The Selected Correspondence of Louis-Ferdinand Céline
These letters are excerpted from The Selected Correspondence of Louis-Ferdinand Céline, additional letters from this manuscript were featured in the June, July/August, and September issues of the Brooklyn Rail.
Between the Sublimity of the Creator and the Venality of the Man
by Bianca Romaniuc-Boularand
Céline clearly does not belong to that particular category of writers who are eager to develop a systematic theoretical framework about the way they conceive literature. The only work that offers some ideas about his literary vision is Conversations with Professor Y, published in France in 1954. Although that book presents some of Céline’s main ideas about his style, it is far from being a reliable document, especially because of its novelistic form and also because it is a fanciful and even farcical book. Only in some of his letters addressed to publishers, translators, literary figures or critics, does Céline give up his farcical style and clearly and directly expresses his artistic ideas about his own writing. Those letters clearly reveal that under the cover of burlesque, Conversations with Professor Y expresses a true and consistent artistic vision. Therefore, Céline’s letters constitute precious documents that represent his metatextual ideas in a fragmentary way and that eventually lead to the more global vision developed in Conversations.
Céline’s ideas about his work are often connected to his vision relating to his own position as a writer within the literary landscape. The letters he addresses to publishers at the time of the publication of his first novel, Journey to the End of the Night, show that from the beginning he wanted to stand out as a major universal literary figure. Using bold assertions presented in a bragging style, he strongly praises the value of his work, its novelty and its quasi-uniqueness. To Gallimard, to whom he first sent the manuscript of Journey (with no success), he presents his book by claiming that “is a fictionalized tale written in a singular form, which there are not many examples of it in literature in general” [Letter to the Gallimard Publishing House, shortly before April 14, 1932]. After his exile in Denmark, when he tries to reinsert himself into the French literary life, he continues to use the same strategy of bold self-confidence about his literary genius. In another letters to Gallimard, he defines his books as an “absolutely immortal work,” as “immortal masterpieces” [Letter to Gaston Gallimard, June 20, 1955]. As he sees himself a unique figure, the other writers, especially his contemporaries, constantly represent in his views the “others,” the rivals, the literary impotent ones, in a word, the “non-Céline.” Very few contemporary authors receive some literary consideration from him, and if they do, it is only as a result of the novelty and of the modernity of their books. In a letter to Robert Denoël (the first publisher of Journey), written during a visit in the United States, Céline seems to have some regards for André Gide, whom he considers as a writer belonging to his own “type.” He remarks in his letter: “20,000 [Americans] read books of the Céline and Gide type.” Here Céline uses a strategy that consists in mentioning famous literary figures and in comparing himself to them in the most natural manner. Even if he often tends to singularize himself by distancing himself from the other writers, when he finally consents to be part of some sort of literary community, he always comes up with great literary names, even when the reason is often not literary but incidental (his exile, for instance): “And yet, how numerous are the French writers who at one time or another had to flee their Fatherland! Almost all were exiled… from Villon to Verlaine, Daudet, not to mention Zola, Chateaubriand, Lamartine, and Chénier, alas guillotined…” [Letter to Thorvald Mikkelsen, May 20, 1945].
The idea of “style” was for Céline the cornerstone that allowed him to build and reinforce the quasi-myth he created himself about his literary uniqueness. He builds the notion of “personal style” around a strong duality between the meaning of the text (the “ideas”) and the form in which that meaning is conveyed. It is that form that leads to his conception of aesthetic pleasure: the emotion. Those very personal ideas about his writing appear very early in his professional correspondence. A letter to Denoël reveals Céline’s very particular, even eccentric ideas, when he requires that the publisher strictly respect every single syllable of his text, because one change could affect the whole meaning of the work and destroy its profound rhythm. Indeed, the “rhythm” seems to be for Céline a very important part of his aesthetic ideas. Because of that, he always tries to define his writing not in terms of prose, but in terms of poetry, music, and dance. He wants to create an aesthetic of lightness, of wordless “emotion” and therefore struggles to eliminate the heaviness that he constantly assimilates with “ideas.” That binary structure takes different forms in his letters. To élie Faure, a famous literary critic, he explains his opposition between “ideas” and “emotions” as an opposition between the “abstraction” that he rejects (“the flight into the abstract constitutes the cowardice of the artist”) and the “intimacy of things,” the only “language” that he speaks [Letter to élie Faure, July 22, 1935]. In some letters he presents his novel as a sort of “literary symphony,” the symphonic effect being the result of “a number of divertimentos that gradually enter the theme and finally make it sing like a musical composition” [Letter to the Gallimard Publishing House, shortly before April 14, 1932]. As the years go by, it becomes obvious that Céline is more and more focused on the idea of “style,” as if, after his exile, that notion helps him to distance himself from his own political “ideas” that he no longer wishes to discuss or make public. About the same subject, especially after his return in France, he tries to convince some of his correspondents that he is some kind of an artisan [worker-writer]. In his opinion, “style” is far from being the result of a purely romantic kind of inspiration, but above all it demands work and personal effort.
Knowing the importance given by Céline to every technical detail of his work, the reader can find some surprising assertions in his letters addressed to his first English translator, John Marks. When they discuss the business of translations, Céline’s concern is more than strictly linguistic and technical. The advice he gives Marks is of a different type: it is more general, when he wants his novel to be translated “more vigorously” in order to create surprise from one chapter to another; it is almost metaphysical, even puzzling for a translator, when Céline encourages him to maintain his translation “always on the edge of death without falling into it” [Letter to John Marks, February 24, 1933]. However, his correspondence with John Marks seems to have more than a practical goal. It is a way for Céline to express a more global vision about his style. If he does not get involved at all in the practical aspects of the translation and never criticizes the work itself (which is, incidentally, filled with mistakes …), it is partly because Céline’s main goals are to be above all well-known and published, and also to make money. In his professional correspondence, he practices the art of contradiction: the inflexible stylist stands alongside a venal character, obsessed by the idea of making money from his writings.
