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Author Topic: Need help, book is smarter than me
AchillesHeel
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Ive become a fan of Albert Camus over the last few months, reading his famous work The Stranger, and a collection of short stories called Exile the Kingdom. And I have recently began reading The Fall, and I believe my mind may explode.

Camus was a French writer, penned many plays, editorials, was even active in the French underground during WWII, eventually winning the Nobel literature prize in the fifty's. Im hoping that the problem is with the translator but my prior purchases were from the same publisher. So heres my problem, the book is a monologue, no narrator... 147 pages of one character talking AT another character. Im willing to accept some amount of blame for this, the dimensia cant be far and I dont want to blame a writer who died sometime ago and can no longer defend himself.

Here's the first paragraph of the book.

May I, monsieur, offer my services without running the risk of intruding? I fear you may not be able to make yourself understood by the worthy ape who presides over the fate of this establishment. In fact, he speaks nothing but Dutch. Unless you authorize me to plead your case, he will not guess that you want gin. There, I dare hope he understood me; that nod must mean that he yields to my arguments. He is taking steps; indeed, he is making haste with prudent deliberation. You are lucky; he didnt grunt. When he refuses to serve someone, he merely grunts. No one insists. Being master of ones moods is the privilege of the larger animals. Now I shall withdraw, monsieur, happy to have been of help to you. Thank you; Id accept if I were sure of no being a nuisance. You are too kind. Then I shall bring my glass over beside yours.

This is the beggining, the basis of the entire thing. Can anyone help me understand this book? On a much lesser note, my arc mouse seems to perfect for holding paper-back books open without damaging it. Thats a nerd win.

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King of Men
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What's your problem? The narrator is saying that the bartender speaks only Dutch, and offers to translate. He is then offered a drink, and accepts after some pro-forma protests.
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AchillesHeel
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Hes not the narrator, he is the only voice. He does not narrate the book, he monologues through so many differant useless tangeants it makes me look sane. After thirty pages I dont dont know any names, barely a setting, and nothing even resembling a story-line. Kinda like the playstation rpg's from the ninetys, where all the characters would just carry on a conversation as if the main character were talking as well but you never see that text.
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King of Men
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So stop reading, then. I think you just want to brag that you're reading this really difficult book. We're all very impressed, well done.
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Nick
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The OP is asking for help understanding a difficult book and you outright fling accusations of being a braggart? Shouldn't you at least give the benefit of a doubt? I've read a book by Camus, his writing can be challenging at times.

Are you being ironic?

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Dobbie
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And that should be "smarter than I".
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BlueWizard
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It seems to me that the writer through the speaker is omitting every one else. We don't hear the speaker's dialog with the Bartender or with the patron. That is, we here the speaker explanation of what is going on, but we never specifically hear him address the bartender, nor do we hear the bartender respond. We hear what the speaker says to the patron, but never what the patron says to the speaker. So, we only hear what the speaker says. And through those statements we divine everything else.

We assume the speaker has spoken to the bartender and order a gin. We assume the speaker has spoken to the patron. That is, outside the monolog, there was a dialog between the speaker and the patron, but we aren't privilege to it.

But, you can follow the story if you understand that it is a monolog and not a dialog.

We hear only the speaker's portion of the conversation, but from that, we can determine many things.

He, the speaker, has been to that bar before. One might say he is a regular. He knows the bartender and the bartender's disposition. He knows that the bartender speaker primarily Dutch. We know that the patron has asked the speaker to join him for a drink. Though we never hear him say the words, but the speaker response and speaks as if he has been asked to join the patron. After a polite refusal, we know the speaker accepts the offer to join the patron for a drink.

It is kind of a unique way to tell a story. Almost as if you were listening from outside a window, but could only hear one person speaking because that one person happened to be standing just inside the window. Everyone else in the conversation is too far from the window to be heard by a person just outside the window. So, that outside the window listener, just like the reader, has to divine the whole conversation from what that one person says.

Steve/bluewizard

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mr_porteiro_head
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quote:
Originally posted by Dobbie:
And that should be "smarter than I".

Actually, either one is correct.
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MrSquicky
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AH,
I'm not a big fan of Camus and I've never read The Fall - I'm going off of what I read in some quick googling, so take this with a big grain of salt.

The important thing to realize is that this is meant primarily as a work of philosophy and not a story. Camus is trying to draw reflection and conclusions out of the reader by what he is presenting. To do so, it looks like he is using an altered version of the confessions book (the most famous being by St. Augustine and Rousseau).

