Louis Ferdinand Celine (1 Viewer)

Boy, did he pick the wrong side or what?
I am half way through the novel "North" (although, something tells me it wasn't a fiction) and must say, that is just as good as "...nuit." Upon the research about this unusual character I found his notorious "Trifles for Massacre" in pdf format. He called it "an exercise..." and the Time magazine called it an "exercise in antisemitism." It's so... overboard?!... that I can't, but (wish) to believe it <i>was</i> a satire?

And even though he was the most influential writer of the last century, I only found Bukowski had enough guts to acknowledge it - publicly!
 
I don't know much about Celine. But it's quite common that he seemed to flirt with the faschists at one point. Same goes for Hamsun.
 

jordan

lothario speedwagon
he had a series of pro-fascist, anti-semetic, and racist pamphlets that he published during the years leading up to world war II. after the war, the french resistance raided his apartment and destroyed many of his manuscripts (including the last 400+ pages of his novel "casse-pipe").
 

Black Swan

Abord the Yorikke!
Celine was a very strong individualistic thinker and if you read Bukowski carefully, you will see that he was strongly influenced by Celine, not only as a writer but although he found similarities in their individual backgrounds, also used several images in Celine that he found genial, and therefore that he could apply to his own life ( and writing style). To me, the translations are not so important but the essence is what he picked up and transfer to his own style of writing, including certain anecdotes. Celine was validating Bukowski 's personal experiences. He had found a voice in Celine that would not back up and I believed that he admired that. Look at the childhood, the betting on horses, the passive mother, the overwhelming father, the helplesness of the child.
 

Black Swan

Abord the Yorikke!
This is the passage of Choiseul, where Céline lived with his parents. You walked through the big arched doors, through the passage and went out in the next street. There were several doors on both sides of the passage which led upstairs to very small apartments.

choiseul.JPG
 

jordan

lothario speedwagon
jeez, look at this video. he reminds me so much of bukowski (i realize that's wrong chronologically, but this ain't the celine forum). the posture, the way of speaking, the hair, everything. the earnest discussion of why he writes that's 50% bullshit, the self-mythologizing, etc.

[This video is unavailable.]
 

Skygazer

And in the end...
he had a series of pro-fascist, anti-semetic, and racist pamphlets that he published during the years leading up to world war II. after the war, the french resistance raided his apartment and destroyed many of his manuscripts (including the last 400+ pages of his novel "casse-pipe").
This is an interesting piece on the intellectual turbulence of the thirties and the attraction of fascism/ right wing politics for some of the writers of the period, a few of whom I really like; Wyndham Lewis, Ezra Pound, T.S Eliot, the lure seems to have included an attraction to the grandiose ideals of the right. The reality of the vicious barbarism, obviously worked as an antidote to the "flirtation".
http://www.counter-currents.com/2013/01/classical-modernism-and-the-art-of-the-radical-right/
From my own love of the left wing writers of the same period Orwell, John Steinbeck,Walter Greenwood,W H Auden, Stephen Spender etc., I like this quote by W H Auden for his anti fascist stance: "The best reason I have for opposing Fascism is that at school I lived in a fascist State."
 

jordan

lothario speedwagon
i never read it. i did read l'eglise, which was very early (before journey to the end of the night), and it wasn't great. he had the hate by that point, but the rhythm wasn't there yet. plus, it's more overtly racist and anti-semetic than journey. in fact, reading journey afterward lends credence to celine's statement that all the stuff that got him in trouble after the war was present in journey all along.
 

Johannes

Founding member
I once read that Celine wrote in one of his most antisemitic and racist pamphlets (must have been published after Journey) that there should be a new world order established with Santa Claus as World Leader. Never read the piece itself, does anybody know it?

After I read this, I always thought that he was either nuts or half joking with his pamphlets. But I don't know.

There was a very controversial German writer named Ernst Jünger who writes somewhere in his war memories that he met a "famous Frenchman" who advised him to "kill as many jews as possible" in World War two. It was later disclosed that this was Celine, who was travelling through Germany at that time, if I remember it correctly.
 
You mean Semmelweis?

Yes, that's the one. He seemed a fascinating personality! I could see why Celine was attracted to him - his rebelliousness against an overwhelming collective ignorance.

jeez, look at this video. he reminds me so much of bukowski (i realize that's wrong chronologically, but this ain't the celine forum). the posture, the way of speaking, the hair, everything. the earnest discussion of why he writes that's 50% bullshit, the self-mythologizing, etc.
I've thought that there's a similarity with their appearance too!

