin yourself if you do that.” 

The last chapter gave me goosebumps it almost felt apocalyptic and the scene, where the goddess figure engulfed people and stars leaped out of her, was magnificent and epic. I did read about it in the introduction, of that scene having a correspondence with mother Earth giving life and taking the dead back to her womb.

There are so many things in this book that I can talk about but it so vast and contain so many different ideas that I feel overwhelmed to talk about all of them at once.

Demian was recommended to me by one of my Goodreads friends and I loved reading it, the story and it mysticism captivated me until the very end. It was a small book so it didn’t take me long to devour it completely.

 

 

Book Review: Me Before You by Jojo Moyes

“I will never, ever regret the things I’ve done. Because most days, all you have are places in your memory that you can go to.”

AND

“You only get one life. It’s actually your duty to live it as fully as possible.”

15507958My Rating: *4.5 Stars*

Just when I promise myself that I won’t read any romance novel, I come across a romance novel that I just can’t avoid reading. Anyway, this is not a romance novel, I was so wrong (the description and read color book jacket fooled me).

The other day(last month), I came across this movie trailer and I literally picked up this book just because of the upcoming movie release and I had no clue what I was getting myself into. However, I’m quiet happy that I did pick this book up.

So, yes I read this book last month around 3 or 4th April. I read this book in one sitting and I remember that night it was raining(and you have no idea how much I love rains!). So, it was a perfect setting “romance + rain” (well it works for me.)

About the Book:

Lou Clark knows lots of things. She knows how many footsteps there are between the bus stop and home. She knows she likes working in The Buttered Bun tea shop and she knows she might not love her boyfriend Patrick.

What Lou doesn’t know is she’s about to lose her job or that knowing what’s coming is what keeps her sane.

Will Traynor knows his motorcycle accident took away his desire to live. He knows everything feels very small and rather joyless now and he knows exactly how he’s going to put a stop to that.

What Will doesn’t know is that Lou is about to burst into his world in a riot of colour. And neither of them knows they’re going to change the other for all time.

Now about the book. I loved for most of the parts, it wasn’t just romance, but also make you think about your life and relationships with people that you have in your life, be it your significant other, family or friends(kinda philosophy of life stuff). This book made me happy and sad, I can say the story broke my heart in the end.

I liked the writing style and the character development. I guess there wasn’t anything new in the plot(not something extraordinary, you can find plots like this one out there), but what the author did is stir the emotions that are hidden inside the characters and that is something that makes this book stand out. This book makes you re-evaluate things, it makes you ask questions about your life and makes you think, where the hell my life is going. There weren’t many scene that will stay with you after you finish this book, but the way those written words make you feel makes all the difference.

I didn’t like the starting very much, but I’m glad that I read it. This book also showed the beautiful nature of love and how life is a bitch and how once we are trapped, the harsh reality slap hard on the face. The fact that we get attached to people so much so that the mere thought of their absence from our life makes us feel lost and terrible because seriously who are we kidding forgetting is hard be it good or bad. So, ya that is why this book broke my heart, stir those feelings.

“I realized I was afraid of living without him. How is it you have the right to destroy my life, I wanted to demand of him, but I’m not allowed a say in yours?
But I had promised.”

The character of Lou was really good, such a caring person. I loved her.

I totally hated her boyfriend though, Patrick.

The relationship between Lou and Patrick can totally be explaind just by listening to this song, it’s called “I was a fool” by Tegan and Sara

There was just being with each other for no reason whatsoever…

I also loved the character of Will, he was a person who push himself, never settle for anything less than what he deserve and like to live life to the fullest. Loving him and living with him is not easy, but what a wonderful guy!

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I loved the moments that Lou and Will shared…

“…I told him a story of two people. Two people who shouldn’t have met, and who didn’t like each other much when they did, but who found they were the only two people in the world who could possibly have understood each other.”

This is not a very coherent review(but none of my reviews are), and I really don’t know where to start and where to end because there is so much to it. I really don’t want to spoil anything for you, I’m forcing myself to not tell everything and I’m seriously missing a bigger picture here in this review. I really don’t want to talk anything what goes between Lou and Will, you should read it yourself.

Just a reminder before you read, half way through the book you may need a pack of tissue papers. Believe me!

And Me Before You  is not a romance novel. Love yes, romance no(a little tiny winy bit).

And the title? You’ll get to know why it’s “Me Before You” for that you have to read the book or maybe this quote will tell you, but then for the inside story you still have to read the book.

“I told him I loved him,” she said, her voice dropping to a whisper. “And he just said it wasn’t enough.” Her eyes were wide and bleak . “How am I supposed to live with that?”

You know what I’m trying to say here, that you should definitely read this book and again remember the tissue papers, I mean it.

Happy Reading!