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I read 'North' a long time ago. Very fractured but as far as my senescent mind can recollect and translate the impressions of my juvenile mind it was quite readable and rather good. This was part of the trilogy wasn't it?

I remember when I worked in a bookshop a well-spoken Mancunian chap came in asking for Celine's 'anti-semitic' pamphlets. He actually looked a bit like Mark E Smith as well (it wasn't though). I couldn't help him at the time, and suggested they would be hard to find, although it's probably easier these days.

Abbe Black Tentacle (GamalielRatsey), Monday, 23 February 2009 08:49 (fifteen years ago) link

I read a couple of his other books after Journey to the End of the Night but they were complete wrecks. That one dude who wrote that Moravagine book has a pretty good book titled Lice, which people who dig Celine would like.

cool app (uh oh I'm having a fantasy), Monday, 23 February 2009 21:10 (fifteen years ago) link

one year passes...

Apparently he used to go round in still-occupied France in 1944 saying to anyone who would listen that the reason the Germans were doing so badly in the war was that Hitler had been kidnapped and replaced by a Jewish double.

What in the...

Ned Raggett, Saturday, 25 September 2010 19:07 (thirteen years ago) link

Wouldn't want the dude for a friend. He was too much like a crazy person to invite him over for dinner. However, I think Death on the Installment Plan is an all-time great title.

Aimless, Saturday, 25 September 2010 19:19 (thirteen years ago) link

I think the literal translation of the French title sounds better: Death on Credit

corey, Saturday, 25 September 2010 19:53 (thirteen years ago) link

Imagine misanthropes would be sorta fun as dinner company. Thomas Bernhard, anyway.

xyzzzz__, Saturday, 25 September 2010 20:02 (thirteen years ago) link

two years pass...

This overview gives no mention to Death....

Gives more on the last few he wrote, to its erm credit.

xyzzzz__, Saturday, 6 July 2013 09:44 (eleven years ago) link

one month passes...

Why am I surprised that Celine isn't more popular or there isn't more discussion on him on ILXor.com?

Has anyone read his trilogy? Thoughts?

c21m50nh3x460n, Monday, 12 August 2013 22:33 (ten years ago) link

nine months pass...

This trilogy is amazing.

Reading Castle t Castle now. Beyond the prose, which is off the scale compared to Journey...: ellipses in full flow and torrent, no attempt at autobiographical fiction -- mostly autobiog with flashes of feverish dreams -- could equally serve as a document of the fall out from the collaborationist years. Totally unrepetant, score-setting (Mauriac gets a severe beating, wonder if Sartre is in for it next) and in enemy-making mode.

There probably are valid points hidden beneath detailing the hypocrisy of the French establishment, not that you could take these lessons from a man who should've been executed for what he did. Otoh the side he backed lost, and wrote this so...

Got North to come so I'll see how this holds up over the distance. The three vols amount to about 1000 pages.

xyzzzz__, Monday, 19 May 2014 09:29 (ten years ago) link

Subtitled interview - as you'd expect: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AtsL4Ll2o_0

'you must pay'

xyzzzz__, Tuesday, 20 May 2014 09:32 (ten years ago) link

three months pass...

thanks for posting this xyzzzz__, it was only the other day I got round to watching it. it's a very interesting interview, comically absurd in places of course. there are several bits that are specifically interesting and I made some notes while I was watching, which i'm afraid i can't be bothered to shape into a proper post:

i don't know whether his assertion that he started to write so he could buy an apartment is absurd or meaningful (his works do not in any age seem commercial enough to warrant such an assertion, and yet i'm probably conditioned by a moribund lit scene, and after all, he has his apartment).

I'm not like young people who touch everything and finish nothing -

a wonderful assertion (which french writer was it who said that one should create a work of art as if one were committing a crime?). he literally finishes things, he ends them, he mortifies them. that is the meaning of this statement here as well as 'young people today smdh'.

see the bit further on where he responds to two questions:

do you write to communicate experience?

oh, sir i don't care, because experience is a dim lamp who only lights who bears it and consequently it can't serve other people.

do you writ to communicate emotion?

No, making it hold to the paper is very difficult/hard isn't it. paper is a tombstone, here lies the author. it's really dead.

i can't really speak for the amusing bit where he talks about literary confreres, having only really read Montherlant and some Mauriac.

so called famous people :D

'but we could go on in spite of the mailman' feels like it should be an epigraph to a book, or even a title of an autobiography ('In spite of the mailman'), or a post-romantic critique (Coleridge and the man from Porlock, v modern modes of communication and the delivery of disruptive mundane information = The Inhuman Facteur).