The opening bit sets the frame, where the reader's viewpoint meets the speaker in a bar in the worst part of Amsterdam. The speaker then moves into telling the viewpoint about his life and about the things that made him fall from the top of Parisian society down to drinking among the dregs in this seedy bar in Amersterdam.

This process is not supposed to be entertaining as much as it is supposed to be enlightening. It is supposed to be read in a highly self-reflective manner.

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AchillesHeel
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If this were an advertisement about how intelligent I was, I wouldnt be asking for help just to read a book. Maybe the fact that I can hardly read Shakespear without getting mentally dizzy will humble myself in your eyes.

I bought The Fall, because all his other works center on characters who are politely lethargic and uncaring. While the back of The Fall claimed to be about a man faced with good and evil, and so far its a man going on and on, not unlike that second cousin who you didnt know was going to be at Thanksgiving.

I guess this is just a lost cause, cruddy thing is it makes me apprehensive about getting another Camus book. Thanks anyway.

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Samprimary
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quote:
Originally posted by King of Men:
So stop reading, then. I think you just want to brag that you're reading this really difficult book. We're all very impressed, well done.

Would you like a pompadour to fuss with as you stare arrogantly down your nose at him?
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AchillesHeel
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Ive done what I should have in the first place, asked God (wikipedia). All has been made clear, and this book is definatly above me, one man wrote a eulogy for Camus, citing the book as "perhaps the most beautiful and the least understood" of Camus' books.

Now just to find an unexpecting reader to give this book to.

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Orincoro
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quote:
Originally posted by AchillesHeel:
If this were an advertisement about how intelligent I was, I wouldnt be asking for help just to read a book. Maybe the fact that I can hardly read Shakespear without getting mentally dizzy will humble myself in your eyes.

Well, if you want to know why you got the reaction, you should know too that this sounds an awful lot like false humility to me. It's not accepting the fact, as a truly humble person does, that you have read Shakespeare, but also that it was difficult and strenuous work for you- it advertises that you are humble and aware of your limits, but also that you are studious and ambitious, and that you have read whatever it is you're talking about. The last bit here "without getting mentally dizzy" could be read as a boast of your superior appreciation for the incredible robustness of Shakespeare's words. It doesn't *have* to be read that way, but that is the basis of false humility- it is plausibly deniable.

Personally I'd just accept that there are few people on this board willing to concede to the idea that there is anyone here much smarter than they are, and so anyone claiming to believe this is probably being coy.

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AchillesHeel
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To explain myself further, I have not read Shakespear past the high-school level, I find the dialogue too difficult to follow and lose interest. I meant to say that if you believe that I am bragging and showing off how smart I am, well if you can read Shakespear and not put the book down due to a headache you are smarter than I am.

When I say William Shakespear makes my head dizzy, is to say that he confuses me. Just so everyone can feel superior to me (in case you feel that I am being a braggart) I am young, uneducated and make coffee for a living. I hope you feel better about my insignificance. It may be false humility, but in asking for a little insight into a difficult book I was insulted, if you would like to be insulted, feel free.

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Orincoro
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quote:
Originally posted by AchillesHeel:
I hope you feel better about my insignificance. It may be false humility, but in asking for a little insight into a difficult book I was insulted, if you would like to be insulted, feel free.

Now I know you're being coy. We cast ourselves in these dialogues- we are not cast by others.

When I post my music here, I don't pretend it's not already something I like- I don't pretend not to be proud of my abilities, and all I invite posting what I do is either interest, praise, or constructive comments, not reassurance- there is asking for help, and then there is "asking" for "help." If you just replace those two words with "looking" and "attention," you ca see the difference.

[ July 18, 2009, 07:38 PM: Message edited by: Orincoro ]

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King of Men
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quote:
Originally posted by Samprimary:
quote:
Originally posted by King of Men:
So stop reading, then. I think you just want to brag that you're reading this really difficult book. We're all very impressed, well done.

Would you like a pompadour to fuss with as you stare arrogantly down your nose at him?
Thank you, that is most kind.
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Dobbie
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quote:
Originally posted by mr_porteiro_head:
quote:
Originally posted by Dobbie:
And that should be "smarter than I".

Actually, either one is correct.
Who cares?
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BlackBlade
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quote:
Originally posted by Dobbie:
quote:
Originally posted by mr_porteiro_head:
quote:
Originally posted by Dobbie:
And that should be "smarter than I".

