How we cite our quotes:
On occasion I danced for nights on end, ever madder about people and life. At times, late on those nights when the dancing, the slight intoxication, my wild enthusiasm, everyone’s violent unrestraint would fill me with a tired and overwhelmed rapture, it would seem to me – at the breaking point of fatigue and for a second’s flash – that at last I understood the secret of creatures and of the world. But my fatigue would disappear the next day, and with it the secret; I would rush forth anew (2.15).
It’s likely that the "secret" Jean-Baptiste is talking about here is what he later calls "the fundamental duplicity" of all men. Recall how the Dutch are "double" and how his smile in the mirror was also double. (For more on Duplicity, see our discussion of it in "Symbols, Imagery, and Allegory.")
Power, on the other hand, settles everything. It took time, but we finally realized that. For instance, you must have noticed that our old Europe at last philosophizes in the right way. We no longer say as in simple times: "This is the way I think. What are your objections?" We have become lucid. For the dialogue we have substituted the communiqué: "This is the truth," we say. "You can discuss it as much as you want; we aren’t interested. But in a few years there’ll be the police who will show you we are right" (3.6).
In The Fall, truth is established by force. As you might expect, this runs counter to what we generally think of "truth" as being something objective that exists outside human will. You might think that truth should be truth whether we insist on it or not. But it isn’t so in the world of Jean-Baptiste, where everyone and everything must bend to his will.
Above all, don’t believe your friends when they ask you to be sincere with them. They merely hope you will encourage them in the good opinion they have of themselves by providing them with the additional assurance they will find in your promise of sincerity. How could sincerity be a condition of friendship? A liking for truth at any cost is a passion that spares nothing and that nothing resists. It’s a vice, at times a comfort, or a selfishness. Therefore, if you are in that situation, don’t hesitate: promise to tell the truth and then lie as best you can. You will satisfy their hidden desire and doubly prove your affection (4.12).
Again, "truth" as we think of it is sacrificed. For Jean-Baptiste, it is more important to be liked, or "adored" as he later calls it, than to preserve any absolute truth.