Short summary - The Fall
The meeting between the reader and the narrator takes place in an Amsterdam bar called Mexico City. The narrator, a former lawyer who had extensive practice in Paris, after a turning point in his life, moved to a place where no one knows him and where he tries to get rid of his sometimes difficult memories. He is very sociable and uses the bar in some way as a temple, where he meets people he likes, tells them about his life, his sins, and almost always ensures that his interlocutors respond to him with frankness to frankness and confess as they would confess. to her confessor.
Jean-Baptiste Clemence, the former lawyer's name, reveals himself to the reader as to one of his daily interlocutors. While working in Paris, he specialized in “noble deeds,” protecting widows and orphans, as they say. He despised judges and felt a sense of satisfaction that he was taking on a just cause. He made his living by talking to people he despised. Clemence was in the justice camp, and that was enough for his peace of mind. In his professional activity, he was impeccable: he never accepted bribes, did not demean himself to any machinations, did not flatter those on whom his well-being depended. Finally, he never took payments from the poor, he was known as a generous person and really was such, extracting certain joys from his philanthropy, not the least among which was the thought of the futility of his gifts and the very likely ingratitude that would follow them. He called it "the pinnacle of nobility", even in everyday little things, he always wanted to be higher than others, because, only rising above others, it is possible to achieve "enthusiastic looks and cheers from the crowd."
One evening, Clemence, very pleased with the passed day, was walking along theArts, completely deserted at that hour. He stopped to look at the river, a sense of his own strength and completeness grew in him. Suddenly he heard a low laugh behind him, however, looking around, he saw no one nearby. Laughter came from nowhere, His heart was pounding. Arriving home, he saw his face in the mirror, it was smiling, but the smile seemed to Jean-Baptiste somehow fake. From then on it seemed to him that from time to time he hears this laugh in himself. Then it all started.
Clemence began to think that some string in him went wrong, that he had forgotten how to live. He began to clearly feel the comedian in himself and understand that from day to day only one thing worried him: his "I". Women, living people, tried to grab hold of him, but they failed. He quickly forgot them and always remembered only about himself. In his relationship with them, he was guided only by sensuality. Their affection frightened him, but at the same time he did not want to let go of any of the women, at the same time maintaining several connections and making many unhappy. As Clemence realized later, during that period of his life he demanded everything from people and did not give anything in return: he forced many, many people to serve him, and he seemed to hide them in the refrigerator so that they were always at hand and he could use them according to as needed. As he remembers the past, shame burns his soul.
One November night, Clemence was returning from his mistress and walking across the Royal Bridge. A young woman was standing on the bridge. He walked past her. Descending from the bridge, he heard the noise of a human body falling into the water. Then there was a cry. He wanted to run to help, but could not move, and then thought it was too late, and slowly moved on. And he didn't tell anyone about anything.
His relationship with friends and acquaintances outwardly remained the same, but a little upset. They still praised his sense of harmony, but he himself felt only confusion in his soul, seemed to himself vulnerable, surrendered to the power of public opinion. People seemed to him no longer the respectful audience to which he was accustomed, but his judges. Clemence's attention sharpened, and he discovered that he had enemies, and especially among people unfamiliar, for they were enraged by his behavior of a happy and self-satisfied person. On the day when he received his sight, he felt all the wounds inflicted on him and immediately lost his strength. It seemed to him that the whole world began to laugh at him.
From that moment on, he began to try to find an answer to these ridicule, which actually sounded inside him. He began to shock the audience of his public lectures on jurisprudence and behave in a way that he would never have allowed himself to behave before. He scared away all of his clientele. He got bored with women because he didn't play with them anymore. Then, tired of both love and chastity, he decided that it remained for him to indulge in debauchery - he perfectly replaces love, stops the ridicule of people and imposes silence, and most importantly, does not impose any obligations. Alcohol and women of easy virtue gave him the only relief worthy of him. Then he was attacked by immense fatigue, which still does not leave him. Several years passed in this way. He already thought that the crisis was over, but he soon realized that this was not so, the cry that rang out on the Seine that night behind him did not stop and, at any opportunity, reminded of himself even after Clemence moved to Amsterdam.
Once in a bar "Mexico City" he saw on the wall painting "Incorruptible Judges" by Van Eyck, stolen from St. Bavona. The owner exchanged it for a bottle of gin one of the regulars at his establishment. This painting was wanted by the police of three countries. Clemence convinced the terrified owner to give it to him for safekeeping. Since then, the picture has been in his apartment, he tells all his interlocutors about it, and each of them can convey to him. Subconsciously, he strives for this, feeling his inexorable guilt in front of the girl whom he did not save, realizing that now there will never be an opportunity to pull her out of the water. And the heaviness on the heart will remain with him forever.