by Albert Camus
The Fall Innocence Quotes
How we cite our quotes: Citations follow this format: (Chapter.Paragraph). We used Justin O'Brien's translation.
Fifth, because those judges are on their way to meet the Lamb, because there is no more lamb or innocence, and because the clever rascal who stole the panel was an instrument of the unknown justice that one ought not to thwart. Finally, because this way everything is in harmony. Justice being definitively separated from innocence – the latter on the cross and the former in the cupboard – I have the way clear to work according to my convictions (6.10).
These are the last two reasons Jean-Baptiste gives for why he has not returned the stolen van Eyck panel to Ghent where it belongs. To understand it, you need a little background on the painting itself. The stolen panel in Jean-Baptiste’s cupboard features a bunch of guys on their way to see "the lamb," a.k.a. Jesus, who shows up in another panel of the same painting. Jean-Baptiste, ever brilliant, has physically separated the men from Jesus, which means he’s separated the "judges" from "the lamb," which means he’s separated justice from innocence.
I’m like that old beggar who wouldn’t let go of my hand one day on a café terrace: "Oh, sir," he said, "it’s not just that I’m no good, but you lose track of the light." Yes, we have lost track of the light, the mornings, the holy innocence of those who forgive themselves (6.26).
This is the problem with Jean-Baptiste’s "solution." Sure, admit you’re guilty and then you never have to suffer through judgment. Great, except then you eliminate innocence from the world. It sounds here as though Jean-Baptiste isn’t entirely satisfied with his way of operating.
Look, it’s snowing! Oh, I must go out! Amsterdam asleep in the white night, the dark jade canals under the little snow-covered bridges, the empty streets, my muted steps – there will be purity, even if fleeting, before tomorrow’s mud. See the huge flakes drifting against the windowpanes. It must be the doves, surely. They finally make up their minds to come down, the little dears; they are covering the waters and the roofs with a thick layer of feathers; they are fluttering at every window. What an invasion! Let’s hope they are bringing good news. Everyone will be saved, eh? – and not only the elect. Possessions and hardships will be shared and you, for example, from today on you will sleep every night on the ground for me. The whole shooting match, eh? Come now, admit that you would be flabbergasted if a chariot came down from heaven to carry me off, or if the snow suddenly caught fire. You don’t believe it? Nor do I. But still I must go out (6.26-7).
Again, this is great evidence to support the theory that Jean-Baptiste is embracing a false and faulty solution. He claims to have abandoned innocence, but he still yearns for it. Remember, the doves have a lot to do with innocence and the Holy Ghost (see Symbols, Imagery, Allegory), so if Jean-Baptiste is all excited at the thought of the Holy Ghost coming to earth (i.e., divine intervention), then he can’t truly have embraced his "let’s just ditch innocence" theory. The fact that, as he says, he "doesn’t believe it" signifies the tragedy of his situation; he’s optimistic enough to hope for something better, but too cynical to believe it will ever happen.