There is another characteristic that appears in Céline’s abundant correspondence with his publishers, Claude and Gaston Gallimard, during the period following his exile. If his material concerns are partially justified by his financial situation since, back from exile, he is obliged to produce and sell books in order to pay his debts and make a living, nothing justifies the aggressiveness he shows in those letters: he constantly and stubbornly demands more money. He reveals obsessive and quasi-neurotic tendencies, as when he claims to be the victim of a conspiracy, arguing that he is the ONLY writer whom Gallimard does not want to support and publish. One does wonder whether his outrageous claims are sincere or feigned. In any case, he seems to oscillate between gross exaggerations and uncontrollable drives. He uses all possible arguments and charges (often “unreasonable,” as Gallimard notes) in order to make his publisher give him what he wants. The most eccentric of all his requests may be that of being published in La Pléiade, the very prestigious collection usually reserved for the greatest writers (who are usually dead when they are published in it!). Morally, Céline is far from being an angel. He uses blackmail when he allows Gallimard to publish the first part of an article and then, after receiving an advance for the second part, asks for more money and threatens to give the rest of his article to a competitor. But unlike other publishers that Céline dealt with, in that particular game of interests, Gallimard is in a real position of strength, and Céline knows it. While Denoël, his first publishing house, was a small house, Gallimard represents a very important and prestigious one. Gaston Gallimard is stubborn and, on the basis of the legal contract Céline signed, does not give in. If with other publishers, Céline was very aggressive, violent, and inflexible, with Gallimard, his attitude is much more measured, nuanced, changeable, playful, ironic and cheerful. He knows when to stop being arrogant and when to start laughing. Here is just one example of his frequent wit: “In this regard, I dedicated my last book to Pliny the elder and Gaston Gallimard neither the one or the other thanked me… what contempt!” [Letter to Gaston Gallimard, September 7, 1954]. As Sonia Anton noted in Céline épistolier, the irony towards Gallimard is often light and never degenerates into sarcasm. As far as he is concerned, Gallimard does not take his correspondent too seriously and seems to be aware of the burlesque of Céline’s assertions and their exaggerations. Indeed, Gallimard writes in one of his letters: “Reading you I thought I was reading Jarry” [Letter from Gaston Gallimard to Céline, December 10, 1954]. What other attitude could the publisher show towards a man who literally threatens Gallimard/NRF house in those terms: ‘I’m going to rent a tractor and smash in the NRF and sabotage all the baccalaureate exams! And I mean what I say!”? [Letter to Gaston Gallimard, June 30, 1961]. In fact, under the mask of enmity, the letters show a real and profound complicity between the two men and make a delightful reading. Gallimard seems to have understood that the man Céline had to have in him some madness in order to be able to write the way he did.
It also appears that in the letters addressed to Gallimard, Céline uses a style very close to his literary style. Generally, Sonia Anton remarked in Céline épistolier, when an event of Céline’s real life is both present in his correspondence and his novels, the tone of the letters is generally serious and dramatic, self-pitying, while in the novels, under the literary laws of transposition, the situation always turns funny and full of self-mockery. His letters to Gallimard have that cheerful and exaggerated pathos that can be found in his literary texts. In them, Céline creates an image of himself that is nothing but a persona, and at the same time he builds a fantasized image of Gallimard who becomes almost as lively as one of his literary characters. Life and literature are almost interchangeable, especially as Céline also likes to transform his publishers into incidental characters in his novels. Indeed, Denoël briefly appears in Death on the Installment Plan while his publishers are mentioned in the German trilogy where Gallimard can be found under the pseudonym Achille Brottin.
Not only do the content of Céline’s letters and “chronicles” tend to coincide toward the end of his life, but also the style of his correspondence becomes more and more similar to his literary works, characterized by very short, incisive, and vivid sentences (his “emotional style”). It is difficult to say exactly which type of writing influenced the other, but, as Henri Godard remarked in his introduction to Céline’s Lettres, it appears that Céline used his literary style more and more frequently in his letters, as if the man Louis Destouches wanted to definitely borrow the mask of his literary persona. As Sonia Anton put it in Céline épistolier, “reading a letter from Louis Destouches, it is nothing but reading Céline.” According to her, the letters would constitute some sort of “first version” of the literary texts, some imaginary first draft.
Céline never claimed that his letters had some intrinsic literary quality. Nevertheless, their obvious resemblance with his literary texts puts them in the same category and gives the reader a similar aesthetic pleasure. In Mitch Abidor’s translation, that pleasure becomes even more intense.
To Henri Poulain
Saint-Malo July 5, 1943
Péguy adored the Jews, he was a Dreyfusard, he was taken out into the world by Benda1. Christiano-Jew and imbecilic, he could only end up a martyr and a moron – hateful! He never understood a thing
- Julien Benda (1867-1956), important intellectual, author of The Treason of the Clerks, of Jewish origin.
To Je Suis Partout
March 3, 1944
Have there ever been so many Jews on one list?1 Even in the good old days of Blum?2 The National Revolution is finished! What’s become of French dancers, male and female, in this affair? They’re shown the door, kicked out, vomited up. To be sure! Maisons de la Culture! Neo-May ’36! That perfect technique! The factory occupation committees! We were wrong! It’s not an Order for France but for the Republic of Arabjdjan-over-the Urals!
Get yourselves killed, members of the Milice, Legionnaires, sleepwalkers. We’re taking care of the French soul for you, you’re too busy with big things…
But it’s the little things that count. Dance isn’t serious, but even so it prepares the France of tomorrow.
Tomorrow, whoever isn’t born in Melitopol, Kombitchev or Varna won’t be allowed to dance in France, officially, the day after tomorrow, for the same reasons, enter the university. And then practice law or medicine.
This is the way they go they go they go the little rats, once so tiny.
As few French in this “Order” of the dance as in any committee of train derailers…Obviously a coincidence. Dance and terror!
Are we already in the trans-Urals?
In medicine the little signs are the most precious ones, the good clinician establishes his diagnosis based on them.
Get yourselves killed, members of the Milice, Legionnaires, sleepwalkers…
- In late 1943 an official order of Dancers was established. The list, though, included many foreign names, which enraged Céline and led to this letter.
- Leon Blum, president of France at the time of the Popular Front and particularly hated by French anti-Semites.
- Time of the victory of the Popular Front and the factory occupations and demands that went with it.
- French fascist military unit who closely collaborated with the Nazis.
- Members of the legion of French Volunteers Against Bolshevism.
To La Gerbe
June 22 1944
I would gladly give all the cathedrals in the world over to the flames if that would appease the beast and lead to peace being signed tomorrow. Two thousand years of useless prayers are enough. Let’s have some action!
Tomorrow we’ll have an architecture based on holes! No more spires! The lessons of the war will have been learned. For fear of bombs our descendants will probably live in sewers. So be it!
To Paul Bonny
[September ,] 26 
My Dear Bonny:
We’ve finally heard from you! And we’re answering quickly! Hastily and happy to have been able to find friendship and messages! We’re here barely surviving 80 km from Berlin (north) bored and dying! waiting (without eating) for a post in Rostock in late October. Nothing to be done about Denmark! Schleswig either! I had to settle for Rostock – so in reality, nothing at all! Of course, we’d be happy to return with you! We’ve experienced horrible things here! an agony!
In short, I’m writing immediately to de Brinon to tell him I’m a candidate to return in your group preparing to pass through Switzerland with Le Vigan of course – my good man can you please go see him immediately (we’re on very good terms) and move things along – seeing each other again and getting out, these are the only things that matter.