This interruption is a shame though, as the first question the interviewer (who also has a bad habit of interrupting) asks is v interesting:

why are you obsessed by that period? [the war] why don't you tell the stories that you tell your friends for example?

but then the postman comes and the interviewer says 'to reiterate the question':

why you remember.... you don't invent, you give us the impression of collecting into your memory, and not to invent stories. NOT the same question, and in fact the repetition of the earlier question about why C doesn't write simpler stories for more money.

in fact they do get round to the answer to the first question, though not directly (which is what I attempt to show albeit in a convoluted fashion and by chasing my tail below):

The real collaborator is death or its associates: the ruin, the persecution, the entire world.... (i've changed the subtitled word here slightly as it seems more relevant than 'colleague', here a writing collaborator, but of course the word attaches to céline like a stink, and i wonder whether there's an ironic or bitter use of the word here).

the gentrification of a fixed salary. (one must really pay as a precondition by standing outside such things.)

i can invent an intrigue between that woman there and that man and the sewing machine. it's easy. it's very vulgar and i'd rather die. - a distaste for the bourgeois forms of the novel, which is to say if we take a Marxist view, in commodity terms, the novel itself, a bourgeois product. we are perhaps seeing modern romances, with the commodity of the novel effectively continued in lit fiction, and in a (thankfully) degraded form in pulp and its variants. that is disgustingly simplified, possibly even wrongly so, but it's an attempt to find a difference between the 'inventing a story' and the 'you must pay' approaches. it is easy to invent a situation and the insights you gain in that house are limited by that invention, tho not non-existent.

the architectural metaphor is difficult to me - the interviewer asks about great subjects/themes and he talks about architecture, which is not a transition i fully understand - options seem to be that such things are contingent vehicles for examining an ineffable central agony or souffrance (which exists in the reaction to the 'house' or the great subject) but that the content of the great subject is in a sense irrelevant, a sort of necessary evil. i can't understand what he initially mistakenly interpreted the question as meaning though. or maybe it's that the great themes (life, death, love) are required as the things that the important stuff like style and technical innovation necessarily must work round, and are in fact required by.

transposition is necessary - an almost kierkegaardian thought. the vast proportion of his content is, categorically, 'that which you get when you witness' (tho note céline does not entirely assent when that word is used), it is the stuff of memory, it is, to use Céline's term, the payment. But that is not enough - experience is a dim lamp that lights only those who bear it, and so the act of transposing characters (and experience?), of using characters to find definition in céline's really quite undifferentiated memory content, is the key act, though it might appear a minimal almost unimportant one (his earlier point about the identification of him with the doctor Destouches).

the relationship between man and a woman as "something more than reproduction". I don't think he's using it this way, but i like this as a reductive definition of the normally maximalist 'love', and in fact it's worth saying that it's in this respect that Céline is a writer of love, and this is perhaps the source of his optimism - that is to say it is in this 'finding more in a subject that is apparently present in it'. i may be wrong tho - i think my the immediate source of optimism is the energy, and that after all is a matter of the explosive style. still in such approaches, matter of form, style and content are difficult to tease apart.

'i'm murdering myself' - given his experience is the coin he uses to pay, and given the importance to him in 'finishing things off', this is almost axiomatic. the additional bit about museums and countryside is lol to an outside, well to me, because you see in his manner, a congenital or pathological ferocious morbidity, that clearly precludes the happy experience of that sort of activity - which is possibly a reason he tries to portray his writing as a pragmatic choice - it would be a point of view that would say 'my way is one dictated by my being therefore others' ways are dictated by their being, therefore the equivalence of toleration is probably necessary." he's aware of all this -each one is sectarian, like a boat captain. - and has decided that such self-negation is perhaps a philosophically tactical error - which would make him a philosophical Pessimist, is he even perhaps a curdled Sentimentalist? and then curdled by experience i.e. war, or by congenital nature? war after all is the only environment that would produce a Sentimentalist of this type - and this would be the answer to the first unanswered question.

Fizzles, Sunday, 24 August 2014 11:25 (nine years ago) link

Claudio Magris in Danube is also good on Céline:

In the fetid, blood-soaked Carnival of Sigmaringen, everything appears as senseless and interchangeable: the powerless Pétain, the madman Corpechet who proclaims himself Admiral of the Danube. Laval who at that time of total collapse appoints Céline Governor of the islands of Saint-Pierre and Miquelon, the French collaborators, the American bombs and the Nazi concnetration camps all intermingle in a single atrocious witches' sabbath. Céline to the nth degree [ugh] suffers this chaos, this "thread of history that passes through me from side to side and from top to bottom, from the clouds to my head and down to my arsehole."


