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CIanence vs. BosloevsIv· An AppvoacI lo La CIule
AulIov|s)· EIizaIelI TvaIan
Souvce· Conpavalive Lilevaluve, VoI. 18, No. 4 |Aulunn, 1966), pp. 337-350
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ELIZABETH TRAHAN
Clamence
vs. Dostoevsky:
An Approach to La Chute
EAN BAPTISTE
CLAMENCE,
the
Janus-faced protagonist
of
Camus' last
novel,
The Fall
(La
Chute, 1956),
has been called a
Satanic
figure,
a
Virgil guiding
the reader
through
a
contemporary
Inferno,
and another
John
the
Baptist.
He has been considered the
epitome
of modern
man,
and his
caricature;
a reflection of his author's
doubts and
weaknesses,
of Camus'
attempts
at
self-parody,
and of
Camus'
turning
toward
Christianity.
He has been viewed as an illustra-
tion to The
Rebel,
and as Camus'
rejoinder
in the
controversy
follow-
ing
the book's
publication. Finally,
he has been identified with Camus'
critique
of Sartre and the men
surrounding
him.1 A
good
case has been
made for most of these
interpretations,
even
though
some of them are
contradictory.
It need therefore not
surprise
us to encounter
equally
contradictory
answers to the
question
of whether The Fall is ambivalent
or
ambiguous, masterpiece
or failure.
Despite
this wide
range
of
interpretations
and
comparisons,
one im-
portant
and
illuminating approach
to The Fall has not been
sufficiently
explored-its relationship
to
Dostoevsky's
works, especially
Notes
from
Underground
and "The Dream of a Ridiculous Man."2 This
neglect
is
1
See Adele
King,
"Structure and
Meaning
in La Chute,"
PMLA LXXVII
(1962), 660-667,
and Albert Camus
(New York, 1964), pp. 82-93,
where these
views are either
expressed
or cited.
2
The
relationship
of The Fall to Notes
from
Underground
is mentioned in
Jacques Brenner,
"L'Homme du
souterrain,"
La Table
Ronde,
No. 146
(Feb.
1960), pp. 99-103;
Nathan A.
Scott,
Albert Camus
(London, 1962), p. 84;
and
Germaine
Bree,
Camus
(New Brunswick, 1959), p. 101,
n.
2,
and
p. 191,
n. 9.
A more extensive
comparison
can be found in
Jacques
Madaule's "Camus et
Dostoievski,"
La Table
Ronde,
No.
146, pp. 127-136; however,
it concerns itself
with contrasts rather than similarities. The
relationship
to "The Dream of a
Ridiculous Man" and
Dostoevsky's
other works
has,
to
my knowledge,
not been
discussed.
337
COMPARATIVE LITERATURE
all the more
surprising,
since Camus' admiration for
Dostoevsky
is no
secret. The
Myth of Sisyphus
(Le
Mythe
de
Sisyphe, 1942)
devotes
an entire
chapter
to
Kirillov,
God's
challenger
and victim. In The Rebel
(L'Homme revolte,
1951)
Camus discusses at
length Shigalev's theory
of state
terrorism,
the
grand
inquisitors
"of
today,"
and Ivan and Dmitri
Karamazov's rebellion and moral dilemma. As
early
as
1932,
Camus
portrayed
Ivan Karamazov in a
stage presentation
of The Brothers
Karavmxov,3 and Camus' own
adaptation
of
Dostoevsky's
Possessed
begins
with the
following
admission:
The Possessed is one of the four or five works that I rank above all others. In
many ways
I can claim that I
grew up
on it and took sustenance from it. For almost
twenty years,
in
any event,
I have visualized its characters on the
stage...
Dostoevsky's characters,
as we know
by now,
are neither odd nor absurd.
They
are like
us;
we have the same heart. And if The Possessed is a
prophetic
book,
this is not
only
because it
prefigures
our
nihilism,
but also because its
protagonists
are torn or dead souls unable to love and
suffering
from that
inability, wanting
to
believe and
yet
unable to do so-like those who
people
our
society
and our
spiritual
world
today.4
In The Myth
of
Sisyphus
and The
Rebel,
Camus uses
Dostoevsky's
heroes
primarily
as test cases or
targets
for his own
philosophical
views.
In Camus'
fiction,
on the other
hand,
Dostoevsky's
influence affects
form as well as content.
Jean-Paul Sartre's
comparison
of
Meursault,
the
stranger,
to Prince
Myshkin,
the
idiot,
as another innocent in a
hostile
world,
may
seem somewhat farfetched.5
However,
certain tech-
niques employed
in The
Plague (La
Peste, 1947)
can
definitely
be
associated with The
Possessed,
especially
in view of Camus'
long pre-
occupation
with that book. Both novels are
presented
as
chronicles,
re-
corded
by
an elusive
yet omnipresent
narrator.6 Both books focus on
a
major upheaval
and its effects on an entire
community,
and both are
interspersed
with
philosophical
discussions on such
questions
as man's
responsibility
and
guilt,
the existence of God and the
suffering
of
innocent children. In The
Fall, finally, Dostoevsky's
influence affects
style, characterization,
and
plot
elements as well as themes.
What does a decent
chap
talk about with the
greatest possible pleasure?
Answer:
about himself.
Very well,
so I will talk about
myself [p.
111].... at those
very
moments when I was
acutely
conscious of 'the sublime and
beautiful,'
as we used
3
See
Bree, Camus, p.
32.
4
Les Possedes
(Paris, 1959); quoted
from The
Possessed,
trans.
Justin
O'Brien
(New York, 1960).
The Foreword is not found in the French edition.
For a discussion of Camus'
adaptation
of
Dostoevsky's
novel see Warren
Ramsey,
"Albert Camus on
Capital
Punishment: His
Adaptation
of The
Possessed,"
Yale
Review,
XLVIII
(1959),
634-640.
5
Jean-Paul Sartre,
"Explication de
l'Etranger,"
Situations I
(Paris, 1947).
6
In his
notes,
Camus stresses his intention to write the book as a chronicle.
338
CLAMENCE VS. DOSTOEVSKY
to call it in those
days,
I was not
only
conscious but also
guilty
of the most con-
temptible actions ...
[p. 112].
Good
Lord,
I have talked a
lot,
haven't I? But
have I
explained anything?
...
.Now,
for
instance,
I'm
very
vain.
[p.
113] . . .
I have
always
considered
myself
cleverer than
any
one else in the
world,
and
sometimes,
I assure
you,
I've been even ashamed of it
[p. 114].7
Clamence's
whimsical, expansive
monologue
is much closer to the
underground
man's Notes than to the
bare,
terse
prose
of The
Stranger,
which has been
compared
to that of
Hemingway
and
Kafka,8
or to the
dispassionate,
almost sedate tone of The
Plague.
Like The
Fall,
Notes
jrom
Underground
is a confession told in the first
person.
In turns
ironic and
emotional, philosophic
and
introspective,
it, too,
is a narrator's
harrangue
of an
imaginary
listener
who,
a mere aesthetic foil at
first,
emerges
as the
target
of the narrator's attack.
. . . I'm not
trying
to
justify myself by
this
all-of-usness.
For
my part,
I have
merely
carried to extremes in
my
life what
you
have not dared
carry
even
halfway,
and,
in addition, you have mistaken
your
cowardice for common sense and have
found comfort in
that, deceiving yourselves [BSS, p.
240].
Initially,
Clamence seems to have little in common with
Dostoevsky's
"anti-hero"
who, pitifully
weak and
helpless
in his self-chosen under-
ground, vainly
sticks his
tongue
out at the world. But
Clamence, too,
has withdrawn
underground,
into a "little-ease" of his own
making.
Mexico
City
Bar,
seen
through
his
eyes,
becomes a surrealistic cave in
the heart of a town
which, though
bearing
a real
name,
is
indistinct,
elusive and
nightmarish.
Even the
sober,
stolid Dutch are described
by
Clamence as double-faced
shadows,
both here in the
cold, damp
reality
and elsewhere in a luxuriant
tropical paradise.
The
only
real
thing
is the
portrait
of the three
just judges,
hidden in Clamence's
austere room-a
symbol
of his defiance of
justice
and
integrity,
and of
his commitment to the
underground
world.
Like
Clamence,
the
underground
man withdraws
underground
be-
cause of an event which he is unable to
forget.
...
I have allowed
myself only recently
to remember some of
my early adventures,
having
till now avoided them rather
uneasily,
I'm afraid... I
really may
feel
easier in
my
mind if I write it down. I
have,
for
instance,
been
latterly greatly
oppressed by
the
memory
of some incident that
happened
to me a
long
time
ago.
I remembered it
very vividly
the other
day,
as a matter of
fact,
and it has since
been
haunting
me
[BSS, p.
146].
Clamence shares a
surprising
number of
significant
traits with the
underground
man. Both are in their forties and have liver ailments.
7
Passages quoted
from "Notes from
Underground,"
and "The Dream of a
Ridiculous Man" are taken from The Best Short Stories
of Dostoevsky,
trans.
David
Magarshack (New York, 1955),
henceforth referred to as BSS.
8
See
Camus,
ed. Germaine Bree
(Englewood Cliffs, N.J., 1962), pp. 102,
119.
339
COMPARATIVE LITERATURE
Both stress their
superior intelligence,
and admit their extreme
vanity.
They
are
overly
sensitive,
revengeful, quite incapable
of
friendship,
and
see love
entirely
in terms of
tyranny
and
subjugation.
Like
Clamence,
the
underground
man admits that
"though
innocent I was guilty"
(BSS,
p. 114),
and
that, through confession,
"there will be a
greater
sense of
passing judgment
on
myself" (BSS, p. 146).
The
underground
man
confesses to a
propensity
for
play-acting
and a thirst for
power-the
two dominant traits of the
judge-penitent.
And when Clamence
punishes
himself
by forsaking
his
heights
for the hateful
watery underground
of
Amsterdam's
hell,
his mountain
top
for a bare locked
room,
he relishes
the
self-castigation
as much as the
underground
man relishes and seeks
humiliation.9
At one
point,
the
underground
man admits that he would
gladly
re-
linquish
his
underground,
could he find
anything
better.10
Clamence,
likewise,
mentions that his solution is not ideal and that it has not
silenced his doubts. His
underlying despair
is
fully
revealed
by
his
hysterical
affirmation of life: "I am
happy-I
am
happy,
I tell
you,
I
won't let
you
think I'm not
happy,
I am
happy
unto death! Oh
sun,
beaches,
and the islands in the
path
of the trade
winds,
youth
whose
memory
drives one to
despair
!"
(144).11
The
settings
for both stories are similar. The
weather, damp, rainy,
foggy,
or
snowy, provides
a sinister
accompaniment
to the
story
line,
and the
leap
from the
underground
man's cellar in St.
Petersburg
lands
us on Amsterdam's
similarly gloomy
waterfront. While the sea is
usually
a
symbol
of freedom and
beauty
for
Camus,
here it hovers
around Amsterdam as
implacably
as St.
Petersburg's swamps
and riv-
ers,
which also
continually
encroach
upon
the land and
endanger
it.
"Have
you
noticed,"
asks
Clamence,
"that Amsterdam's concentric
circles resemble the circles of Hell?
.... Here,
we are in the last circle
9
Cf.: "The confession of
my
crimes allows me to
begin again lighter
in heart
and to taste a double
enjoyment,
first of
my
nature and
secondly
of a
charming
repentance" (Fall, p. 142),
and "The
feeling
of
delight
was there
just
because I
was so
intensely
aware of
my
own
degradation." (BSS, p. 113).
Cf. also:
"Ah,
I
see
you
smile at that use of the
subjunctive.
I confess
my
weakness for that mood
and for fine
speech
in
general" (Fall, p. 5),
and "It will look more
dignified
on
paper
. . . The whole
style,
I'm
sure,
will be better"
(BSS, p. 146) ;
or "I have
ceased to like
anything
but
confessions,
and authors of confessions write
especially
to avoid
confessing
.. ."
(Fall, p. 120),
and "Heine
says
that true
biographies
are
almost
impossible,
and that a man will most
certainly
tell a lot of lies about
himself. In his
view,
Rousseau told a lot of lies about himself in his
Confessions,
and told them
deliberately,
out of
vanity" (BSS, p. 145).
10
Cf. Ch. 10. The
chapter, badly mangled by
the
censor,
was
originally
meant
to
suggest
the
possibility
of a return to Christ. In
addition, many
remarks of the
underground
man reveal his
longing
to live "real
life,"
to become a real
person.
11
Passages quoted
from The Fall are from the translation
by Justin
O'Brien
(New York, 1963).
340
CLAMENCE VS. DOSTOEVSKY
... there I wait for them"
(pp. 14-15). Though,
like Dante's
Virgil,
Clamence seems to
guide
his
companion through
Amsterdam's
Inferno,
he
also,
like Dante's
Satan,
lies in wait for him in Hell's innermost circle.
In the first
chapter
of The
Fall,
a
cynical
Camus seems to be
hiding
behind Satan's
negation
of man and
society.
Yet,
as the end of the
chapter suggests,
The Fall is not
simply
the
story
of a devil
mocking
and
accusing
man. Clamence refers to his vow not to cross
bridges
at
night
because
"suppressed
dives sometimes leave one
strangely aching"
(p. 15).
This is a
strange
admission for the Prince of Darkness-his
dazzling
armor has revealed a first chink.
The second and third
chapters
describe Clamence's
"fall,"
the two
following
chapters
his
attempts
at
escaping
the
consequences.
In these
four
chapters,
Clamence's
strength
and
equilibrium
are shown as vul-
nerable. He
begins
to doubt himself and to search for
reassurance,
be-
coming ambiguous
but also human. He now
displays
such
negative
traits as Camus
might
wish to censure in himself and
others, and,
at
the same
time,
the bitterness of a humorist vis-a-vis the
contemporary
world and
society.
In these
chapters,
Clamence's outbursts and self-
castigations
also
begin
to recall
Dostoevsky's underground
man. The
aloof and
:loquent guide
of the first
chapter
is
turning
into a
tormented,
insecure human
being,
a
prey
to
loneliness, shame, suffering,
and a
crushing
sense of
guilt.
The sixth and final
chapter provides
a
counterpart
to the
beginning.
We are now "at the heart of
things,"
in Clamence's locked room and
closed universe. He makes
good
his initial threat and
springs
at his
victim,
uttering
his condemnation. But he is feverish and intoxicated.
He admits
liking dogs
"because
they forgive" (p. 121). Increasingly
excited and
maudlin,
he
implores
his listener not to bear down on him
too
hard,
not to take his
ravings
too
seriously.
When he reaches the cli-
mactic moment of his
act,
he weakens it
by
his restlessness and an ad-
mission of doubts and a lack of choice. This is no
longer
Satan,
but
merely
another
underground
man. Clamence's
paradoxical
final state-
ment-"It will
always
be too late.
Fortunately!" (p. 147)-shows
that he has at best sublimated his dilemma but not mastered it.12
Before Clamence withdraws
underground,
he
explores
several other
paths, among
them that taken
by Dostoevsky's
other "anti-hero"-the
ridiculous man.
"The Dream of a Ridiculous
Man,"
a
story
of some
twenty-five
pages, provides
a
counterpart
to Notes
from
Underground. Initially,
the
12
Cf. the
ending
of the
underground
man's
episode
with Lisa: "But didn't I
know
perfectly
well when I ran out of
my
flat
[after her]
that I should turn back
half-way?" (BSS, pp. 238-239).
341
COMPARATIVE LITERATURE
ridiculous man is an
underground
man who has withdrawn into
cynical
indifference.
During
a
dream,
he is carried off to another
planet
which
resembles our earth before the Fall. He
corrupts
the innocent inhabi-
tants of this
Eden,
and
they
relive the historical
stages
of our earth.
The ridiculous man wants to
expiate
his
guilt by being crucified,
but he
is
merely laughed
at and considered mad.
Surprisingly,
he awakes from
his dream
completely transformed,
a believer in man's
innocence,
in
universal brotherhood and love.
The answer
given by
the ridiculous man to the
underground
man's
challenge
is close to
Stavrogin's
and Versilov's visions of an
earthly
Golden
Age,
and to Zossima's creed of active love and a
personal
expiation
of universal guilt.13
However, this,
Dostoevsky's
most
posi-
tive
story,
is
surprisingly
ineffectual. The ridiculous man seems
slightly
demented in his
enthusiasm,
and the transition from the dream
reality
of man's
guilt
to his new creed of man's innocence is neither
logically
nor
emotionally convincing.
The ridiculous man is unable to
disprove
the
underground
man's terrible accusations of human ambivalence and
guilt,
nor can he erase the
image
of a man
trapped by
too
great
an
intellectual
honesty
and too
analytical
a mind.
"The Dream of a Ridiculous Man" was first
published
in the
April
issue of The
Diary of
a Writer
for
1877. In The
Myth of Sisyphus,
Camnus
quotes
one
passage
from the
Diary
for December 1876 and one
from "one of the
following
installments."14
Thus,
he was
probably
also
familiar with "The Dream of a Ridiculous Man." Clamence seems to
explore
the ridiculous man's
path,
but it
only
takes him back to the
underground
man's wrathful and
impotent
rebellion.
Like The
Fall,
"The Dream of a Ridiculous Man" focuses on man's
fall and the
problem
of
redemption. Though
the ridiculous man's fall is
much closer to the biblical
conception,
in
many aspects
Clamence's ex-
perience
can be
compared
to it.
I learned the truth last
November,
on the third of
November,
to be
precise,
and
every
moment since then has been
imprinted indelibly
on
my
mind. It
happened
on a dismal
evening,
as dismal an
evening
as could be
imagined....
it had been
pouring
all
day,
. . . but about eleven o'clock it had
stopped suddenly,
and a
horrible
dampness
descended
upon everything [BSS, p. 297].15
A little
girl approaches
the ridiculous man for
help,
and,
unable to
13
See
my essay,
"The Golden
Age-Dream
of a Ridiculous
Man?," SEEJ,
XVII
(1959),
349-371.
14
The
Myth of Sisyphus
and Other
Essays,
trans.
Justin O'Brien
(New York,
1959), pp. 77,
81.
15
Cf.: "That
particular night
in November . . I was
returning
to the Left
Bank and
my
home
by way
of the Pont
Royal.
It was an hour
past midnight,
a
fine rain was
falling,
a drizzle
rather,
that scattered the few
people
on the
streets"
(Fall, p. 69).
342
CLAMENCE VS. DOSTOEVSKY
shake her
off,
he
stamps
his foot at her and chases her
away.
But he is
unable to
forget
the
episode.
Like
Clamence,
he
begins
to
analyze
him-
self,
and to
gain
new
insights
into his character. His cosmic dream
opens
his
eyes
to his
guilt
and the need for
expiation, just
as Clamence's
supersensory experience jolts
him out of his
complacency
and forces
upon
him an awareness of his
guilt.
Both Clamence and the ridiculous
man
long
for the lost land of innocence and describe it in terms of the
Greek
Archipelago.
Both show a Satanic
streak,
and an
equally
am-
biguous
desire for
martyrdom.16
Instead of
martyrdom,
both men meet with
derision,
and are
plunged
into the crises of their existence.
Henceforth, they
will devote their
lives to the effort of
coming
to terms with the world's
laughter.
Both
turn this effort into a
personal
call and mission.
Loudly
proclaiming
The
Truth, they
dedicate themselves to it with similar
fanaticism,
and
with a similar touch of madness. But as
they go
forth
preaching
their
truths, they
head into
opposite
directions. The ridiculous man becomes
a
humble,
sincere if demented
prophet,
a true innocent and believer in
man's
innocence, constantly attempting
to redeem man from his fall.
Clamence
feverishly preaches
universal
guilt
and tries to
bring
about
man's fall
again
and
again,
in order to assert his own
superiority
and
power.
If,
in the first
chapter
of The
Fall,
Clamence seemed a com-
bination of
Virgil
and
Satan,
in the final
chapter
he
emerges
as a
composite
of the underground man and the ridiculous
man, similarly
propelled
and
trapped by
his dilemma.
Dostoevsky's
two "anti-heroes" are not the
only
ones to leave their
mark on Clamence. To a lesser
extent,
he also reflects Lermontov's
Pechorin and
Dostoevsky's Stavrogin,
while his
thinking clearly
echoes
the views of Friedrich Nietzsche and Ivan Dmitri Karamazov.
The
problems
of excess and moderation form the
very
core of Camus'
thought.
It is therefore not
surprising
to find Nietzsche and
Dostoevsky
-both obsessed with these
problems-among
the main influences on
Camus' work. In The
Myth of Sisyphus,
Nietzsche and his amor
fati
loom
large
behind the book's affirmation. In The
Rebel, though
he still
voices admiration for Nietzsche as a
diagnostician,
Camus
points
to the
ambiguities
and flaws in Nietzsche's
reasoning,
and sees his extreme
position
as a
betrayal
of true rebellion: "To
say
yes
to
everything sup-
16
Cf.:
"Alas,
I
always
loved sorrow and
affliction,
but
only
for
myself, only
for
myself
... I
longed
to receive
martyrdom
at their hands. I thirsted for
martyr-
dom,
I
yearned
for
my
blood to be shed to the last
drop
in torment and
suffering"
(BSS, p. 319),
and "Above the
gathered crowd, you
would hold
up my
still warm
head,
so that
they
could
recognize
themselves in it and I could
again
dominate-
an
exemplar" (Fall, p. 146).
343
COMPARATIVE LITERATURE
poses
that one
says yes
to murder"
(p. 76).1
Now Camus sets out to
determine "if
every
rebellion must end in the defense of universal mur-
der,
or
if,
on the
contrary,
without
claiming
an
impossible
innocence,
it
can furnish the
principle
of a limited
culpability" (17).18
In The
Rebel,
both the true rebel and his
opponent
are
represented
by figures
out of
Dostoevsky's
fiction-Ivan and Dmitri
Karamazov,
the Grand
Inquisitor
and
Shigalav.
Their
importance
for Camus is
shown
by
the fact that
they
are evoked and evaluated side
by
side with
de
Sade, Nietzsche, Saint-Just,
Hegel, Bakunin,
and Mark. "He
[Ivan]
launches the essential
undertaking
of
rebellion,
which is that of
replac-
ing
the
reign
of
grace by
the
reign
of
justice.
. The
struggle
between
truth and
justice
is
begun
here for the first
time;
and it will never
end"
(p. 56).
The book ends with Camus' reaffirmation of Ivan's and
Dmitri's
quest
for
justice
and an end to
suffering (see pp. 303-304).
Ivan is unable to sustain the
suspension
denlanded
of the true
rebel,
and his rebellion is defeated
by
the extremism of his other self.
Similarly,
the rebellion of reason-which Ivan
represents
for Camus-is
super-
ceded
by
the totalitarianism of
today's
Grand
Inquisitors
and
Shigalevs:
The new
aristocracy
and the Grand
Inquisitors reign today, by making
use of the
rebellion of the
oppressed,
over one
part
of our
history.
Their
reign
is
cruel,
but
they
excuse their
cruelty,
like the Satan of the
romantics, by claiming
that it is
hard for them to bear. 'We reserve desire and
suffering
for
ourselves,
for the
slaves there is
Chigalevism.'
A new and somewhat hideous race of
martyrs
is now
born. Their
martyrdom
consists of
consenting
to inflict
suffering
on
others; they
become the slaves of their own domination
[pp. 175-176] . .. We have come
full circle. At the end of this
long
insurrection in the name of human
innocence,
there
arises, by
an inevitable
perversion
of
fact,
the affirmation of
general
culpability [p. 243].
Clamence can
easly
be discovered
among
this new race of
martyrs.19
17
The
Rebel,
trans.
Anthony
Bower
(New York, 1958).
18
Actually,
the
problem
of excess and moderation is outlined
long
before The
Rebel
and,
in
fact,
in terms
quite applicable
to The Fall: "Greek
thought always
took
refuge
behind the idea of limits . .. Our
Europe,
on the other
hand,
off in
the
pursuit
of
totality,
is the child of
disproportion
. . .
Nemesis,
the
goddess
of
measure and not of
revenge, keeps
watch. All those who
overstep
the
limit,
are
pitilessly punished by
her."
("L'Exil d'Helene,"
Permanence de la Grece. Cahiers
du
Sud, XXXIV, 1948,
381-386.
Quoted
from The
Myth of Sisyphus, p. 134.)
19 There can be little doubt that Clamence was meant to demonstrate the
pit-
falls of a
perverted
rebellion. Camus
emphasized
this in an interview with
Jean-
Claude Brisville in 1959:
"My
hero
[Clamence]
is indeed
discouraged,
and
therefore, being
a
good twentieth-century nihilist,
he exalts servitude.
Have
I
ever chosen to exalt servitude?"
J.-C. Brisville,
Camus
(Paris, 1959), p.
260.
See also Camus' reference to The Fall as "a satirical
study
of a
perverted
and
unhealthy
kind of solidarite"
(quoted
in
Scott, p. 82),
and Camus'
mentioning
Lord Jim as the
inspiration
for The Fall
(quoted
in
Dominique Aury's
"Talk with
Albert
Camus,"
New York Times Book
Review,
Feb.
17, 1957, p. 33).
344
CLAMENCE VS. DOSTOEVSKY
Yet,
Clamence is not
simply
another Grand
Inquisitor,
a victim of his
own creed. In a remarkable double
distortion,
Camus turns him into a
travesty
not
only
on Ivan and Dmitri
Karamazov,
but also Nietzsche's
superman
and Ivan's Grand
Inquisitor,
as well as several other Dosto-
evskian heroes.
In The
Rebel,
Camus demanded that a man "master in himself
every-
thing
that should be mastered. He should
rectify
in creation
everything
that can be rectified"
(p. 303). Initially,
Clamence seems to
satisfy
at least the first
premise.
He lives
deeply every
moment, apparently
in
harmony
with himself and the world. But his love of life turns out to be
lust for
power,
the mortification of himself and others at the
expense
of
joy
and innocence. His
harmony
is as much of a
trompe-loeil
as his
Paris. Like the dancer in Kleist's
"Puppet
Theater,"
Clamence loses
his innocence the moment it is
exposed
to criticism and
self-scrutiny.
Its
mainspring
is
vanity
rather than
self-knowledge,
a thirst for un-
restricted
power
rather than what Nietzsche would call "a
creativity
from abundance."20
The
relationship
of Clamence to Nietzsche cannot be discussed here.
However, Clamence,
for all his
advocacy
of a master
theory,
his love
of
appearance (Schein)
and his remark on
marriage
with
power
and
the
whip, obviously
acts from resentment rather than conviction or
generosity,
and becomes a caricature of a
"master,"
a
travesty
on
Nietzsche's
superman.21 Therefore, though
Clamence
eventually
sets
out "to
rectify
in creation
everything
that can be
rectified,"
his
activity
turns into mere acts of
self-gratification.
Clamence's "search" leads him
through
most of the
major spheres
of
Dostoevsky's
world and its
possibilities.
But unlike
Dostoevsky's
rebels,
he never "feels his
ideas,"
never even faces them. What became
a
tragic quest
for
Stavrogin, Kirillov, Ivan,
and
Dmitri,
is a
parody
on
the
Bildungsroman
in The
Fall,
a fake search from
beginning
to end
for a
pose
rather than a
genuine
attitude or creed.
Clamence,
the
play-
actor,
goes
from
stage
to
stage,
faces the crucial
questions
of man's
essence and existence-and turns
them,
one
by
one,
into theatrical
gestures
and acts.
There is first a faint echo of The
Double,
when a moment on a
bridge
externalizes Clamence's inner
split. Though
he retains a
greater
degree
of
sanity
than
Golyadkin-despite
a few attacks of
megalomania
20
See Friedrich
Nietzsche,
Der Fall
Wagner
and
G6tterdlimmerung.
21
Nietzsche,
who
greatly
admired
Dostoevsky
as a
psychologist
and moral
relativist,
criticized him as a writer "from want" and not
"abundance,"
and his
heroes as
acting
from "ressentiment." He used the
underground
man as his
prime
example. (Cf.
Friedrich Nietzsches
gesammelte Briefe [Berlin, 1902-1909],
IV,284.)
345
COMPARATIVE LITERATURE
-he, too,
is unable to shake off the curse of the
split personality.
His
final
attempt
to fuse with another
man,
a Parisian
lawyer
like him-
self and of about the same
age,
once more
brings
to mind
Golyadkin's
frantic efforts at a
rapprochement
with his double.22
In certain character traits and actions Clamence reminds us of Stav-
rogin,
the ambivalent hero of The Possessed. Clamence's amorous ad-
venture with a
young girl
and a
prostitute
recalls
Stavrogin's
simultane-
ous involvement with a
lady
and her maid.
Moreover,
like
Stavrogin,
Clamence wears a mask of
power
and
mystery
which attracts
people
to him. At first he seems human
enough
to suffer and
grapple
with the
great questions
of
being; yet,
again like
Stavrogin,
Clamence is
gradu-
ally
unmasked and
emerges
as a brittle and hollow
shell,
"hot and cold
at the same time"
(p. 137)
and thus neither hot nor cold.23
Like
Golyadkin
and
Stavrogin,
Clamence is divided in himself.
But while their
split
manifests
itself,
psychologically,
as the insoluble
dilemma of a
personality
unable to come to terms with
life, or,
ethically,
as a
quest
for transcendental values without an
ability
to believe in
them,
is
accepted by
Clamence as human
duplicity per se,
to be
exploited
and
enjoyed.
It all becomes a
game,
the dual role of
judge-penitent
which he
plays
and
relishes,
because it
permits
him to
change
from
one mask into
another,
without
any
need for
acquiring
a self of his own.
With similar
levity
Clamence
approaches
the
question
of suicide-
a monumental
problem
for
Dostoevsky's Ippolyt, Kirillov,
the ridicu-
lous
man,
and even
Raskolnikov,
and no less serious for
Camus,
who in
his
Myth of Sisyphus
sets out to examine the
problem
of
suicide,
calling
as his
prime
witnesses
Dostoevsky's "Logical
Suicide" and Kirillov.
Rather
childishly,
Clamence sees suicide as a means "to
play
a trick on
them,
to
punish them,"
and he dismisses it because the effect is
unpre-
dictable,
because "one cannot
enjoy
the show"
(p. 74).
In the
end,
he
even turns out to be afraid of death.
Though
Clamence's confession that
he loves life too much to kill himself seems in line with
Sisyphus'-
and Nietzsche's-amor
fati,
his frivolous tone discredits his statement.
Clamence broaches an even
bigger question-the question
of Christ's
mission,
of
injustice
and innocent
suffering.
Now he seems to echo
Ivan
Karamazov,
and
again
the echo becomes
mockery,
a mere
toying
with the
problems
of belief and rebellion. Ivan rebels
against
a world
resting
on the
suffering
of innocent children-a
problem
discussed
by
Camus at
length
in The
Plague
and
emphasized
in The Rebel. Ivan re-
22
The first of these similarities is mentioned in
Bree, Camus, p. 191,
n.
9,
and
in Yvette
Louria,
"'Dedoublement' in
Dostoevsky
and
Camus," MLR,
LVI
(1961),
82-83.
23
Stavrogin
is tormented
by
the
knowledge
of
being
neither hot nor
cold,
and
his
inability
to believe in
anything eventually destroys
him.
346
CLAMENCE VS. DOSTOEVSKY
jects
Christ's sacrifice for
having only
increased the
suffering
of those
who,
left with the burden of
personal responsibility,
are unable to bear
it. His Grand
Inquisitor
sets out to correct Christ's
work,
to take the
burden of freedom from men and
give
them in its stead
security, dogma,
and
equality-the equality
of slaves. When Clamence
speaks
of the
suffering
of innocent
children,
his words
might
have been uttered
by
Ivan or
Versilov,
the hero of
Dostoevsky's
Adolescent:
Those
blood-spattered soldiers,
those infants cut in two filled him
[Christ]
with
horror. But
given
the man he
was,
I am sure he could not
forget
them. And as
for the sadness that can be felt in his
every act,
wasn't it the incurable
melancholy
of a man who heard
night
after
night
the voice of Rachel
weeping
for her children
and
refusing
all comfort?
[pp.
112-113]
Yet in the same
speech,
Clamence admits his flair for
oratory
and
dramatic effect. His
closing
words turn the entire
speech
into a
mockery
of the
thoughts
its
expresses:
"Oh,
the
injustice,
the rank
injustice
that
has been done him ! It
wrings my
heart !-Good
heavens,
the habit has
seized me
again
and I'm on the
point
of
making
a
speech
to the court"
(p. 115).
Clamence who
begins
with
Nietzsche,
with an affirmation of man's
need for
power,
seems to end with the Grand
Inquisitor,
a false
pope,
a
false
prophet
who establishes an
arbitrary
rule over a mankind united
in
slavery.
But Clamence lacks even the stature of a Grand
Inquisitor.
The latter
accepts
the
grave consequences
of his
position,
the
responsi-
bility
for the millions who are too weak for
freedom, and,
whether he
believes in God or
not,
he does not
judge
man but
pities
him,
Clamence
refuses all
personal responsibility
for his fellow men. In
fact,
by shifting
the blame from himself to all
others,
he burdens them with his own
guilt
and weakness in order to
triumph
over them. Nor is his attitude
based on conviction. One minute he
speaks
of himself as one of the
mass,
living
"like the rest of the
world,
obedient and
guilty" (p. 136)
;
next
he
speaks
of
overwhelming
himself in order to have the
right
to
judge
others
(p. 138)
;
then he
suggests
that he has
merely
been construct-
ing
a
mask,
a
portrait
which fits
everyone
and no one
(p. 139),
and
that he never loses
sight
of the effect he
produces (p. 140).
When he
finally
insists that he has found his
happiness,
it is the
happiness
of
being
adored and once more able to
permit
himself
everying (p.
141-
143).
His
"call,"
his mission as a leader and
prophet-even
a false
prophet-has
turned into the mere
self-indulgence
and
personal
exhi-
bitionism of an
underground man;
his frenetic
activity
lacks the
support
of a
convincing,
coherent creed as much as did that of the ridiculous man.
Henri
Peyre
calls The Fall "a satire of the self-indictment
practised
347
COMPARATIVE LITERATURE
by
Christians and atheistic Existentialists
alike,
by Dostoevsky's
'buf-
foons' as Camus called them in his 'Exil
d'Helene,'
and
by
the advocates
of universal and unlimited
responsibility."24
In Helen's
Exile,
Camus
was
probably thinking
of men like
Marmeladov,
general Ivolgin, cap-
tain
Snegirev,
men "who boast of
everything,
soar to
heaven,
and end
up flaunting
their shame in
any public place."25
Clamence
may
resemble
them in
manner,
but a much
deeper kinship
links him to
Dostoevsky's
"anti-heroes,"
the
underground
man and the ridiculous
man,
who are
confronted with a
tragic,
universal dilemma without the
strength
to
challenge
or even
acknowledge
it. Like
them,
Clamence is half
victim,
half
victor,
both
prophet
and slave.26 In
him,
their ambivalence is car-
ried to the
extreme;
in their
mirror,
his real mission finds its clearest
reflection.
The
tragedy
of the
underground
man consists in his awareness of
the
fallibility
of isolated
reason,
while he is unable to live
by anything
but reason.
Similarly,
Clamence's dilemma is the result of a curious
inconsistency
in his ideas.
Though
he cannot take the world
seriously,
he never ceases to take himself
seriously. Though
he does not believe
in the existence of absolute
values,
or even relative ethical
standards,
he is unable to live without them.
Rejecting
all
compromise,
all meas-
ure,
he
keeps heading
toward extremes. His fear to die without
having
confessed his
lies,
and his
inability
to
forget
a crime which he com-
mitted
only indirectly,
show that he desires not
merely power
but self-
justification,
not
only
attention but
approbation
from a world which he
has
rejected
as absurd.
The ridiculous man's
story begins
where the
underground
man's
ends,
with a
complete impasse.
After his
experience
of
suicide,
resur-
rection,
and an ultimate
fall,
the ridiculous man reverses his initial
position
almost as
completely
and
suddenly
as
Gregor
Samsa turns into
an insect. The ridiculous man's final
position
is extreme
and,
we sus-
pect,
ineffective. Clamence's solution is likewise
arbitrary,
a
similarly
total tournabout. When unlimited
power
is
beyond
his reach
through
domination,
he seeks it in
defiance;
unable to achieve
self-mastery,
he
chooses self-abandon
and,
after a vain
attempt
at
finding
a
religious
solution,
he withdraws into indifference and
negation.
When none of
24
Henri
Peyre,
"Camus the
Pagan,"
Yale French
Studies,
No. 25
(Spring
1960), p.
23.
25
The
Myth of Sisyphus, p.
137.
26
Even Camus'
concept
of the
"judge-penitent"
seems
inspired by Dostoevsky.
Camus
quotes
from The
Diary of
a Writer two
passages
on the
"Logical
Suicide"
containing
the
following phrases:
"Since ... I assume both the role of the
plaintiff
and that of the
defendant,
of the accused and of the
judge
. . ." and "In
my
indisputable capacity
of
plaintiff
and
defendant,
of
judge
and accused . . ." (The
Myth of Sisyphus, pp. 77-78).
348
CLAMENCE VS. DOSTOEVSKY
these
paths provide
a
way out,
Clamence resorts to a
logical "trick,"
and this trick
gives
us the
key
to his true nature.
Clamence decides to "reverse the
reasoning
to win out"
(p. 138).
From his own
vulnerability
he deduces the
presence
of universal
guilt,
just
as the ridiculous man had deduced man's innocence from his cor-
ruptibility.
But while the ridiculous man is
eminently
sincere if unu-
sually
naive,
Clamence admits that his deduction is a conscious distor-
tion,
calculated to
help
him extricate himself from his
desperate posi-
tion: "The
question
is not to remain
logical.
The
question
is to
slip
through
and,
above
all,
the
question
is to elude
judgment" (p.
76).
Clamence's "trick" answer is
entirely appropriate
to his character
and attitude. He is all
tricks,
all
sham, entirely
mask. Like
many
of Dos-
toevsky's
characters,
he is not
persecuted by
life,
but he is unable to
master it. But unlike
Dostoevsky's figures,
he and his
personal
fate
are not of
prime
concern. And here we
must,
at least
briefly,
mention
one other
figure
which
preceded
Clamence on his
path.
The
English
edition of The Fall is introduced
by
a
passage
from
Lermontov's foreword to A Hero
of
Our Time.
Pechorin,
Lermontov's
"hero,"
was one of the first
figures
to demonstrate the
bankruptcy
of the beliefs and values of the
early
nineteenth
century.
Brilliant,
su-
perior
to his environment and
self-sufficient,
he turns out to be
spirit-
ually
and
emotionally empty.
A
restless,
doomed
wanderer,
he takes
his
place
in Russian fiction as a successor to that first and most famous
superfluous
man, Eugene Onegin,
and becomes a
precursor
of Dostoev-
sky's
doomed
supermen,
of
Svidrigailov, Stavrogin,
Versilov,
and Ivan
Karamozov. But Pechorin is still a romantic
hero,
and
so,
largely,
are
Dostoevsky's
rebels-with the
exception
of the
underground
man. The
underground
man shows Pechorin's failure in a wider context
and,
in
addition,
debunks the romantic
image
of man.
Through
his
anti-hero,
Dostoevsky
bares modern man and his ambivalence
long
before
Sig-
mund Freud
presents
him to us
scientifically.
With
good
reason Camus chose for his hero a man
resembling
the
underground man,
and for his motto a
passage
from A Hero
of
Our
Time.27
Pechorin,
the
underground
man,
and Clamence are
masks,
images
of
everyone
and no
one, significant symbols
for the ailments
and the tenor of their time. Clamence is Nietzsche's
tightrope
walker,
one of Eliot's hollow
men,
an
underground
man of the twentieth cen-
tury. Self-scrutiny
has led to a
recovery
of
form,
a form more
sophisti-
cated and
complex
than ever
before;
it has become sheer
artistry,
27
Cf. also Dostoevsky's
introductory
remarks to Notes
from
Underground:
"It was
my
intention to
bring
before our
reading public,
more
conspicuously
than
is
usually done,
one of the characters of our recent
past.
He is one of the
repre-
sentatives of a
generation
that is still with us"
(BSS, p. 107).
349
COMPARATIVE LITERATURE
entirely mask,
pure
make-believe. Clamence is an
empty
shell
and,
in
his
mirror,
we
may
be one as well. The so-called "existential moment"
of awareness is not sufficient. If it is followed
by
a creed based on
levity
and
vanity
rather than moral
responsibility,
it leads to a dead end. The
problems
of
guilt
and
penance
become mere
topics
for
conversation,
and love becomes a
pastime,
a mere
exchange
of cues. Life
itself,
which
is such a
tantalizing
and
tormenting
riddle for
Dostoevsky's men,
be-
comes a
game.
Absurd and
meaningless,
it
tempts
man to
give up
his
individuality
and his seriousness of
purpose,
and to turn
entirely
into
an
actor,
a
mask,
committed to an
arbitrary,
invented
performance
on
boards
spanning
the chaos.
The
Fall, though brilliantly
written and committed to an ambitious
and
unquestionably
valid
message,
lacks the
uniqueness
of
conception
which
distinguishes
The
Stranger,
or the
virtually physical impact
of
The
Plague.
The
paradox underlying
Clamence's
philosophy
and the
ambivalence of his character
provide
a clue to the
complexity
of the
book,
and also to its weakness. The
underground
man was
presented
as a
failure,
immobilized in his self-chosen
underground
for all
eternity.
At the same time he became a
strikingly
effective
personification
of
the
public conscience, symbol
as well as critic of a
dangerous mentality.
Clamence, by trying
to combine his characteristics with those of a whole
group
of other Dostoevskian
characters,
as well as
reflecting
a
good
many
other themes and causes close to Camus'
heart,
becomes a com-
posite
rather than an
entity,
a void behind his mask rather than an
essence.
Though
he
is,
in a
sense,
even more of an anti-hero than the
underground
man who had coined the term, and
though
a much more
striking
and
imposing figure
when we first meet
him,
his accusations
remain constructed and
artificial,
not a climax but a tour de
force;
thus
we can shake off his
image
and his
message
without
great effort,
while the Notes
from Underground
remain
indelibly imprinted
in our
memory.
Monterey, California
350

