Albert Camus and the lyrical

The title of my blog is taken from Albert Camus’ novel, The Fall, published in 1956, the year before he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature.  The narrator of the piece, Jean-Baptiste Clamence, is at one point describing drifting in a boat around the islands of Greece, and stops himself, saying, “Hold on, I, too, am drifting; I am becoming lyrical!  Stop me, cher, I beg you” (97).  Despite this momentary aversion to lyricism, there are many instances in the novel that struck me as lyrical, even, ironically, the narrator’s astonishment at his own lyricism.  I wanted to share some of those instances with the hope of sparking others’ interest in Camus’ writing.

“It always seemed to me that our fellow citizens had two passions: ideas and fornication.” (6)

“Fortunately there is gin, the sole glimmer of light in this darkness.” (12)

“I have never felt comfortable except in lofty places.” (23)

“I never had to learn how to live.” (27)

“I was made to have a body.” (28)

“Something must happen – and that explains most human commitments.  Something must happen, even loveless slavery, even war or death.  Hurray then for funerals!” (37)

“In a general way, I like all islands.  It is easier to dominate them.” (43)

“Ah, this dear old planet!  All is clear now.  We know ourselves; we know of what we are capable.” (45)

“We are all exceptional cases.” (81)

“…modesty helped me to shine, humility to conquer, and virtue to oppress.”  (84)

“I have never been really able to believe that human affairs were serious matters.” (86)

“We are making progress and yet nothing is changing.  It’s not navigation but dreaming.” (97)

“But the keenest of human torments is to be judged without a law.” (117)

“Truth, like light, blinds.  Falsehood, on the contrary, is a beautiful twilight that enhances every object.” (120)

“My great idea is that one must forgive the pope.  To begin with, he needs it more than anyone else.  Secondly, that’s that only way to set oneself above him…” (127)

“False judges are held up to the world’s admiration and I alone know the true ones.” (130)

“…the portrait I hold out to my contemporaries becomes a mirror.” (140)

“What can one do to become another? Impossible.” (144)

“It’s too late now.  It will always be too late.  Fortunately!” (147)

(all quotes from: Camus, Albert. The Fall. trans. Justin O’Brien. Vintage International, 1991.)

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One Response

  1. These are awesome. Obviously I like the first two best. 😉 But the rest are gems too. Perhaps you have inspired me to read Camus (right after Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?)…

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