French Literature.

Journey to the End of the Night by Louis Ferdinand Celine.

L. F. Celine

What to say about this book? Hmmmm….

Its basically the story of Louis Ferdinand Bardamu (which it appears is a literary surrogate of the author himself.) and his journey through various times in his life, such as his time in WWI, the Colonies, his time in America with the Ford motor company and finally his life as a doctor in Paris.

Perhaps its just me getting older and not having to analyze books such as this under the microscope for GCSE’s (not that I ever did) but not doing that surely makes a person able to voice their own opinions about books and how it works for them. The book is very pessimistic coupled with wry humour. It even has some valid points, such as the manner of the military captains in World War I. He is disdainful of human nature but is a tricky character in general. As a reader I was perhaps blind to the faults he presented, but maybe I have excessively low standards as a reader and a person?

Most notably of all from this book is the colloquial style of the novel itself. It contains few paragraphs and the use of ellipsis is frequent. Its almost as if you are reading a 400 page conversation (or would it be a rant?) about the bad side of human behaviour. Perhaps I am looking at it from the point of view of a 21st century reader who expects a good book to be under 250 pages long with a romantic theme throughout and a one-sided but seemingly romantic hero?



2 thoughts on “Journey to the End of the Night by Louis Ferdinand Celine.

  1. You won’t find a romantic hero in Céline’s books. I think that it was in the Paris Review interview that Céline scorned the modern obsession with romantic love. He thought that the worship of the female was a sign that the Europeans had gone soft in the head. Certainly you don’t find much heartfelt romance in Greek and Roman lit. In any case, an interview with Céline in the Evergreen Review has the following passage:

    —-For what seemed a long time, Celine said nothing. Finally, I said that I had never met a woman who was not sickened by his books, they can never finish them.

    —-“Of course, of course, what did you expect… my books are not for women… they have their own tricks… bed… money… their own little games… my books are not their tricks… they know how to go about it…”

    So you can add misogyny to Céline’s anti-semitism and hatred of the literary academy. But if you step back and look at Céline’s life, you see one of the great love affairs of the 20th Century. He married a dancer named Lucette Almanzor who was 14 years his junior. They stayed together through think and thin. A few good years in Montmarte, flight with collaborators into Nazi Germany, exile and (his) imprisonment in post WWII Denmark, then a return in disgrace to a funky old house with their dogs and cats on a hill outside of Paris. After Céline died, Lucette never remarried. As he took care of the rejects and scammers as a doctor, she took care of him as a wife. It’s a beautiful, if somewhat censored, love story.

  2. Fantastic comment. Thank you. Celine seems like a fascinating person (despite his anti-semitism) and I have come to see Journey as a great book. I’m trying to tackle all of the modern classics at the moment.

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