337 . 127-136. 99-103. 146. and GermaineBree. one important and illuminating approach to The Fall has not been sufficiently explored-its relationship to Dostoevsky's works. An Approach Dostoevsky: to La Chute EAN BAPTISTE CLAMENCE. masterpiece or failure. He has been considered the epitome of modern man. of Camus' attempts at self-parody.ELIZABETH TRAHAN Clamence vs. and p. No. he has been identified with Camus' critique of Sartre and the men surrounding him. pp. 2 The relationshipof The Fall to Notes from Undergroundis mentioned in Jacques Brenner. Despite this wide range of interpretations and comparisons. n. 191. the Janus-faced protagonist of Camus' last novel. 82-93. The Fall (La Chute. not been discussed.1 A good case has been made for most of these interpretations. to my knowledge. especially Notes from Underground and "The Dream of a Ridiculous Man. p. 1960). 660-667. Nathan A."PMLA LXXVII (1962). pp. 1962)."2 This neglect is 1 See Adele King. a Virgil guiding the reader through a contemporary Inferno. Scott." La Table Ronde. 1964). 84. No. 1959). 9."La Table Ronde. He has been viewed as an illustration to The Rebel. Finally. 2. n. The relationship to "The Dream of a Ridiculous Man" and Dostoevsky's other works has. A more extensive comparison can be found in Jacques Madaule's "Camus et Dostoievski. Albert Camus (London. it concerns itself with contrasts rather than similarities. and as Camus' rejoinder in the controversy following the book's publication. where these views are either expressed or cited. It need therefore not surprise us to encounter equally contradictory answers to the question of whether The Fall is ambivalent or ambiguous. 146 (Feb. Camus (New Brunswick. and of Camus' turning toward Christianity. even though some of them are contradictory. a reflection of his author's doubts and weaknesses. and Albert Camus (New York. 101. "L'Homme du souterrain. p. however. and another John the Baptist. "Structure and Meaning in La Chute. 1956). pp. and his caricature. has been called a Satanic figure.

