You can always find a reason to kill a man. It is, however, impossible to justify that he live.*
This was the first Camus novel I’ve read exclusively in French. I read The Plague (i.e. La Peste) several years ago in translation, and The Outsider in university before picking up the original L’Etranger. As such, while I would say La Chute is the most challenging of his books I’ve read, I’m aware this could be in part because I read it without a translation to fall back on.
However, I don’t think the complexity comes from the language alone. In his other novels, Camus manages to convey a nuanced philosophy, but he does so through a fairly straightforward narrative. La Chute, however, barely has a plot at all. The book takes the form of a series of largely one-sided conversations with an unnamed narrator, who lives in Amsterdam and works as a self-styled juge-pénitent. Through his musings, we catch snippets of story about his life in Paris as a prominent lawyer representing the downtrodden (widows and orphans, he calls them), and an experience in which he bears witness to a suicide takes a prominent thematic role. But for the most part, the text is simply a recounting of a meandering philosophy, touching on points as disparate as love, work, and the need to be valued.
Camus also plays with the concept of the unreliable narrator more so than in the other books of his I’ve read. The narrator of L’Etranger demonstrates a fair bit of odd behavior, but I didn’t doubt the veracity of what he said. In La Chute, however, it’s hard to say whether anything we’re told is true, as it’s being recounted to us second-hand, and the narrator even makes a point of telling us he’s lied on a couple of occasions. The uncertainty embedded in the narrative is hinted at in one passage:
Truth, like light, blinds you. Lies, however, exist in a twilight in which each object can be clearly seen.**
All in all, I enjoyed La Chute less than Camus’ other books. Likely, this is because of the genre in which it’s written, since I’ve never been a big fan of philosophical novels (I’ve still yet to make it more than 50 pages into Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance). That being said, Camus remains a great writer, and his talent shines through here, even if I’m more likely to pick up La Peste or L’Etranger again in the future.
*il y a toujours des raisons au meurtre d'un homme. Il est, au contraire, impossible de justifier qu'il vivre.
**La vérité, comme la lumière, aveugle. La mensonge, au contraire, est un bien crépuscule, qui met chaque objet en valeur.