I'm still waiting to get an edition of this when it becomes available with English subtitles:

http://www.editionsmontparnasse.fr/p996/Celine-vivant-DVD

I'm sure it's a must-have for hardcore Celine fans!
 
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jordan

lothario speedwagon
I once read that Celine wrote in one of his most antisemitic and racist pamphlets (must have been published after Journey) that there should be a new world order established with Santa Claus as World Leader. Never read the piece itself, does anybody know it?

After I read this, I always thought that he was either nuts or half joking with his pamphlets. But I don't know.

There was a very controversial German writer named Ernst Jünger who writes somewhere in his war memories that he met a "famous Frenchman" who advised him to "kill as many jews as possible" in World War two. It was later disclosed that this was Celine, who was travelling through Germany at that time, if I remember it correctly.

his pamphlets are weird. first, they're 400 pages long (there are 3). so, not exactly "pamphlets" like i'd normally imagine. second, they're interspersed with all kinds of weirdness, like ballet scenarios and miniature plays. he was a rabid anti-semite - there's no way around it. he wasn't half kidding - he really, really, really hated jews. he hated hitler too, but because he felt that hitler was a jew deep down, not because hitler was intrinsically bad. they're stylistically very interesting, but i've only read snippets, because devouring them cover-to-cover would be a thankless chore. i have a reprint of the first one that i got in france 15 years ago. if you (you = whoever reads this) want to check it out, i'll lend it to you if you cover postage.
 
Jordan - I like that you participate in this conversation despite the evidence that Celine was an anti-Semite. I haven't seen that in my minor excursions into his works, but I don't doubt your opinion. You've shown a restrained and objective take on what should obviously be a touchy topic. I'm not sure that I have any more to offer; but good on yer.
 

jordan

lothario speedwagon
thanks... part of it is that i don't feel super jewish. like, being jewish isn't a huge part of my identiy or anything i feel sensitive about, it's just kind of something that "is" because i grew up hearing about how important being jewish is. another part of it is that, given my academic background, there is a lot to mine in the rush to anti semitism in that particular climate, and celine is an interesting case given that he took these absurdly ignorant viewpoints and expressed them with an artistic skill that is among the best in 20th century literature. when i lived in france, i got into an argument with the woman from whom i rented a room, since she was an orthodox jew and refused to conisder any merit to anything celine ever wrote.

the thing with celine's anti semitism is that it's the result of his extreme pacifism - he felt that jews wanted another war, and he blamed them for it. so he wasn't necessarily a nazi (his whole "hitler!... another jew!..." line comes from his frustration that hitler was against jews on the one hand but a warmonger on the other). the problem with celine is that he was so full of hatred that that little seed of an idea - that jews were leading europe to war - metastasized into an all-consuming hate. i mean, think of that - he's one of the most celebrated novelists in france, with a near win of france's top literary prize for his first book and critical acclaim for his second... and his next three books are ALL unhinged anti-semetic and racist treatises. can you imagine a famous author doing that today? even someone like michel houllebeq disguises his hatred of islam within his literary works. and the modernist-fasicsts like pound and lewis came to fascism as a remedy to a lot of the problems raised by the modernism movement, but they came to it philosophically and rationally, not screaming mad in the most beautiful prose imaginable. so, that's the allure for me. it's certainly offensive, but it's beautifully, exquisitely offensive.

and lest there be any doubt that he hated jews, here's something i literally found on the first random page of this book i just opened to:
"Why shouldn't I be allowed, in my own country, to yell that I hate Jews? Do the free masons hesistate to mount a fight to the death against the priests? We're living under Jewish fascism."
or, near the beginning, the simple proclamation:
"They're assholes. All of them, these jews, dirty fucking assholes! All of them failures! Bloodsuckers! Deviants!"
 
Thanks, skiroomalum. Now I've got a mental image of Céline performing an endless anti-semitic rant while tending a patient.
 
A lot has been talked about Celine being ant-Semitic which I don't disbelieve, but he was no asset to the Nazis either. A senior Nazi officer in occupied France wrote a report about him which stated that he was of no use to the Nazi cause whatsoever. They believed that he had no clear understanding of Nazi ideology to be given a platform by them. I've heard that he didn't hesitate to criticise the Nazis in their meetings.