" Yale Review. may seem somewhat farfetched. XLVIII (1959). 1947). (Paris.4 secret.' as we used 3 See Bree. Camus uses Dostoevsky's 338 . to Prince Myshkin. and plot elements as well as themes. the idiot. What does a decent chap talk about with the greatest possible pleasure? Answer: at those very about himself. so I will talk about myself [p. In The Fall. and both are interspersed with philosophical discussions on such questions as man's responsibility and guilt. 32. And if The Possessed is a prophetic book. p." and Ivan and Dmitri Karamazov's rebellion and moral dilemma. Justin O'Brien (New York. 1959). the stranger. In The Rebel (L'Homme revolte.3 and Camus' own adaptation of Dostoevsky's Possessed begins with the following admission: The Possessed is one of the four or five works that I rank above all others.6 Both books focus on a major upheaval and its effects on an entire community.COMPARATIVE LITERATURE all the more surprising. quoted from The Possessed.5 However. Camus portrayed Ivan Karamazov in a stage presentation of The Brothers Karavmxov. 1951) Camus discusses at length Shigalev's theory of state terrorism. 1947) can definitely be associated with The Possessed. 1960). As early as 1932. Very well. 111]. especially in view of Camus' long preoccupation with that book. Camus. Dostoevsky's influence affects style. In many ways I can claim that I grew up on it and took sustenance from it." Situations I (Paris. recorded by an elusive yet omnipresent narrator. 5 Jean-Paul Sartre. in any event. the existence of God and the suffering of innocent children. In Camus' fiction. "Albert Camus on Capital Punishment: His Adaptation of The Possessed. wanting to believe and yet unable to do so-like those who people our society and our spiritual world today. the grand inquisitors "of today. 1942) devotes heroes primarily as test cases or targets for his own philosophical views. characterization. Both novels are presented as chronicles. moments when I was acutely conscious of 'the sublime and beautiful. since Camus' admiration for Dostoevsky is no an entire chapter to Kirillov. 4 Les Possedes In The Myth of Sisyphus and The Rebel. "Explication de l'Etranger. but also because its protagonists are torn or dead souls unable to love and suffering from that inability. as another innocent in a hostile world. as we know by now. They are like us. Jean-Paul Sartre's comparison of Meursault. Dostoevsky's characters. 634-640. The Myth of Sisyphus (Le Mythe de Sisyphe. For a discussion of Camus' adaptation of Dostoevsky's novel see Warren Ramsey. we have the same heart. Dostoevsky's influence affects form as well as content.. 6 In his notes. trans. Camus stresses his intention to write the book as a chronicle. on the other hand. are neither odd nor absurd. For almost twenty years. God's challenger and victim. this is not only because it prefigures our nihilism.. certain techniques employed in The Plague (La Peste.. I have visualized its characters on the stage.. finally.. The Foreword is not found in the French edition.