Affectionately to both of you and the children,
Send a telegram if possible
To Paul Bonny
[October,] 2 
My Dear Bonny,
It was with tears of joy that we received your good letter. We’ve come back to life! A thousand affectionate thanks for your intervention with Brinon.1 I make you an admirable ambassador of great intuition and perfect technique. Obviously this return will give the toads something to chew on! But I think Brinon is well-disposed and even Abetz.2 Anyway, you’ll see! But they have to decide within the week. I just wrote to Brinon thanking him for his for his kindness and telling him to hurry and decide. In principle we have to leave for Rostock around 20 October – if they find 3 beds and 3 chairs. They have nothing! Absolutely nothing! I then have to rent an unfurnished apartment! 275 mk a month! Start a new life in Rostock! These people are full of excellent intentions but absolutely no psychology! Catastrophe! And what’s more my head and arm hurt too much (80% war disabled) for me to start a new career at 51! Try to tell this to Brinon and Abetz. I imagined Foreign Affairs more understanding and perhaps more ingenious. They take me for a young romantic of 25! My mischievous appearance fools the vulgar. I struggle immensely. I’m dragging two wars behind my bones. I made a gift to the cause of what was left of my vigor – a little bit of consideration wouldn’t be inappropriate. On the part of M. Pétain as well, from whom I am one of the valiant escapees. Anyway, the main thing is to see you again and soon through one subterfuge or another. I could five a fuck about the rest! All these clowns are cause for laughter and nothing else! We’re headed towards famine – half-way through the month and we’re already out of bread and I can assure you no brioche!
With affection for you and your wife,
- Fernand de Brinon (1885-1947) – Journalist and politician, uncompromising supporter of Collaboration. Headed the Vichy government in exile in Sigmaringen. Executed in 1947 as a traitor to the French nation.
- Otto Abetz (1903-1951) – German ambassador to France during World War II. Heavily involved in the French cultural scene.
To Thorvald Mikkelsen1
[Copenhagen] 20 Ved Stranden
Sunday [May20, 1945]
You can imagine the gratitude we feel for you thanks to your great kindness and charitable friendship towards us! I think it would be difficult to find in history a writer whose case was more “hangable” than mine… And yet, how numerous are the French writers who at one time or another had to flee their Fatherland! Almost all were exiled… from Villon to Verlaine, Daudet, not to mention Zola, Chateaubriand, Lamartine, and Chénier, alas guillotined… Of course, I’m not teaching you anything when I say that persecution is almost the rule in the history of our letters and exile…and I’m only speaking of the famous cases… disabled myself I am suffering the same fate as they, maybe even more so…the times are crueler… you admirably defined them for me the other day…For the purposes of my cause I don’t want to plead my innocence in a cowardly fashion that isn’t my way or my intention nevertheless I ask you dear sir to make the authorities aware of the fact that I have always remained very strictly A WRITER. That in fact I am only responsible for the enclosed book Les Beaux Draps. That I never made propaganda for the Germans –even more, I never in my life wrote a single newspaper article and even less spoke in public or on the radio – Never. This might seem strange but it’s a fact and you can imagine that I was often offered the opportunity. I’ve always earned my living (very well) from my books and the practice of medicine. In Germany I only worked as a doctor and under what conditions! I only accept responsibility for Les Beaux Draps. That’s enough to see me hung in France.
I wanted to tell you that since yesterday the shopkeepers and the milkman –etc… refuse to sell us their goods because we don’t have a visa…We’re holding up shut in in our home but our situation must soon be cleared up in one way or another… This would be a way to slowly die of hunger…perhaps in our accursed case the least painful way.
I dare to suggest that if a similarity or diplomatic and police precedent is sought for my case that I be treated the way the Jews who were threatened with death and who asked for asylum were treated…I am every bit as threatened as they, in my own country and, alas, in other countries… The malediction against “us” is furious and universal…totalitarian! If I dare use that frightful word!
With all my regrets for importuning you again but with all the excuses of an SOS…dear sir, rest assured I am your faithful.
LF Céline LF Destouches
- Céline’s Danish lawyer.
To Lucette Destouches1
c/o lawyer Erik V. Hansen
February 12 [,1946]
Dear sir, I wish you would have this letter translated for you by my wife as it is too complicated to write in English Destouches [in English in the original]. My little dear one. With great fear I see you find it natural, the idea that I be judged in Paris. Hell no! I agree to nothing of the kind. I’m holding on to the right of asylum like a devil! Like a Jew! Never did a single one of them exiled here agree to be judged by Hitler after someone gave them their word! Fuck no! My case is exactly the same. Of course the Danes would be happy if I were to surrender myself to the French! What a thorn in the side! I’ll never agree they’ll have to turn me over let them take the responsibility after having made me welcome me for a year. Which incidentally aggravated my case in Paris. The Paris courts have issued a warrant for treason. This was a bit of swagger vis à vis the Danes that had to succeed within 24 hours or else fizzle out if they asked for details. But the official notification of the charge of treason was given. They have to have their bluff called. In the French code, and in particular that of the purges, treason = death. The right to asylum is customarily only granted to political refugees under threat of death. The French government has made sure to officially notify me that it is going to execute me. What luck! This should be noted and made known. What’s more, they’re seriously thinking of doing it. Once I’m in their grips you’ll see Pinson, Oscar and Pfanstiel,2 etc. released. They’ll quickly find me responsible for all the Jewish martyrs. The people are dying to believe this. And it’s not a matter of either justice or truth, but of serving my head to the Jews and Communists in revenge. That’s all. They’ll find, they’ll invent the arguments. Marie is like Louise.3 She has a benign imagination. She doesn’t ever see how atrocious the future is. I am a political refugee officially threatened with death. That’s all. If the legation, which knows my address, wanted to know about my comings and goings it would have been easy to send me to the legation but I was thrown in prison with the intention of handing me over bound and gagged to the executioners in Paris. But now that the bomb has fizzled out they waste time with maneuvers and bad faith. They are incapable of explaining to the Danes why and how I am a traitor. They had hoped to confuse and bluff them. That’s all. As for the death threats, they must have been destroyed during the pillaging of the rue Girardon.4 But there is better. In the underground newspapers of the Resistance I was often, with no provocation on my part, threatened with torture. Hold out concerning the History of Bezons.5 Marie will no doubt find it. If Paul-Boncour recuses himself consider Mr. Aubépin, Pétain’s defender, who seems to me to be quite courageous. And I particularly think that we have to ask for Popelin Claude, Rue de Lille (call him) to see if he also wants to help me. Send éliane or Marie to see him. He’ll choose the lawyer for the plea. Two lawyers won’t be too many. Popelin is a lawyer. In Paris fear reigns and they’ll progress with difficulty. We have to hold on to Denmark. Like the Jews, our teachers in everything. The fact that I was in Germany condemns me in the eyes of the French, but if I’d remained in Paris they’d have assassinated me. Perhaps Mikkelsen might want to be assisted by a professor of international law from the law school here? He’ll tell you and you’ll pay him. I see many birds they sing when the sun rises. Like me they’re unhappy when it’s dark. You taught me to love little birds. This is a great joy that I profit from behind my bars. Even so, the winter is coming to an end. As Inès said, the days are stretching out. In Bluebeard’s garden the primroses are no longer far off. The blackbird sang all winter on the boule court. Right now the English are climbing Rue St-Vincent. Chaunard is selling them his watercolors. You have Antonio Zuloaga’s address in the Zumaïa province of Guipozcoa. Spain. If the Communists haven’t yet seized power in Paris it’s because we still need the Americans for reconstruction. Read the French newspapers closely, especially Le Monde and La Bataille – and the rubric “Purge.” All of this guides us. It is difficult for the Danes to understand French hysteria and political and literary hatred. It seems like a novel to them alas they have only to think of Saint Bartholomew – of the Huguenots, of 89, 48, 71! It’s not the image of the vie Parisienne. They don’t want to see this. Mikkelsen alone perfectly understands this side of things. The books they want me to expiate for Bagatelles and L’école appeared almost ten years ago! Journey, the beginning of my misfortunes in 1933! Go see Hansen on Saturday for the latest news.
