Louis Ferdinand Celine

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").
 
Yep, picked and stayed on the wrong side, right to the end.

: Someone reads from first bit of Voyage, while a painter named "Ibara" does a portrait of Céline.
 
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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.
 
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