. philosophic and introspective. Good Lord.. 114].. into a "little-ease" of his own making.I assure you. 112]. too. almost sedate tone of The Plague. 1955).7 Clamence's whimsical.. Clamence seems to have little in common with Dostoevsky's "anti-hero" who. pitifully weak and helpless in his self-chosen underground. in addition. has withdrawn underground. henceforthreferredto as BSS. 102. trans.J. I have.. I have talked a lot. expansive monologue is much closer to the underground man's Notes than to the bare. But Clamence. Notes jrom Underground is a confession told in the first person. . I'm afraid. as a matter of fact. I've been even ashamedof it [p. though bearing a real name. hidden in Clamence's austere room-a symbol of his defiance of justice and integrity.you have mistaken your cowardice for common sense and have found comfort in that. 7 Passages quoted from "Notes from Underground. it. 240]. N.. I was not only conscious but also guilty of the most contemptible actions .CLAMENCE VS. DOSTOEVSKY to call it in those days. been latterly greatly oppressedby the memory of some incident that happenedto me a long time ago.. pp. emerges as the target of the narrator's attack. haven't I? But have I explained anything? . is a narrator's harrangue of an imaginary listener who..8 or to the dispassionate. elusive and nightmarish. The only real thing is the portrait of the three just judges. and sometimes. vainly sticks his tongue out at the world. 146]. I really may feel easier in my mind if I write it down. 8 See Camus. 113] . and it has since been hauntingme [BSS. the underground man withdraws underground because of an event which he is unable to forget. I'm very vain. stolid Dutch are described by Clamence as double-faced shadows.. In turns ironic and emotional. I'm not trying to justify myself by this all-of-usness. . I have always considered myself cleverer than any one else in the world. [p. . I rememberedit very vividly the other day. .Now. Like Clamence. GermaineBree (Englewood Cliffs. seen through his eyes. which has been compared to that of Hemingway and Kafka. and of his commitment to the underground world. [p. 119. Both are in their forties and have liver ailments. I have allowed myself only recently to remembersome of my early adventures. is indistinct. Initially. I have merely carriedto extremes in my life what you have not dared carry even halfway. terse prose of The Stranger. and. . David Magarshack (New York. a mere aesthetic foil at first. 339 Ridiculous Man" are taken from The Best Short Stories of Dostoevsky. 1962). deceivingyourselves [BSS. p. Like The Fall. becomes a surrealistic cave in the heart of a town which. too."and "The Dream of a . . . Even the sober. p. both here in the cold. for instance. Clamence shares a surprising number of significant traits with the underground man. for instance. ed. Mexico City Bar. damp reality and elsewhere in a luxuriant tropical paradise. having till now avoided them rather uneasily. For my part.