- Céline’s wife.
- Pinson was a tenant of Céline’s, Oscar is Oscar Rosembly, who was housed by Gen Paul during the war and joined the Resistance at the last moment.
- Heroine of Charpentier’s opera.
- Reference to the death threats Céline claimed he received and the pillaging of his apartment when he fled France.
- Book for which Céline was writing the preface.
To Albert Naud1
June 18[, 1947]
If French justice were to decide to tell Charbonnier here not to bother with me the Danes would immediately offer me political refuge. This, in summary, is the balance sheet of the situation. How to obtain this favor from the Quai d’Orsay? I can only dream of this… but it seems to me it would perhaps be clever to let them understand that I am the only anti-Semite hunted down for his anti-Semitism who could currently be truly useful to the Jews… The latter are far from popular; they’re hated as much if not more than before Hitler… more or less everywhere… But experience, alas, has persuaded me that anti-Semitism leads nowhere and what is more, has no raison d’être. I can say this officially, loudly, whenever they want, and in all sincerity, not from cowardice, recantation or calculation, but simply so that no one ever falls into this trap again. Anti-Semitism is a political and police provocation. Woe on the sincere person who gets involved in it! It’s an abject farce. I will never forgive the Germans for having put up this electoral poster, fully aware of the fraud they were committing... Believe me, I have much to say on this subject! It’s not in me to praise the Jews, but denouncing anti-Semitism as a dupery is another matter… What’s more, there are as many Jewish bankers in New York as Jewish People’s Commissars in Moscow! We Gentiles are out of the running! What is going on has nothing to do with us, at least on the level of “racism.” The Jew himself is entirely overwhelmed drowned (or about to be) by the black, the yellow, the mixed race and materialist frenzies…
No, all this passion is out of date – It means nothing. This is how things appear to me. It would be a question of addressing a few intelligent Jews, not rendered stupid by hatred, practical. It’s a delicate maneuver. Milton Hindus,2 who does so much good for me in the USA (and is so Jewish!), has taken the lead. No one has ever suspected me of being calculating or a coward. I think of my kind of MY KIND FIRST; the current sufferings of French anti-Semites in prison is important to me, I can assure you. At whatever cost I don’t want all this to start up again. May other, young people, never start up again [the same follies- added]. Above all I am a doctor - May our martyrdom serve some purpose.
I await your visit. Mikkelsen assures me that you’ll be here in a few weeks. I have a thousand things to ask you – and perhaps some to tell you!
Your friendly and sincere,
L F Céline.
I received a visit here from Abbé Duben 120 Rue du Cherche Midi. He told me he’s the prison chaplain… I told him more or less these same things. He knows Fourcade.
- Céline’s French lawyer.
- Milton Hindus was an American professor who admired Céline’s work, who had a long and important correspondence with him, and who Céline grew to hate.
To Albert Paraz1
January 17, 1948
Those, my old friend, are really admirable photos. I have the Temple of Love…everything – And the artistic fog... and the passing barge…It’s calling me! How grateful I am to you. You see, I think that I’m going to croak outside France that I’ll never see my hometown again. The wicked occupy it and drove me from it. The imposters the havoc-makers. The worst of Occupations – in depth – The letter to Sartre2 hasn’t appeared nor has the ballet. I understand Paulhan. I am not a writer for reviews. I cause pain – in one way or another – He’s nice and all in all courageous. There’s nothing to be done. Arletty3 is talking about a ballet for Roland Petit4 – I have a good one – but they’ll return that one to me as well – they’ll steal all my little tricks and I’ll be left standing like an idiot yet again. And then there’s the music!!!??? I know the genre. Sometime around summer we’re going to leave Copenhagen, too costly, too expensive to live in – our poor means are at an end, it’s the countryside I hate or rather the edge of the Baltic, that sea of corpses, a tiny cabin my lawyer will loan me. Of course you can come it’s not too tough – only first it’s necessary that
- you maintain your normal weight – (while in good health)
- for three months - at less than 20 Résorcine-Vernes
- 3 months – evening temperature less than 37 degrees (on a day when you haven’t pushed yourself)
Pay attention to the rump temperature. It can cause a tiny anal irritation that causes tenths and even whole degrees. The underarm must be controlled – Your publishers are toads like all of them. I’ve managed to disgust them. I’ll toss them all into kolkhozes.
- Paraz was a write in the style of Céline and who remained loyal to his through all his woes.
- à l’agité du bocal.
- French film actress, perhaps best known for her role in Les Enfants du Paradis.
- Ballet dancer and choreographer.
To Droit de Vivre1
February 20, 
Resistance fighter? In fact and otherwise than you, you shitty rat fink coward! Nov 20, 1914 – decorated – disabled ex-serviceman 75% - voluntarily enlisted not in the ratfink cops but the Cuirassiers and signed up again in the navy in ’39! In spite of it all! prison guards!
Another thing… where did you read, creep, a single line of mine demanding “the mass murder of Jews”??? Filth! I asked that the Jews, certain Jews, not push us into a massacre, into a catastrophe, into the slaughterhouse! That’s quite different, IT’S EXACTLY THE CONTRARY, and you know it. It’s you who push, who always pushed the Jews, your brothers, into the slaughterhouse through your provocations, the criminals are among you, the traitors are among you.
And you know this perfectly well – in your hysteria – in your lies – in your jealousy.