I think what we have here is a genuine outsider - who refused to get sucked into and to conform to any ideology.

He reminds me of a pacifist version of Dirty Harry - 'Harry hates everybody!'
 

jordan

lothario speedwagon
He never meant to be an asset to the Nazis. He wanted France to capitulate to them in order to avoid going to war. He wasn't an iconoclast or a maverick, though, and it's dangerous to romanticize his viewpoints in the lead-up to WW2 as a "genuine outsider" like... like Bukowski! and Henry Miller! He recycled talking points from anti-semetic newspapers, and he believed them unquestioningly, not unlike people who lap up the slop that Fox News dumps in their bowls. Like I said above, Celine is one of the most unique voices in 20th century literature, so of course his expression of these ideas is totally unique and beautiful in its way, but it's necessary to recognize that he subscribed to a very dangerous ideology - one that posited the existence of Jewish fascism and advocated any and all means of resistance against it. As adamantly as I believe that Celine's work has artistic merit - even his virulently anti-semetic pamphlets - I also believe that it's irresponsible to try to redeem him by making excuses for why he was anti-semetic (eg: he was just a pacifist, he was an outsider, he hated hitler too, etc).
 
Currently reading Vonnegut's collected letters, and he didn't have a lot of good things to say about Celine: "You are right, too, God knows, to feel that Celine was vile.... He was a rotten egg with some good parts....I or anybody can make life uglier than it need be with praise of Celine..." It is interesting, though, that in the letter, Vonnegut says when he read Journey and Death on the Installment Plan he admired the books and the man, then when he read later books and learned about the man, he found the books and the man vile. I can understand no longer admiring the man, but changing his opinions of the books because of the man seems wrong to me. I still love the guy though.
 
I've recently passed the region where Celine lived from 1947 until 1951 - somewhere in a cottage north of Korsør, Denmark.
We were on the freeway to Copenhagen. Approaching the surrounding of Korsør I began to stare out the side window, looking for something, anything...and there it was: a cottage by the sea!
Well, I don't know if it was Celine's cottage, but maybe it was a place he passed a thousand times while walking along the exile beach.
There was no time to take an exit, nor had any of my fellow passengers ever heard of Celine. We passed by. But I was thinking of him, and I was thinking of Journey to the End of the Night.
 
what questions?
Questions of why very intelligent men wrote the way they did .. writing them off as 'young and dumb' or as 'bigots' or as simpletons who were influenced by contemporary pamphlets the way some redneck might be influenced by Fox News .. is all very unsatisfying. But saying anything other than that is taboo.

So maybe I mispoke, maybe it's not a shame we can't discuss it honestly .. it's a shame we can't discuss it truthfully, objectively.
 

mjp

Founding member
But saying anything other than that is taboo.
No one is stopping you from saying anything here.

If you have beliefs that are so unpopular and reprehensible that you're hesitant to talk about them anywhere, that's one thing. Saying you aren't allowed to talk about them is something else.

You're bemoaning political correctness in the wrong venue.
 

jordan

lothario speedwagon
Questions of why very intelligent men wrote the way they did .. writing them off as 'young and dumb' or as 'bigots' or as simpletons who were influenced by contemporary pamphlets the way some redneck might be influenced by Fox News .. is all very unsatisfying. But saying anything other than that is taboo.

So maybe I mispoke, maybe it's not a shame we can't discuss it honestly .. it's a shame we can't discuss it truthfully, objectively.

Look, I spent years of my life studying and reading Celine and that's what I came up with, distilled down of course into a format that fits on a discussion forum. I'm not sure what other explanation would be so taboo that we can't discuss it here. I'm always interested in hearing alternative theories. You, however, sound more interested in whining about how you're not allowed to say what you think, rather than putting something out there and defending it.

Edited to add: sorry if you find it silencing or whatever, but it is factually true that Celine was influenced by right-wing propaganda - evidenced by the fact that he repeated claims from anti-semitic newspapers verbatim in his pamphlets. That's not really something that's open to alternative interpretations. You could question what drove him to be influenced by those pieces of propaganda, but that's well-documented as well in interviews with Celine (his extreme pacifism leading him to hate Jews because he thought they were trying to bring about another war). But I'm sure you also have a very well-researched viewpoint to lay down if only we were less PC around here.
 