and see love entirely in terms of tyranny and subjugation. rainy.11 The settings for both stories are similar. or snowy. through confession.out of vanity" (BSS. likewise. 142). . and "The feeling of delight was there just because I was so intensely aware of my own degradation. 5)." (Fall. which also continually encroach upon the land and endanger it. he relishes the self-castigation as much as the underground man relishes and seeks humiliation. could he find anything better. and that a man will most certainly tell a lot of lies about himself. or "I have ceased to like anything but confessions. youth whose memory drives one to despair !" (144).. and "Heine says that true biographiesare almost impossible.badly mangled by the censor. While the sea is usually a symbol of freedom and beauty for Camus. "that Amsterdam's concentric circles resemble the circles of Hell? . p. I am happy unto death! Oh sun. we are in the last circle 9 Cf."(BSS. the undergroundman admits that "though innocent I was guilty" (BSS. They are overly sensitive. 146) . Petersburg lands us on Amsterdam's similarly gloomy waterfront. I see you smile at that use of the subjunctive. The weather. and the islands in the path of the trade winds. 11Passages quoted from The Fall are from the translation by Justin O'Brien (New York. and told them deliberately. 10Cf. The whole style. 114).and authors of confessionswrite especially to avoid confessing .10 Clamence. p. p. In addition. was originally meant to suggest the possibility of a return to Christ." asks Clamence. also: "Ah. damp. and admit their extreme vanity. Here. provides a sinister accompaniment to the story line. I tell you. "Have you noticed.I confess my weakness for that mood and for fine speech in general" (Fall. here it hovers around Amsterdam as implacably as St. Petersburg's swamps and rivers. Cf. 1963). 146). p. Ch. the underground man admits that he would gladly relinquish his underground. revengeful. I won't let you think I'm not happy. p. mentions that his solution is not ideal and that it has not silenced his doubts. 145). 340 . The chapter. and the leap from the underground man's cellar in St. and "It will look more dignified on paper . "there will be a greater sense of passing judgment on myself" (BSS. beaches.. And when Clamencepunishes himself by forsaking his heights for the hateful watery underground of Amsterdam's hell. p. p. I'm sure. The underground man confesses to a propensity for play-acting and a thirst for power-the two dominanttraits of the judge-penitent. In his view. 120)..: "The confession of my crimes allows me to begin again lighter in heart and to taste a double enjoyment. . his mountain top for a bare locked room.9 At one point. first of my nature and secondly of a charming repentance"(Fall.COMPARATIVE LITERATURE Both stress their superior intelligence. . p. His underlying despair is fully revealed by his hysterical affirmation of life: "I am happy-I am happy. 113). quite incapableof friendship. will be better" (BSS.many remarks of the undergroundman reveal his longing to live "real life. Like Clamence. foggy. Rousseau told a lot of lies about himself in his Confessions. 10." to become a real person.. and that.