- The magazine Droit de Vivre had published a hostile article entitled “Celine: The Misunderstood.”
To René Mayer1
November 26, 1946 [for 1949]
I’ve taken the liberty to write to you because I am trying to make French justice understand that I am neither a traitor, nor an anti-Semite (eater of Israelites), nor a sell-out, nor sellable, but simply a pacifist, patriotic, folklorist, former supporter of the United States of Europe Frenchman…completely disinterested, having never belonged to any Collaborationist group, to any Collaborationist society, to any newspaper, nothing, nothing, nothing. I seem to be talking to the deaf, absolutely determined to chop off my head…vengeance. Vengeance. For what? For who? A mania, that’s all. Industry. The purge has become an industry, Mister Minister.
Fucking Article 75. As if I’d turned the Pas-de-Calais over to the Germans, organized Mont-Valérien,2 made propaganda for Buchenwald. You have probably remarked, Mister Minister, that in the so-called Purge Tribunals there was a trinity that would always be found: a foreigner, a woman, and a madman. This trinity is persecuting me, won’t let me go, I who never persecuted anyone.
And here is the latest blow.
M. Seltensperger, government commissioner, (after the investigating magistrate) had dismissed all charges. My file empty (fuck, I know it better than anyone).
From High Places the order was given to be more severe. Docile M. Seltensperger then took the decision to hand me over to civil court.
What the fuck did he do to me, this fussy Fouquet-Tinville. Get going! Couthon,3 jump on this dossier so it bleeds.
“Blathering Heights” doesn’t understand casuistry.
Evariste Gamelin4 is thirsty. It seems I’ve just been endowed with a government commissioner whose going to do a rush job. An in-house executioner.
You know the euphemism, Mister Minister: “Give me two lines written by any man”
I have other lines, of course. But they’re not heard. What for? We have to make the tricoteuses happy. To Joanivici.5
You see, Mister Minister, after 1918 we had the Blue Horizon chamber;6 after that one we’ll have had the Blood Red chamber. We have to compensate for the different kinds of war.
I am 75% war disabled, decorated November 1914, voluntary enlistee in both wars. “I know what I’m talking about.” And I’m peace-loving.
I’m a grandfather, too. I’m 57. I’m fed up with the hunt.
The pack bores me, repetitive, lying, cowardly.
Could you have the kindness to take a look at my dossier, Mister Minister. You’ll see if my “crimes” aren’t far-fetched.
Yes, they sent the list here, to my cell, I had the shame of having to refute all those abominable ravings in front of foreign police. Backed, moreover, by the French minister in Copenhagen, a certain Charbonnière, mulatto and Vichyssois, who hoped to send me to Montrouge and so make himself look like a Resistant.
He thinks he packs a punch. Punch and Judy.
I’m sometimes forced to put L’Humanité in its place by reminding those dogs that Journey to the End of the Night, on the order of the Soviets, was translated by Aragon and Triolet.7 That shuts them up.
A propos, what would Aragon and Triolet and a thousand others be? And Charbonnière and a million others without Hitler? If Hitler had never come? Frightful, pitiful, plodders of the antechambers; “wire-tappers”…
I would love to set up a society called “Hitler’s Ingrates, The Class of the Catastrophe.”
I assure you it would be a lovely army – a huge crowd, bigger than Bastille Nation…from the étoile to the Cannebière.8 I see them shoulder to shoulder – in ranks of five – I never asked Hitler for anything.
I don’t want any problems. I’m not taunting the government. I never voted in my life. I was a pacifist and that’s all. A hundred times I was offered a fortune (and I’m really poor, everything was stolen from me) to recount my adventure in American newspapers. I’ve always refused. I don’t like crybabies and I don’t like newspapers. I never wrote an article in my life. I’m a doctor and writer, that’s all – to each his genre – and a patriot.
Oh, I know your salon on the place Vendôme well, Mister Minister, it astounded me in the past, when I was five, and your gardens. M. Rouvier was Keeper of the Seals. My mother repaired old lace. Passage Choiseul, after closing the store she went to clients’ homes to repair lace. I often fell asleep in your salon, people worked late at the time…11:00…midnight.
Justice wasn’t yet pursuing me for my “crimes.” It let me sleep peacefully, even in its home.
But ever since it has persecuted me so terribly I have to admit, Mister Minister, that I’m a bit angry.
Assuring you in any case of my perfect patriotism and my great consideration,
- Fourth Republic politican who held many offices. At the time of this letter he was minister of justice.
- Prison where many Resistance fighters were executed.
- Actually, Fouquier-Tinville and Couthon, figures of the Terror of the Freanch Revolution.
- Character in Anatole France’s novel of the French Revolution, The Gods are Thirsty.
- Joseph Joanivici, French-Jewish iron supplier who worked wth both the Resistance and the Nazis and was sentenced for collaboration with the Nazis.
- Post-world War I conservative government.
- Louis Aragon and Elsa Triolet, husband and wife French Communist writers.
- Bastille nation…étoile Cannebière: the first two are squares in Paris, the second a square in Paris and a neighborhood in Marseilles, thus a great distance apart.
To René Charasse1
January 28, [ 19 ]50
Justice is one thing the truth is another. I don’t know Justice but I do know the Truth. And I am forced to immediately refute the two most disgusting lies in the Parisian press that have been pointed out to me on the subject of my activities during the Occupation. A certain Vaillant of the Tribune des Nations2 dares to write that at my home at 4 rue Girardon I regularly held meetings of the editors of Je Suis Partout, at nightfall, of course… that I gave them my instructions, in fact! Ignoble delirium! On the contrary, my relations with Je Suis Partout before and during the Occupation were always very cold - All in all I only met Laubraux [sic] once in my whole life and that on the street – NEVER AT MY HOME – Cousteau3 once [on the street – added] – Lesca4 once – Poulain54 or 5 times Soupault6 who was my neighbor met quite often and who asked me for a preface for his book = Brillat Savarin – which I refused him Only Soupault came to my home, a few times, rarely. The others: NEVER either night or day! And so, the meetings of the elite of the Collaboration? Complete lie For years my health allowed me to do nothing but my work (medicine and books - ) I never received anyone in my home – NO ONE- How would I have had the time or the energy? I always came home exhausted from my dispensary in Bezons in order to go to bed and try to sleep. I never went out on the town – It’s got to be at least twenty years since I set foot in a theater or a cinema – and I go to bed at 8:00 – and if possible at 7:00! And so the “meetings!” This Vaillant is hallucinating and lying in a grotesque fashion.