Actually, either one is correct.
Who cares?
Oh oh, I think I know this one. You?
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BlueWizard
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Well, based on the short quote you've given us, it is clear that the story can be understood. Though, I'm not sure what you want us to do now? I've explained the context and concept of the story, so you either see how it works or you don't.

Beyond you quoting the books one page at a time, and use explaining it to you, what is it you are looking for?

Steve/bluewizard

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AchillesHeel
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I already posted that I have given up on the book, and the reason. I was hoping that someone else had some insight into Camus, or atleast French writers, but even Wikipedia said it was a hard book to understand. It seems that this topic is still alive because so people can call me a psuedo intellectual attention whore, or... those folks who are sarcastically correcting each other.

If your bored enough to put another response here, just go to xkcd instead.

[ July 19, 2009, 01:56 AM: Message edited by: AchillesHeel ]

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Orincoro
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:swan dive into pool of self-loathing juice:

"O' AchilleHeel! I have wronged thee!"

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AchillesHeel
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... I'll go ahead and assume your being facetious, considering you left out the "s" Also, where does one buy self-loathing juice? is there a general loathing juice. There are far too many content people in the world, and if I could drive-by splash some hate on them that would be cool.
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TomDavidson
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You know, I think The Fall is absolutely worth reading. And I'm deeply disappointed in the people here who, seeing your request for assistance, took it as an invitation to slight your character.

I'm a fan of Camus, although I think he got quite a few things absolutely wrong, and would be happy to help you come to grips with the book if you like. The main message, if that's what you're looking for, is this (from my POV): "Human beings are hypocrites whose motivation to do good is often based on the selfish desire to appear good. We sit in smug, critical judgment of others even as, out of a desire to again appear faultless, we simper and apologize for our criticism."

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King of Men
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quote:
we simper and apologize for our criticism.
I don't. [Smile]
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AchillesHeel
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I havent been discouraged from Camus entirely, just cant follow a book with no narration. If I remember correctly The Rebel is the original The Stranger that they found in his car when he died, Im considering getting that right now.

I dont really care about criticism, all the more justification for my marshmellow shooting rifle. Working on a side-arm loaded with those little marshmellows from the hot chocolate packets, need funding.

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TomDavidson
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More accurately, I think, The Fall is arguably all narration. In other words, it's a stream-of-consciousness -- in fact, stream-of-conversation -- monologue by the single narrator. It's not unique in this -- there are many other stories that do the same thing -- but I can understand why it might be a little taxing. A familiarity with the ouevre of Bob Newhart might help. [Smile]
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AchillesHeel
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Its the lack of direct storyline, and I would argue that the "narrator" is actually the person being spoken to and not the person constantly falling into tangeants. I can never truely dislike a Camus book, but I cant sustain interest in The Fall. Thank you for your input.
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MrSquicky
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quote:
"Human beings are hypocrites whose motivation to do good is often based on the selfish desire to appear good. We sit in smug, critical judgment of others even as, out of a desire to again appear faultless, we simper and apologize for our criticism."
Of course, you can also get this terribly deep message from reading any of the thousands of blogs of emo teenagers.
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MrSquicky
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AH,
If you are reading it for story, yeah, you're going to be disappointed. Was it the story that you liked about the other Camus works you read?

If it's not to your taste then yeah, just let it go, but it looks to me that the problem you are having is that your approach is not consistent with the material, not that you're not smart enough to get it.

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Orincoro
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quote:
Originally posted by MrSquicky:
quote:
"Human beings are hypocrites whose motivation to do good is often based on the selfish desire to appear good. We sit in smug, critical judgment of others even as, out of a desire to again appear faultless, we simper and apologize for our criticism."
Of course, you can also get this terribly deep message from reading any of the thousands of blogs of emo teenagers.
What? Are you going to deny that BIRDS ARE DYING?


BIRDS ARE DYING! The entropy in our system can't be ignored any longer. I just feel sad, because the mainstream will never understand the dark obsidian jaggedness of my dead soul.

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kmbboots
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quote:
Originally posted by MrSquicky:
quote:
"Human beings are hypocrites whose motivation to do good is often based on the selfish desire to appear good. We sit in smug, critical judgment of others even as, out of a desire to again appear faultless, we simper and apologize for our criticism."
Of course, you can also get this terribly deep message from reading any of the thousands of blogs of emo teenagers.
Or any number of reasonably handy forum threads.
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Orincoro
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BIRDS ARE DYING PEOPLE! BIRDS. DYING!
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