DOSTOEVSKY . but merely another underground man. 238-239). Initially. lies in wait for him in Hell's innermost circle. not to take his ravings too seriously. 15). Clamence refers to his vow not to cross bridges at night because "suppressed dives sometimes leave one strangely aching" (p.12 Before Clamence withdraws underground. When he reaches the climactic moment of his act." in Clamence's locked room and closed universe. there I wait for them" (pp.. uttering his condemnation. he weakens it by his restlessness and an admission of doubts and a lack of choice. Clamence's strength and equilibrium are shown as vulnerable. He makes good his initial threat and springs at his victim. He now displays such negative traits as Camus might wish to censure in himself and others. Clamence seems to guide his companion through Amsterdam's Inferno. insecure human being. becoming ambiguous but also human. 341 . But he is feverish and intoxicated. 14-15). and a crushing sense of guilt. The Fall is not simply the story of a devil mocking and accusing man. He begins to doubt himself and to search for reassurance. We are now "at the heart of things." the two following chapters his attempts at escaping the consequences. suffering. Increasingly excited and maudlin. Yet. and. the man'sepisodewith Lisa: "But didn't I ending of the underground know perfectly well when I ran out of my flat [after her] that I should turn back half-way?" (BSS. Clamence's paradoxical final statement-"It will always be too late. Fortunately!" (p. among them that taken by Dostoevsky's other "anti-hero"-the ridiculous man. like Dante's Virgil. a cynical Camus seems to be hiding behind Satan's negation of man and society. "The Dream of a Ridiculous Man. like Dante's Satan. pp. Clamence's outbursts and selfcastigations also begin to recall Dostoevsky's underground man. the bitterness of a humorist vis-a-vis the contemporary world and society. as the end of the chapter suggests. 121). Though. In these four chapters. In these chapters. In the first chapter of The Fall. 147)-shows that he has at best sublimated his dilemma but not mastered it. a prey to loneliness. This is a strange admission for the Prince of Darkness-his dazzling armor has revealed a first chink.. he also. shame. He admits liking dogs "because they forgive" (p. The sixth and final chapter provides a counterpart to the beginning. he explores several other paths. the 12 Cf. provides a counterpartto Notes from Underground." a story of some twenty-five pages.CLAMENCE VS. at the same time. he implores his listener not to bear down on him too hard. The second and third chapters describe Clamence's "fall. The aloof and :loquent guide of the first chapter is turning into a tormented. This is no longer Satan.

. p. In The Myth of Sisyphus. . "The Dream of a Ridiculous Man" was first published in the April issue of The Diary of a Writer for 1877. he was probably also familiar with "The Dream of a Ridiculous Man. a fine rain was falling. but it only takes him back to the underground man's wrathful and impotent rebellion. and a horrible dampnessdescendedupon everything [BSS.. It happened on a dismal evening. Dostoevsky's tive story. and every moment since then has been imprintedindelibly on my mind. XVII (1959). in many aspects Clamence's experience can be compared to it. p." Clamence seems to explore the ridiculous man's path. . I learned the truth last November."14Thus. . The ridiculous man wants to expiate his guilt by being crucified. During a dream. he awakes from his dream completely transformed.. The ridiculous man is unable to disprove the underground man's terrible accusations of human ambivalence and guilt. It was an hour past midnight. nor can he erase the image of a man trapped by too great an intellectual honesty and too analytical a mind.13 However.COMPARATIVE LITERATURE ridiculous man is an underground man who has withdrawn into cynical indifference.: "That particularnight in November . as dismal an evening as could be imagined. it had been pouring all day. but about eleven o'clock it had stopped suddenly. but he is merely laughed at and considered mad. is surprisingly ineffectual. 349-371. 297]. that scattered the few people on the streets" (Fall. to be precise. 14 The Myth of Sisyphus and Other Essays. 69). he is carried off to another planet which resembles our earth before the Fall. 1959). pp. a believer in man's innocence. and.15 most posi- A little girl approaches the ridiculous man for help. and to Zossima's creed of active love and a personal expiation of universal guilt." SEEJ. and they relive the historical stages of our earth. . I was returning to the Left Bank and my home by way of the Pont Royal. The ridiculous man seems slightly demented in his enthusiasm. trans. Surprisingly. a drizzle rather. Camnus quotes one passage from the Diary for December 1876 and one from "one of the following installments. 81. and the transition from the dream reality of man's guilt to his new creed of man's innocence is neither logically nor emotionally convincing. The answer given by the ridiculous man to the underground man's challenge is close to Stavrogin's and Versilov's visions of an earthly Golden Age. 15 Cf. Like The Fall. in universal brotherhood and love. this. 77. 342 . unable to 13 See my essay. "The Golden Age-Dream of a Ridiculous Man?. "The Dream of a Ridiculous Man" focuses on man's fall and the problem of redemption. Though the ridiculous man's fall is much closer to the biblical conception. He corrupts the innocent inhabitants of this Eden. on the third of November. Justin O'Brien (New York.