Another abominable informant inventor: Georges Kahn of Radio Paris7 who dares to write to Combat that he heard my companion telephone to Laffont at the Gestapo on the rue Lauriston! The only companion I’ve ever had is my wife, née Lucie Georgette Almanzor – the unfortunate, a dancer, never called anyone – She didn’t know (and me either) either the rue Lauriston or Laffont – And so from Kahn a cowardly ignominy! What means do I have to make this Kahn swallow his lie? None! My poor wife barely left me for a second during the entire Occupation in her terror that I’d be assassinated! She was always horrified by my books, politics, the Germans, and the life of the hunted we led. my god her! making a phone call! This Kahn is worse than mad! What’s more, we never had a telephone – It’s an instrument I detest. You will admit Mr. Commissioner that such beings deserve a little more than contempt, I mean these Kahns [and Vaillants – add.] What the fuck was this Kahn doing on the rue Laursiton? Going to pick up his envelope? This seems to me quite likely – given the character of [this being – crossed out] the individual, the proof he gives of not hesitating before any dastardy…
Please accept my sincerest wishes,
- French magistrate who was one of those considering Céline’s case.
- Reference to an article by Roger Vailland entitled ‘We Will No Longer Spare Louis-Ferdinand Céline.”
- Pierre-Antoine Cousteau, borther of Jacques Cousteau and a Collaborationist and anti-Semitic polemicist.
- Charles Lesca, Collaborationist journalist.
- Henri Poulain, Collaborationist journalist.
- Ralph Soupault, Collaborationist caricaturist.
- Georges Cahn wrote a letter to the newspaper Combat in which he said “In March 1942 I was detained for a few hours by Henri Laffont’s gang at its seat on the rue Lauriston. During my detention, and without there being any possibility for doubt on this matter, I overheard a cordial telephonic conversation between one of the members of that gang and a correspondent who was none other than Céline’s companion.” The rue Lauriston was the home of the Gestapo, and Henri Laffont one of their French accomplices.
To Jean Paulhan
June 5, 1950
Ah my dear Paulhan. I received Sol and bravo for the Religions!1 How juicy tasty prolific is the enaref2…I rejoice in advance!
As for Colette you know I’m ready to find her the greatest writer of all Centuries! Ditto for Gide! Sartre! Rintintin! And Julot dwarf Romains!3 If that’ll make them come! All of them! I see them jumbled together entangled fucking each other up the ass in an orgy of vanity! All fucking! Swimming in the sauce of self-self! Sick people! You know me, the grrrreat writer, I shit on him, the maker of frescoes!...I find all these people impotent as can be, annoying, irritating, infinitely harping on completely worn-out spiels, bits of the Gospels, in fact, jazzed up a tad…barely and badly. I’m nothing but a “little inventor” and what’s more it doesn’t amuse me! It’s the worst! I give myself over to this filthy job in the hope that I can one day buy myself a cot somewhere where the people (in what country?) won’t have the urge to murder me, where I can kick the bucket in peace. My ambitions are pitiful and very limited, infinitesimal. These writing people don’t walk on the earth…they move about in clouds of words. And as far as I’m concerned they don’t know how to do anything with words, repeat clichés. They’re drunk with vanity and drunkards without imagination. From my little point of view Colette had a brilliant idea, La Chatte, a small idea but a find, in being diluted it’s academic shit, called limpid, incomparable, etc. (critical stammering). She’s praised above all for being a fierce old babe like Mistinguett and also for having been married to a kike. The Abetz embassy and the Epting Institute4 praised Colette to the skies! They found her the number one writer in France, right after Giraudoux who had spit in their faces. The boches love the whip, the Jew, and being spit on. They adored their enemies. It was Mme Abetz who immediately got Colette’s husband out of Drancy! Think about it! She for her part only wore Sciaparelli, only slept with Lifar5, only had Jensen furnish the embassy. I think that Colette played at the Resistance. Right away there was hysteria for the Krauts (whose ideal would have been for Poincaré to return to earth in person to kick them in the ass). I had a Jewish dentist, Mlle Mayer at my dispensary in Sartrouville who passed nights of fear at Colette’s place in the Palais-Royal, with Mme Lebovici the wife of the surgeon. It was a matter of finding Lebovici (a chicken if ever there was one), of saving Colette’s husband…God did we laugh! Everything ended well thanks to Mme Abetz! In the end I’m the one to pay for all this nonsense! And a few other crackpots like me! When this starts up again I swear to you that I’ll be on the right side.
I’ll get out of my grave to howl with the wolves!
- Two books published by Gallimard.
- Pronunciation of N R F in French would be pronounced en.
- Jules Romains, prolific and influential author.
- Karl Epting, who headed the German Institute in Paris during the war.
- Serge Lifar (1905-1986) Russian born dancer active in France.
To Albert Paraz1
[December] 22[, 1950]
My Pal, Unless absolutely necessary, with a hundred poofs, never be operated on, nothing. Surgeons love to cut, never tired – they’re a kind of immoral maniacs…this way of being outlaws renders them bizarre
It’s an old law of general pathology that any infection that lasts longer than 2 years brings with it slight or serious albuminery as well as bacilloses articulary., etc… As for BK in the urine! How many of my patients and very active piss BK for 50 years! Periodically!
You’re absolutely right about the whoring filthiness of publishers, all of them ALL OF THEM. pimps grocers thieves – incurable – Especially around Christmas the Goncourt[Prize]. Then’s their crisis of great lowlife-ness. They all want to strike it rich during the three weeks of New Year’s gift-giving! No matter what the cost! They screwed up Scandale shamefully! nibbled away at the paper so they could put out 3 or 4 sheep with 5 legs! with the same money! They’re gamblers as well those shits! Denoël was the prototype! He died from it in the end. He wanted to fool around with the kid Loviton! An asshole as well the dyke but who must have some interesting documents stashed away in Switzerland and the USA! I’m telling you!
Oh Rassinier has done well to get out of this disgusting hornets’ nest at whatever the cost, and you too!2 The Truth? No one gives a fuck. They want to know who it is that’ll come out the stronger. Purger and not purged. Fortune tellers must make a ton of money!! To know the FUTURE! People could give a fuck about ideas, too! If the Commies ever lost we’d have 100 Satorys! 50 Thiers! 100,000 Satorys!3 Oh, my friend! It would be such a slaughterhouse that even De Gaulle would be horrified! The more degenerate and cowardly that peoples become, the crueler they are. Pizarro didn’t teach the Mexicans a thing. They swam with delight in pools of blood. – Collaboration is flowing like water! All that’s missing is Doriot and Déat.4 I can already see that Mayer is going to indict me again for anti-Germanism and sabotage of the new Europe. They’ll dust off Les Beaux Draps – and reinterpret it. I’m starting to re-shake! Things are going badly!
- Writer close to Céline.
- Albert Paraz had written the preface to the Holocaust revisionist Paul Rassinier’s book Le Mensonge d’Ulysse, who had been accused of defamation of character by a French deputy.
