Albert Camus (1913-1960) was an extremely influential French writer and philosopher. His exploration of the absurd — the conflict between the human need for meaning in life and our general inability to find any — was especially important. His conclusion was essentially that we have no choice but to live with the reality of death and the absurd. This is especially explored in his The Myth of Sisyphus as well as in The Stranger. He was very clear about rejecting nihilism as an answer and also argued against considering him a proponent of existentialism, which he is often labeled as none-the-less. Camus was awarded the 1957 Nobel Prize for Literature, at 44 the second-youngest recipient of the prize. Camus was very active in the French Resistance as the editor of an important underground paper. He narrowly escaped death, and was awarded the Medal of Liberation. He was a lifelong opponent of totalitarianism in all forms; those who carry the banner against such evil in the world are wise to remember Camus when he said “Freedom — it’s a choice…and a long distance race, quite solitary and exhausting.” Camus died in a car accident in 1960 at the age of 46.
The Fall (La Chute) was his last work of fiction, published in 1956. The story is the confessions of Jean-Baptiste Clamence, who refers to himself as “judge-penitent”. Written in first-person present tense, Clamence tells of his success in high-class Parisian society and of his fallen life in the red-light district of Amsterdam, exploring themes of truth, innocence and existence (or non-existence?). The duality of elements in Clamence’s existence, especially the conflict between his self-image and true self, leads to his realizing the utter hypocrisy of his life. This epiphany leads to an intellectual crisis forcing Clamence to give up the life he was leading. He withdraws completely from the world in which he created, both physically and intellectually. He refers to himself as “judge-penitent” because he judges himself and others, arguing of the guilt we all carry. The choice he offers: “Happy and judged, or absolved and wretched.” How does one live in a world without meaning, without objective truth?
The writing is engaging and thoughtful, while displaying skepticism and resignation of the human condition, as some snippets make clear.
Anyone who has considerably mediated on man, by profession or vocation, is led to feel nostalgia for the primates. They at least do not have any ulterior motives.
Something must happen — and that explains most human commitments. Something must happen, even loveless slavery, even war or death.
But do you know why we are always more just and generous toward the dead? The reason is simple. With them there is no obligation.
Lastly, one that people with hundreds of Facebook ‘friends’ should keep in mind!
I have no more friends; I have nothing but accomplices. To make up for this, their number has increased…
Sometimes, I think of H.L Mencken at his curmudgeon best, when Camus writes:
I enjoyed my nature to the fullest, and we all know that there lies happiness, although, to soothe one another mutually, we occasionally pretend to condemn such joys as selfishness.
Too many people have decided to do without generosity in order to practice charity.
Regardless what one thinks of absurdism, Camus realizes and pronounces that “Truth, like light, blinds.” That is not only true, but seems to be a ray of optimism in an otherwise, to me, depressing philosophy.
This, the 29th book published by Lewis and Dorothy Allen of the Allen Press, like most all of their work, is completely hand-done using the best of materials. The paper is all-rag, mould made Arches from France, printed damp on an 1830 Acorn-Smith hand press with Goudy Modern hand-set type-face. Each page is printed in two colors. The illustrations and elaborate title-page decoration involved three to six colors each, and used wood, linoleum, cloth and black line. The binding is hand-sewn, consisting of five panels of all-rag paper from Italy. It is a tactile treat for your senses handling and reading through this work. When released, the cost was $45, while now it runs well over $500.
About the Edition
- Designed, type-set, printed, bound and published by Lewis and Dorothy Allen
- Six near full page illustrations and an elaborate title-page decoration by Lewis Allen, three to six colors each using wood, linoleum, cloth and black line
- Each page printed in two colors
- Type face is Goudy Modern, hand-set
- Paper is all rag, mould made Arches from France
- Printed damp on an 1830 Acorn-Smith handpress
- Binding of the hand-sewn book consists of five panels of all-rag paper from Italy
- 15″ x 10″, 112 pp
- Limited to 140 copies
Pictures of the Edition
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