Dostoevsky's two "anti-heroes" are not the only ones to leave their mark on Clamence. and to gain new insights into his character. he stamps his foot at her and chases her away. they will devote their lives to the effort of coming to terms with the world's laughter. His cosmic dream opens his eyes to his guilt and the need for expiation. in the first chapter of The Fall. DOSTOEVSKY shake her off. In The Myth of Sisyphus. Henceforth. and "Above the gathered crowd. Camus points to the ambiguities and flaws in Nietzsche's reasoning. But as they go forth preaching their truths. 343 . I always loved sorrow and affliction. and are plunged into the crises of their existence. in order to assert his own superiority and power.: "Alas. and sees his extreme position as a betrayal of true rebellion: "To say yes to everything sup16 Cf. Clamence seemed a combination of Virgil and Satan. you would hold up my still warm head. while his thinking clearly echoes the views of Friedrich Nietzsche and Ivan Dmitri Karamazov.16 Instead of martyrdom. sincere if demented prophet. they dedicate themselves to it with similar fanaticism. The problems of excess and moderation form the very core of Camus' thought. Nietzsche and his amor fati loom large behind the book's affirmation. and an equally ambiguous desire for martyrdom. Both show a Satanic streak. similarly propelled and trapped by his dilemma. he begins to analyze himself. Both Clamence and the ridiculous man long for the lost land of innocence and describe it in terms of the Greek Archipelago. he also reflects Lermontov's Pechorin and Dostoevsky's Stavrogin. In The Rebel. a true innocent and believer in man's innocence. I yearned for my blood to be shed to the last drop in torment and suffering" (BSS. though he still voices admiration for Nietzsche as a diagnostician. they head into opposite directions. in the final chapter he emerges as a composite of the underground man and the ridiculous man. both men meet with derision. p. Like Clamence. But he is unable to forget the episode. but only for myself. Loudly proclaiming The Truth. only for myself . The ridiculous man becomes a humble. p. If. just as Clamence's supersensory experience jolts him out of his complacency and forces upon him an awareness of his guilt. 146).. I longed to receive martyrdom at their hands..CLAMENCE VS. constantly attempting to redeem man from his fall. Clamence feverishly preaches universal guilt and tries to bring about man's fall again and again. To a lesser extent. It is therefore not surprising to find Nietzsche and Dostoevsky -both obsessed with these problems-among the main influences on Camus' work. Both turn this effort into a personal call and mission. 319). I thirsted for martyrdom. so that they could recognize themselves in it and I could again dominatean exemplar" (Fall. and with a similar touch of madness.

See also Camus' reference to The Fall as "a satirical study of a perverted and unhealthy kind of solidarite" (quoted in Scott. by an inevitable perversion of fact. by making use of the rebellion of the oppressed. 76)."New York Times Book Review. Nietzsche. . .'A new and somewhathideousrace of martyrs is now born. The struggle between truth and justice is begun here for the first time. Brisville." ("L'Exil d'Helene. Have I ever chosen to exalt servitude?" J. p. the problemof excess and moderationis outlined long before The Rebel and. 82). Nemesis. the goddess of measure and not of revenge.1 Now Camus sets out to determine "if every rebellion must end in the defense of universal murder. Cahiers du Sud. Their martyrdomconsists of consenting to inflict suffering on others. are pitilessly punishedby her. At the end of this long insurrectionin the name of human innocence. Camus emphasizedthis in an interview with JeanClaude Brisville in 1959: "My hero [Clamence] is indeed discouraged. 303-304). 1957. and his rebellion is defeated by the extremism of his other self. The book ends with Camus' reaffirmationof Ivan's and Dmitri's quest for justice and an end to suffering (see pp. 260. Their importance for Camus is shown by the fact that they are evoked and evaluated side by side with de Sade.-C.19 17 The Rebel.Quoted from The Myth of Sisyphus. on the other hand. Clamence can easly be discovered among this new race of martyrs. by claiming that it is hard for them to bear. off in the pursuit of totality. 344 . and therefore.COMPARATIVE LITERATURE poses that one says yes to murder" (p.p. Our Europe.381-386.. 18Actually. in fact. being a good twentieth-centurynihilist. 17. on the contrary.18 In The Rebel. 175-176] .over one part of our history. both the true rebel and his opponent are represented by figures out of Dostoevsky's fiction-Ivan and Dmitri Karamazov. 33). "He [Ivan] launches the essential undertaking of rebellion. Bakunin. trans."Permanencede la Grece. . the Grand Inquisitor and Shigalav.) 19There can be little doubt that Clamencewas meant to demonstratethe pitfalls of a pervertedrebellion. in terms quite applicableto The Fall: "Greekthought always took refuge behind the idea of limits . Similarly. . for the slaves there is Chigalevism. there arises. 243]. Feb. but they excuse their cruelty. like the Satan of the romantics. the affirmation of general culpability [p. he exalts servitude. 1948. it can furnish the principle of a limited culpability" (17). 'We reserve desire and suffering for ourselves. is the child of disproportion. Saint-Just. which is that of replacing the reign of grace by the reign of justice. XXXIV. and it will never end" (p. 134. Anthony Bower (New York. Hegel. they become the slaves of their own domination [pp. We have come full circle. All those who overstep the limit. and Mark. or if. . 1959). the rebellion of reason-which Ivan represents for Camus-is superceded by the totalitarianismof today's Grand Inquisitors and Shigalevs: The new aristocracyand the GrandInquisitorsreign today. 56). keeps watch. and Camus' mentioning Lord Jim as the inspirationfor The Fall (quoted in DominiqueAury's "Talk with Albert Camus. without claiming an impossible innocence. Their reign is cruel.. p. p. Ivan is unable to sustain the suspension denlanded of the true rebel. Camus (Paris. 1958).

What became a tragic quest for Stavrogin. However. a victim of his own creed. Der Fall Wagner and G6tterdlimmerung. one by one. apparently in harmony with himself and the world." his activity turns into mere acts of self-gratification.21Therefore.) 21 Nietzsche. Clamence. obviously acts from resentment rather than conviction or generosity. and Dmitri. But his love of life turns out to be lust for power. Like the dancer in Kleist's "Puppet Theater. There is first a faint echo of The Double."20 The relationship of Clamence to Nietzsche cannot be discussed here. Its mainspring is vanity rather than self-knowledge. DOSTOEVSKY Yet. Camus turns him into a travesty not only on Ivan and Dmitri Karamazov. Initially.284. (Cf. 1902-1909]." and his heroes as acting from "ressentiment. goes from stage to stage. the playactor.CLAMENCE VS. his love of appearance (Schein) and his remark on marriage with power and the whip. He should rectify in creation everything that can be rectified" (p. for all his advocacy of a master theory." a travesty on Nietzsche's superman. Clamence seems to satisfy at least the first premise. criticized him as a writer "from want" and not "abundance. into theatrical gestures and acts. a thirst for unrestricted power rather than what Nietzsche would call "a creativity from abundance. In a remarkabledouble distortion." Clamence loses his innocence the moment it is exposed to criticism and self-scrutiny. 303). a fake search from beginning to end for a pose rather than a genuine attitude or creed. Friedrich Nietzsches gesammelte Briefe [Berlin." never even faces them. who greatly admired Dostoevsky as a psychologist and moral 20 See Friedrich Nietzsche. Clamence is not simply another Grand Inquisitor. though Clamence eventually sets out "to rectify in creation everything that can be rectified. Though he retains a greater degree of sanity than Golyadkin-despite a few attacks of megalomania relativist. Clamence's "search" leads him through most of the major spheres of Dostoevsky's world and its possibilities. In The Rebel. Camus demanded that a man "master in himself everything that should be mastered. as well as several other Dostoevskian heroes. faces the crucial questions of man's essence and existence-and turns them. But unlike Dostoevsky's rebels. he never "feels his ideas. 345 . Kirillov. He lives deeply every moment. the mortification of himself and others at the expense of joy and innocence. His harmony is as much of a trompe-loeil as his Paris. Clamence. IV. is a parody on the Bildungsroman in The Fall. when a moment on a bridge externalizes Clamence's inner split. but also Nietzsche's superman and Ivan's Grand Inquisitor. and becomes a caricature of a "master. Ivan." He used the underground man as his prime example.

Clamence is divided in himself. p. 9. calling as his prime witnesses Dostoevsky's "Logical Suicide" and Kirillov. In the end. Ivan re22 The first of these similarities is mentionedin Bree. the dual role of judge-penitent which he plays and relishes. too. like Stavrogin. Moreover. 82-83. yet. LVI (1961). Though Clamence's confession that he loves life too much to kill himself seems in line with Sisyphus'and Nietzsche's-amor fati. "hot and cold at the same time" (p. is accepted by Clamence as human duplicity per se. without any need for acquiring a self of his own. His final attempt to fuse with another man. "'Dedoublement' in Dostoevsky and Camus. With similar levity Clamence approaches the question of suicidea monumental problem for Dostoevsky's Ippolyt. once more brings to mind Golyadkin's frantic efforts at a rapprochementwith his double. 137) and thus neither hot nor cold. to punish them. 74). 23 Stavrogin is tormentedby the knowledge of being neither hot nor cold." and he dismisses it because the effect is unpredictable. and again the echo becomes mockery. Clamence sees suicide as a means "to play a trick on them. is unable to shake off the curse of the split personality. ethically. or. Rather childishly. But while their split manifests itself. It all becomes a game. again like Stavrogin. 346 . the ridiculous man. Ivan rebels against a world resting on the suffering of innocent children-a problem discussed by Camus at length in The Plague and emphasized in The Rebel." MLR. of injustice and innocent suffering. as the insoluble dilemma of a personality unable to come to terms with life. a Parisian lawyer like himself and of about the same age.COMPARATIVE LITERATURE -he. n. and in Yvette Louria.22 In certain character traits and actions Clamence reminds us of Stavrogin. Clamence wears a mask of power and mystery which attracts people to him. Clamence is gradually unmasked and emerges as a brittle and hollow shell. and no less serious for Camus.23 Like Golyadkin and Stavrogin. as a quest for transcendentalvalues without an ability to believe in them. a mere toying with the problems of belief and rebellion. Clamence broaches an even bigger question-the question of Christ's mission. Kirillov. who in his Myth of Sisyphus sets out to examine the problem of suicide. Clamence's amorous adventure with a young girl and a prostitute recalls Stavrogin's simultaneous involvement with a lady and her maid. his frivolous tone discredits his statement. Now he seems to echo Ivan Karamazov. because it permits him to change from one mask into another. 191. and his inabilityto believe in anythingeventuallydestroys him. and even Raskolnikov. Camus. he even turns out to be afraid of death. At first he seems human enough to suffer and grapple with the great questions of being. to be exploited and enjoyed. because "one cannot enjoy the show" (p. the ambivalent hero of The Possessed. psychologically.