- Satory was the spot where in 1871 fighters for the Paris Commune were held prisoner under atrocious conditions. The Versailles forces they opposed were led by Adolphe Thiers.
- Marcel Déat, Collaborationist politician.
To Claude Gallimard1
January 19, 1952
The day is approaching when I’m going to come ask for the advance you know about2…If possible, I’d like to receive it in cash and not by check, no longer having any accounts at any bank…
Will you be kind enough to give me a date and a place where I can find you in Paris…unless Monsieur Huguenin3 can come to Meudon? That would be even kinder…
Since I work for the Gallimard house every minute counts!
With friendly wishes and I hope better health,
To Gaston Gallimard
Thursday March 6, 1952
My Dear Friend,
You should know that I am very fond of you, too. And if you find my letter a bit edgy it’s because at my age I’ve had enough with all these trials! to leave fear behind! to see myself assured of a stable literary revenue! Damn! This isn’t asking for the moon! And in order for this to happen I’d like everything to be published, and quickly and in appropriate quantities! have I lost enough having lost everything? Everything, absolutely everything was stolen from me! Now before dying I want to recover a bit of peace! Me and my poor wife! No longer be hassled worried by a thousand ridiculous material cares! Which is why you see me in a hurry to be published distributed! I’ve had enough of never earning anything and always losing! For so much effort! And what dramas!
In all friendship,
- Céline’s publisher, son of Gaston Gallimard, founder of the publishing house.
- Probably the contractual advance on the 10,000 copies of each of the titles Gallimard would be publishing.
- Bernard Huguenin, administrator at Gallimard.
To Claude Gallimard
September 23, 1953
Here’s a letter that confirms what I already knew1 that Hachette distributes my books as badly as possible2 that they can’t be found in Buenos Aires any more than at the Montparnasse station or London or Geneva. An all-out boycott! That’s nice! And it continues! And whenever the Gallimard house distributes handouts on NRF authors I’m always left out. It’s the rule, When Monsieur Gaston3 peddles his packages it’s always Joyce! Everyone! Everyone! But not Céline! Oh no, not him. Shame! A hundred thousand cases of the runs! In the meanwhile I’m copied and counterfeited as much as possible! Books written in my style are prefaced and I’m ignored! Now I’ve seen it all! This would all be funny if I had the means to not give a fuck! But that’s not the case!
Laughlin in America is particularly boorish he has Guignols for 4 years and won’t publish it.4
- Céline attached a letter from his friend, the collaborationist actor Robert le Vigan, who wrote to him from his Argentine exile. He wrote that he hadn’t been able to find Féerie pour une autre fois.
- Hachette was the distributor of Gallimard’s books.
- Guignol’s Band would be published by James Laughlin at New directions in June 1954.
To Albert Paraz
June 28 1954
It’s ten years that they’ve been busting my balls with this translation of Guignol into American…If you believe in worst sellers… best sellers… anyway, you’ve still got time. They paid me 200 dollars three years ago… I probably won’t see any more!
I would love to have something built like you did! What prosperity! I have nothing of my own not a chair or a handkerchief…All I can envisage is the common grave… you really have illusions…
As for rich people, as you know, they’re like safes…If you don’t go see them with a blowtorch…what a waste of time!
My health isn’t great…I need rest…It would be nice to get a pension at 60…But you don’t have a pension either! Will you have the common grave! Or better?... Don’t tell me that you own a family vault! That’d be too much for me!
I live (badly) on Gallimard’s “advances” that is debts…What’s funny is that I pay huge taxes on these “advances”…It’s enough to make you laugh, as they say in Rennes….
I embrace you
To Gaston Gallimard
You’re absolutely right on the question of superfluous “thank yous!”1 from one parasite to another thanks are perfectly ridiculous! the opposite is also understood…
In this regard, I dedicated my last book to Pliny the elder and Gaston Gallimard neither the one or the other thanked me2…what contempt!...
You’re not lacking in finesse, you’re capable of noting that the bourgeois who replaced the nobles in everything no longer bother with plumes but have substituted them with boorishness. boors in everything, everywhere, rabidly! Louis XIV had ants in his pants to replace his doctor with Fagon who operated on his asshole… what cunning! What diplomacy! “What will the court think of this?” he asked Dangeau3 …it made him sick not to be… perhaps not…correct! Correct!... You can verify this!
I’m going to get to work…! I confirm receipt of the check for 567,000 (abundantly due) and I’m not saying thank you.
Nevertheless, I send you my version of friendship.
- Gallimard had just written Céline, a propos of Interviews with Professor Y that “there’s never any need to thank anyone for anything.”
- Interviews With Professor Y.
- The story is found in the Marquis de Dangeau’s memoirs of Louis XIV’s court.
To Gaston Gallimard
December 8, 1954
My Dear Friend,
I apologize for no longer using the third person… swindling is always in the third person… I’m asking you Gaston, not the pope or the devil, how pissed you’d be if after ten years of efforts (which you aren’t capable of even imagining) you were told that as sole recompense you had 8 million francs worth of debts. You would set the whole damn place on fire in an access of justified anger.
There are many extenuating circumstances. Hirsch, his friends, the commies, Sartre, etc… I know… I know… jealousy between shops, within shops…I know…even so, according to my tiny Gallup you’ve done nothing to defend me against the critics…publicity, etc, no one knows that I published “Féerie I” or “Féerie II”1…Several bookstores say that Journey is out of print…isn’t being reprinted…a hundred examples! In the provinces…and in Paris… which I’ve taken note of. In short, you’re causing me to die of hunger and cold. And to reach that point you even make me pay taxes! The Renaudot Prize was just given out. None of the idiots in your headquarters thought that this was the perfect occasion to cite my name and Journey …no! Nothing! Not as idiotic as that your idiots! threatening clique! so be it! But you haven’t found an illustrator for the Ambassadrice… or for a deluxe edition of Journey which would sell well… Nothing! Always nothing! All you collect are faded funeral wreaths on your mausoleum. I’d begun volume III of Féerie, L’Ombrette, which is perfect! But give it to you? No! To amortize my debt? Save me! I need 3 million cash now, in advance, to finish this absolutely immortal work! And so I’m asking you for this! Tell me if you can’t advance me any more… because [in English in the original] the Council...the falling leaves…blah blah blah…it seems to me that Ombrette would make a great feuilleton…I don’t know where…But I’ll figure it out…three mill in advance for Ombrette is almost giving it away… It’s a matter of Charon’s boat…I’m telling you! And you’ll be on it! Take a ticket! It’ll sell like hotcakes! What a mob there’ll be!...And what a chic crowd!
Pharaoh of literary prizes, watch out for Ombrette. You know that Charon demands his due! Charon doesn’t fool around with the recalcitrant! I’ve heard things!