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his pamphlets are weird. [...] they're stylistically very interesting, but i've only read snippets, because devouring them cover-to-cover would be a thankless chore.

Look, I spent years of my life studying and reading Celine and that's what I came up with, distilled down of course into a format that fits on a discussion forum. I'm not sure what other explanation would be so taboo that we can't discuss it here.

excuse me sir, but your chutzpah is showing
 

jordan

lothario speedwagon
You got me. I don't know what I'm talking about. Celine wasn't racist or anti Semitic, and I'm just a PC social justice warrior. Fuck you.
 

mjp

Founding member
I didn't stop you from saying anything. You said it, right? Got it off your chest? Then I removed it. Seems like a win/win to me. You should be thanking me and sending money and frozen steaks.
 
I wasn't bemoaning the political correctness of this forum at all. This is a great forum - my reference to 'taboo' was much broader. The holocaust is used as a basic reference of evilness in our society, especially in academic philosophy but elsewhere too. Clearly rounding people up and murdering them is evil - but sadly there was much more evil to world war two than just the concentration camps.

I suppose one thing I was nudging towards but struggling to find the right words for is the problem of nepotism through the Jewish religion in Europe, especially entering the 20th century. One of the main reasons antisemitism caught on was that a lot of Jews WERE in positions of financial power - and a lot of positions of financial power were held by Jews (far more than would have been proportional to the population). Certainly propagandists took this fact, which would have been fairly evident to all european citizens at that time, and spun it to make it seem that Jewish people were inherently greedy or inherently morally suspect. This, just as clearly, is where people who followed such propaganda were led astray. Rather than seeing the negative changes that were happening as institutional problems they saw them as 'racial character flaw' problems.

Sadly, propagandists and patriots and imperialists of all stripes have been pushing this racial inferiority agenda since time immemorial to justify getting everyday people on board with their stupid schemes.

Having said that, racism is in my opinion never reasonable and always idiotic. But criticizing groups or institutions for things like nepotism is important. The difference between saying thay 'jewish people are greedy and morally corrupt' and saying that 'high paying jobs seemed to circulate mich more freely amog jews than among other segments of the citizenry' is enormous.

I guess the point is that wariness of jews was reasonable at that time, even though racism was not. Celine was a product of his times to some degree and the racism is a sad legacy and undeniable so as far as that goes I totally agree with Jordan.

The related issue that I was getting at has more to do with how historians have written world war two, and how it has come to be (mis)understood by the general public - namely as largely a simple issue of some guy (Hitler) who is presumably basically just acting alone as a charismatic embodiment of evil rounds up huge piles of jews into concentration camps and the allies storm across the channel (and the ocean) and save the day. The reality of the dynamics and interests at play is a lot more complex than that. And even if we don't acknowledge that the 'official figures' of how many Jews perished are exorbitantly inflated (which they are if we pause and just think about how small concentration camps actually were and how few people could logistically have been shuffled through there) .. even if we accept the official figures, loss of life of germans and russians is MUCH more dramatic. Not only that but really the whole life-WAY of rural Europeans was destroyed - village life was largely self-reliant pre-ww2, families all had their little cows and chickens and plots of arable land.

After ww2 and the marshall plan and the loss of strapping young males, a lot changed. The money economy became a much larger function of peoples' daily lives, old folk medicinal traditions were largely killed off, farming became large tractor-cultivated monocultures (marshall plan money was largely earmarked either for buying tractors from certain industrialists or for importing agriculural products from the new world - which of course benefitted international shipping and financial interests enormously). Along with all of this, the foodways changed as well, sugar for example became a much larger portion of peoples diets, as did wheat and dairy.

Not that all was rosy before ww2 for the landed peasantry of the old world, but a lot did change in a very short time.

Another interesting offshoot of ww2 (there are many!) is the opening of the floodgates of the labor market. The high death tolls and the fact that so many men were inscripted meant that women were yanked out of the home and into the workforce en masse. this was of course justified by the concurrent emergence out of certain academic circles of what we now call feminism.

Another interesting event through ww2 was the massive rise in institutionalization of men especially, via fraternal organizations like the Masons who counted somewhere jn the neighborhood of 20 million American men among their ranks in the 50s. This happened as a direct result of the military culture.

Sorry, long digression. Racism is bad, ww2 was a shitshow, yada yada
 

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