dogma. and. it is the happiness of being adored and once more able to permit himself everying (p. obedient and guilty" (p. 138) . the rank injustice that has been done him ! It wrings my heart !-Good heavens. But given the man he was. But Clamence lacks even the stature of a Grand Inquisitor. are unable to bear it. seems to end with the Grand Inquisitor. and equality-the equality of slaves. And as for the sadness that can be felt in his every act. with an affirmation of man's need for power." his mission as a leader and prophet-even a false prophet-has turned into the mere self-indulgence and personal exhibitionism of an underground man. of a manwhoheard for weeping her children nightafternightthe voiceof Rachel andrefusing comfort?[pp. to take the burden of freedom from men and give them in its stead security. and that he never loses sight of the effect he produces (p. 115). then he suggests that he has merely been constructing a mask. the responsibility for the millions who are too weak for freedom. 140).CLAMENCE VS. One minute he speaks of himself as one of the mass. I am sure he could not forget them. a false pope. His closing words turn the entire speech into a mockery of the thoughts its expresses: "Oh. Clamence admits his flair for oratory and dramatic effect. 136) . His Grand Inquisitor sets out to correct Christ's work. When he finally insists that he has found his happiness. the habit has seized me again and I'm on the point of making a speech to the court" (p. he does not judge man but pities him. whether he believes in God or not. left with the burden of personal responsibility. by shifting the blame from himself to all others. Clamence refuses all personal responsibility for his fellow men. 141143). In fact. a false prophet who establishes an arbitrary rule over a mankind united in slavery. living "like the rest of the world. coherent creed as much as did that of the ridiculous man. he burdens them with his own guilt and weakness in order to triumph over them.112-113] all Yet in the same speech. Henri Peyre calls The Fall "a satire of the self-indictment practised 347 . Nor is his attitude based on conviction. the hero of Dostoevsky's Adolescent: horror. next he speaks of overwhelming himself in order to have the right to judge others (p. Clamence who begins with Nietzsche. wasn't it the incurablemelancholy Thoseblood-spattered thoseinfantscut in two filledhim [Christ]with soldiers. a portrait which fits everyone and no one (p. His "call. his frenetic activity lacks the support of a convincing. his words might have been uttered by Ivan or Versilov. the injustice. When Clamence speaks of the suffering of innocent children. 139). DOSTOEVSKY jects Christ's sacrifice for having only increased the suffering of those who. The latter accepts the grave consequences of his position.

soar to heaven. 348 . When none of 24 Henri Peyre. Camus was probably thinking of men like Marmeladov. he chooses self-abandon and. he keeps heading toward extremes. he withdraws into indifference and negation. men "who boast of everything. he never ceases to take himself seriously. and end up flaunting their shame in any public place. "Camus the Pagan."25Clamence may resemble them in manner. Though he cannot take the world seriously. of judge and accused . Rejecting all compromise. No. with a complete impasse.COMPARATIVE LITERATURE by Christians and atheistic Existentialists alike. ineffective. 25 The Myth of Sisyphus. 77-78). After his experience of suicide." and "In my indisputable capacity of plaintiff and defendant." Yale French Studies.. not only attention but approbationfrom a world which he has rejected as absurd. p. I assume both the role of the plaintiff and that of the defendant. both prophet and slave. . . . 137. general Ivolgin. who are confronted with a tragic. His fear to die without having confessed his lies. he seeks it in defiance."24In Helen's Exile. captain Snegirev. Camus quotes from The Diary of a Writer two passages on the "Logical Suicide" containing the following phrases: "Since . Like them. while he is unable to live by anything but reason. a similarly total tournabout. we suspect. 25 (Spring 1960)." (The Myth of Sisyphus. The ridiculous man's story begins where the underground man's ends. his real mission finds its clearest reflection. show that he desires not merely power but selfjustification.26 In him. half victor. of the accused and of the judge . the ridiculous man reverses his initial position almost as completely and suddenly as Gregor Samsa turns into an insect. pp. in their mirror. their ambivalence is carried to the extreme. all measure. 26 Even Camus' concept of the "judge-penitent" seems inspired by Dostoevsky. Though he does not believe in the existence of absolute values. but a much deeper kinship links him to Dostoevsky's "anti-heroes..' and by the advocates of universal and unlimited responsibility. The ridiculous man's final position is extreme and." the underground man and the ridiculous man. universal dilemma without the strength to challenge or even acknowledge it. after a vain attempt at finding a religious solution. Similarly. by Dostoevsky's 'buffoons' as Camus called them in his 'Exil d'Helene. and an ultimate fall. unable to achieve self-mastery. Clamence is half victim. Clamence's dilemma is the result of a curious inconsistency in his ideas. The tragedy of the underground man consists in his awareness of the fallibility of isolated reason. resurrection. or even relative ethical standards. and his inability to forget a crime which he committed only indirectly. Clamence's solution is likewise arbitrary. . he is unable to live without them. When unlimited power is beyond his reach through domination. p. 23.

and for his motto a passage from A Hero of Our Time.CLAMENCE VS. 27 Cf. The English edition of The Fall is introduced by a passage from Lermontov's foreword to A Hero of Our Time. Versilov. also Dostoevsky's introductory remarks to Notes from Underground: "It was my intentionto bring before our reading public. mention one other figure which preceded Clamence on his path. Clamence resorts to a logical "trick. 138). But Pechorin is still a romantic hero. the underground man. superior to his environment and self-sufficient. of Svidrigailov. Stavrogin. and Ivan Karamozov. all sham. But while the ridiculous man is eminently sincere if unusually naive. he and his personal fate are not of prime concern.27 Pechorin. He is all tricks. images of everyone and no one. Eugene Onegin. and so. the question is to elude judgment" (p. he turns out to be spiritually and emotionally empty. p. Self-scrutiny has led to a recovery of form. And here we must. 76). Clamence's "trick" answer is entirely appropriate to his character and attitude. are Dostoevsky's rebels-with the exception of the underground man. at least briefly. in addition. one of the charactersof our recent past. The underground man shows Pechorin's failure in a wider context and. Through his anti-hero. entirely mask. largely. Clamence decides to "reverse the reasoning to win out" (p. Clamence admits that his deduction is a conscious distortion. With good reason Camus chose for his hero a man resembling the underground man. From his own vulnerability he deduces the presence of universal guilt. Lermontov's "hero. Pechorin. he takes his place in Russian fiction as a successor to that first and most famous superfluous man. and Clamence are masks. above all. but he is unable to master it. 107). debunks the romantic image of man. 349 . A restless. he is not persecuted by life. one of Eliot's hollow men. Dostoevsky bares modern man and his ambivalence long before Sigmund Freud presents him to us scientifically." was one of the first figures to demonstrate the bankruptcy of the beliefs and values of the early nineteenth century. doomed wanderer. and becomes a precursor of Dostoevsky's doomed supermen. He is one of the representatives of a generationthat is still with us" (BSS.more conspicuouslythan is usually done. But unlike Dostoevsky's figures. Clamence is Nietzsche's tightrope walker. just as the ridiculous man had deduced man's innocence from his corruptibility. DOSTOEVSKY these paths provide a way out. Like many of Dostoevsky's characters. The question is to slip through and." and this trick gives us the key to his true nature. Brilliant. significant symbols for the ailments and the tenor of their time. calculated to help him extricate himself from his desperate position: "The question is not to remain logical. an underground man of the twentieth century. it has become sheer artistry. a form more sophisticated and complex than ever before.

immobilized in his self-chosen underground for all eternity. Absurd and meaningless. The Fall. California 350 . a mere exchange of cues. Life itself. Monterey. becomes a composite rather than an entity. committed to an arbitrary. not a climax but a tour de force. Though he is. and also to its weakness. At the same time he became a strikingly effective personification of the public conscience. which is such a tantalizing and tormenting riddle for Dostoevsky's men. thus we can shake off his image and his message without great effort. The paradox underlying Clamence's philosophy and the ambivalence of his character provide a clue to the complexity of the book. by trying to combine his characteristics with those of a whole group of other Dostoevskian characters. becomes a game. even more of an anti-hero than the underground man who had coined the term. The underground man was presented as a failure. though brilliantly written and committed to an ambitious and unquestionably valid message. Clamence. and love becomes a pastime. in a sense. as well as reflecting a good many other themes and causes close to Camus' heart. a void behind his mask rather than an essence. a mask. and though a much more striking and imposing figure when we first meet him. and to turn entirely into an actor. lacks the uniqueness of conception which distinguishes The Stranger. while the Notes from Underground remain indelibly imprinted in our memory. or the virtually physical impact of The Plague. invented performance on boards spanning the chaos. his accusations remain constructed and artificial. pure make-believe. The so-called "existential moment" of awareness is not sufficient. Clamence is an empty shell and. symbol as well as critic of a dangerous mentality. it tempts man to give up his individuality and his seriousness of purpose. it leads to a dead end. we may be one as well. The problems of guilt and penance become mere topics for conversation. in his mirror. If it is followed by a creed based on levity and vanity rather than moral responsibility.COMPARATIVE LITERATURE entirely mask.

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