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By Albert Camus

Jean-Baptiste Clamence, a profitable Parisian barrister, has come to acknowledge the deep-seated hypocrisy of his life. His epigrammatic and, certainly, discomforting monologue progressively saps, then undermines, the reader's personal complacency.

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Example text

Do you know that there male friends walk along the street in pairs holding hands? Yes, the women stay home and you often see a middle-aged, respectable man, sporting mustaches, gravely striding along the sidewalks, his fingers locked in those of his friend. In the Orient likewise, at times? All right. But tell me, would you take my hand in the streets of Paris? Oh, I’m joking. We have a sense of decorum; scum makes us stilted. Before appearing in the Greek islands, we should have to wash at length.

I’m accustomed to these attacks. Malaria, I think, that I caught at the time I was pope. No, I’m only half joking. I know what you’re thinking: it’s very hard to disentangle the true from the false in what I’m saying. I admit you are right. I myself ... You see, a person I knew used to divide human beings into three categories: those who prefer having nothing to hide rather than being obliged to lie, those who prefer lying to having nothing to hide, and finally those who like both lying and the hidden.

Wherefore, since we are all judges, we are all guilty before one another, all Christs in our mean manner, one by one crucified, always without knowing. We should be [117] at least if I, Clamence, had not found a way out, the only solution, truth at last ... No, I am stopping, cher ami, fear nothing! Besides, I’m going to leave you, for we are at my door. In solitude and when fatigued, one is after all inclined to take oneself for a prophet. When all is said and done, that’s really what I am, having taken refuge in a desert of stones, fogs, and stagnant waters—an empty prophet for shabby times, Elijah without a messiah, choked with fever and alcohol, my back up against this moldy door, my finger raised toward a threatening sky, showering imprecations on lawless men who cannot endure any judgment.

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