- Féerie pour une autre fois was a huge flop.
Gaston Gallimard to Céline
December 10, 1954
I don’t understand anything in your letter – even more, I don’t understand anything about you - How could you have thought that you didn’t have any debts to the NRF since you requested payment of amounts far in excess of sales - And what are you talking about with critics, publicity, literary prizes? I know the world is ugly, I know that people aren’t pure - But do you think I could pay a critic or several critics to write articles on your books, especially if they’re acting under orders?
Anyway, articles are no more effective than publicity – And why do you doubt my desire to sell your books, if only to reimburse myself for the advances I gave you? All of this is worthy of novel, and a bad novel, one not worthy of you – Just between us, it’s absurd that I have to write to you yet again (though I’ll never tire of doing so) the same letter – No, my dear Céline, there is only one thing that counts, it’s the public, it’s word of mouth publicity – It’s enough for a thousand enthusiastic people to communicate their enthusiasm to their entourage for it to have a snowball effect and for the books to sell out their print run – For they, alas, are not sold out! So give me the names of these lying booksellers. I’ll send a salesman to them.
As for your Féerie III, don’t forget that I have as legalisitic a spirit as you. For me, a contract is a contract and I will never allow you to publish a book elsewhere.
It remains for me to tell you that if I knew how to escape paying taxes I would take advantage of it myself.
Would you like me to send a request to the minister of finance in your favor? Really, Céline, you amaze me; reading you I thought I was reading Jarry.
That said, I am still and faithfully
To Gaston Gallimard
June 20, 1955
My Dear Friend,
I received my statement. I see, alas, that my affairs grow ever worse. Last year at this time I only owed you 7,161,846. This year: 7,790,784.
And yet in the meanwhile I handed immortal masterpieces over to you. And I know you did everything to ensure their distribution and sales via publicity, articles, etc… and yet, over the course of a year of efforts I’ve increased my debt to you by at least 500,000 francs! Let’s say I were to live until eighty-two, not eating or drinking and being every bit as hard-working, I would still owe you twenty-seven million! And you would be, let’s say, ninety-three! Still in great shape! But I would sue you for sure! For I find it completely abusive that you add the amount of 125,800 francs paid for English rights (that you don’t have a fuck to do with) to my debts. We’ll see about that!
I’ll see to this litigation in a decade!
Your faithful friend and hard-working and ever-growing debtor,
Gaston Gallimard to Céline
June 24, 1955
The explanation you request is quite simple: your last statement was dated June 1954 and on that date you owed us 7,161,846 francs; the latest statement we sent you closed December 31, 1954 and is for a debit of 7,471,434 francs and not, as you erroneously state, 7,790,784 francs. The difference is thus around 300,000 francs and not 500,000, as you wrote. Between these two dates, i.e., between June 1954 and December 1954, we paid you around 600,000 francs, and during the same period we received payments of 180,000 francs from sales of your books and 125,000 francs for the rights to the English translation, which comes to a total of 305,000 francs. The difference between the amounts paid you and the amounts received is thus about 310,000 francs.
I think this clearly explains the increase in your debt. In order for it to decrease it would simply be necessary that the sums paid you become less than the amounts received, both for the sales of books and for ancillary rights. Please believe that I sincerely hope, both for your sake and mine, that we will someday reach this point.
To Roger Nimier1
February 26, 1957
I don’t want to annoy you…but it seems to me that Gaston is leading me on with the pocket edition whose contract I see no sign of…He won’t see the book…he’ll never see it if he keeps on like this, the pipsqueak! Let him enjoy himself, the little sadist!
His funeral interests me, I who go nowhere, I’ll go to his (if it doesn’t rain.)
Affectionately from the both of us,
- Editor at Gallimard as well as a novelist himself.
To Gaston Gallimard
June 30, 19611
My dear editor and friend,
I think it’ll be time we bind each other by another contract for my next novel, rigodon…in the same terms as the preceding one except for the sum – 1500 new francs instead of 1000 – otherwise I’m going to rent a tractor and smash in the NRF and sabotage all the baccalaureate exams!
And I mean what I say!
- Céline died the next day.
Louis-Ferdinand Celine (1894-1961) was one of the great innovators of twentieth century French literature. His first novel, Journey to the End of the Night, completely changed the literary landscape when it appeared in 1932, praised by the critics and Leon Trotsky alike. After the relative failure of his second novel, Death on the Installment Plan (1936) he then turned to political pamphlets, first attacking the Soviet Union in Mea Culpa in 1936, and then writing three horrifically anti-Semitic pamphlets, which have tarnished his reputation ever since. Though he denied collaborating with the Nazis or ever writing for the Collaborationist press, he in fact supported them wholly, and though he never wrote articles for Collaborationist journals he instead wrote letters to them or allowed himself to be interviewed by them. As the Vichy regime collapsed he followed its members to Germany, and his observations of their collapse served as the source for his great late trilogy: North, Castle to Castle, and Rigodon. Imprisoned in Denmark after the war, he later returned to France, where he died in Meudon in the Paris suburbs, his last years spent complaining of the threat posed by a Chinese invasion.Mitch Abidor
MITCHELL ABIDOR is the principal French translator for the Marxists Internet Archive where a version of this translation first appeared. His books include, The Great Anger: Ultra-Revolutionary Writing in France From the Atheist Priest to the Bonnot Gang, Communards: The Paris Commune of 1871 as Told By Those Who Fought For It, the collection of Victor Serge’s writings on anarchism, Anarchists Never Surrender, selections from Jean Jaures’, Socialist History of the French Revolution, The Selected Correspondence of Louis-Ferdinand Céline, the poetry of Benjamin Fondane and Emmanuel Bove’s A Raskolnikoff.Bianca Romaniuc-Boularand
Bianca Romaniuc-Boularand was born in Romania but lived in France between 2003 and 2013. She holds a Ph.D. in French Language and Literature from the Paris Est University, where she wrote her dissertation about Celine's style. She studied the notion of "lexical rhythm" in Journey to the End of the Night, partially through comparative analyses of its Romanian translations. She has published several articles on Celine's poetics and, since 2010, she has participated in the Louis-Ferdinand Celine International Colloquium. She is currently teaching French at Stanford University, while working on her second Ph.D.
TonyBy Celine Aenlle-Rocha
JUL-AUG 2022 | Fiction
Tony is an original short story from Celine Aenlle-Rochas collection in progress, inspired by her own family history. Each story centers on a different descendent of a creole family from Louisiana and depicts how each members relationship to their Black identity shifts and transforms over time as the family migrates across the United States. In Tony an unnamed family member acts as the family historian. The interplay of the two voices, Tonys and the narrators, reminds us how oral tradition holds a familys legacy together even when physical and spiritual migrations have torn them apart.