Like a grieving guilty Messiah [nope], he identifies himself with the Nazi butchers, because he sees them losing. - the second part of that seems right.

And so the great rebel, who in *Journey to the End of the Night* wrote unforgettable pages on the horror of war and the inability of men to imagine it as it really is even when they are living through it, ends by celebrating the firing-line as the moment of truth [...] The pamphleteer himself adopts the ghastly anti-Semitic banalities which as a narrator he had put into the mouth of the father in •Death on the Instalment Plan*, representing them as block-headed prejudices [...] His trilogy about the Second World War lumps together in one single global tissue of lies all ideologies of Right or Left, Democracy, Fascism and even anti-Semitism, in a total rejection of society, a rejection that no longer points to a world-wide conspiracy of the Jews, but rather the world-wide conspiracy of all the conquerors and all the powerful, the Jews included, and the banking cartels and the Viet-cong and the space stations.

Céline let himself be dazzled by the revelation of evil

i think is interesting (revelation/messiah) and possibly true, but something doesn't quite ring right.

A question that comes up in both the interview and Magris, is why Céline changed his views. Answering that involves answering several difficult to answer questions - did his views actually change? did they change because of the events of war? were they congenital? if they did change was this a continuity along a progressive line, such that is commensurate with 'getting older', the change only being apparent to onlookers, or was it a genuine change, (a conversion, as Magris's language suggests) of politics?

Fizzles, Sunday, 24 August 2014 11:45 (nine years ago) link

finally, I bought a copy of Normance the other day. It's already v good and opens in the middle of a bombing of Paris, which has send its narrator flying down a lift shaft where he has smashed his eye socket so that he can't see. The entire world is shifting about him in the bombardment, and he finally forces his eyes open to see the show:

The furniture's turning into people, waddling ... walking ... and now the walls! ... the walls, too! ...

- No ... no, Louis ...
- Yes!
I'm sure of it!
Baboom! That one was really something! ... one hell of an explosion!

There's a show going on outside again! ... giant caterpillars crackling, undulating, looking for the searchlights ... the pale stripes ... I see it! I see it! I open my eyes nice and wide ... I'm holding them open by force ....

Sit up, so I can see better ... I lift myself up and then I even manage to stand, I lean on her ... go to the window ... out by Gaveneau, Avenue Gaveneau ... out there ... it's bright than just daylight! ... daffodil daylight, and bright! so bright! ... al the air! the whole sky! ... the roofs ... all of Paris! it'd blind you! ... even just the roofs! the slat, all sparkling! ... jewels ... diamonds! ... the bombs bursting into flowers! red ones! into carnations!!

That's how they protect us, over at "Civil Defense."

- Look at those bombs, Lili! Look! Over Renault! ... It's the planes! Unloading tons and tons of explosives! ... white ... moth-white planes!

It's an extraordinary set piece - a violent transformation of Paris into a giant and malevolent garden paradise.

There's also a bit later on which is interesting on the collaborator bit:

the apartment is shaking like hell! ... and then tbhose mines ... the Butte is nothing but an erupting crater now! you can't call it ugly ... no! ... even me, I'm not painer, but the colors are knocking me out! ... I think to myself: this is an extravagance ... this doesn't happen every day! ... I think: what violence! and what a lot of money they've all put into this! ... me, I'm careful about spending ... I've seen the Pont-Neuf fireworks plenty of times! I've heard the crowd roaring! imagine how they'd be roaring now! the crowds! if they had any strength left! ... but they're down in the metro, the crowds! ... the houses are all going to to collapse, so they're wise to curl up underground and hide! and hole up in the sewers! I'd do the same myself, if it weren't for you-know-what, my "Germanous," my "collaborator" reputation, lethal! ... they might lynch me down there if they figured out who I was! ... and there's also the staircase to deal with, all jumpy! zigzagging!

i say 'interesting' but i'm not sure there's anything to say about it, other than how it can be used as a rhetorical device here, and allows him to contain several interesting notions in one tone, that is to say, the danger of safety, the visions of the outsider, the ontological precariousness such a stance puts you in, and also the distance between him and the 'you-know-what'. It is not the stance of a militant collaborationist, perhaps it's even the stance of one who sees that reputation as more or less trivial, on the level of a minor social or village transgression.

Fizzles, Sunday, 24 August 2014 12:02 (nine years ago) link

that is one of the best passages of danube

nakhchivan, Sunday, 24 August 2014 14:25 (nine years ago) link

'danubian gangsters'

nakhchivan, Sunday, 24 August 2014 14:27 (nine years ago) link

yeah - I'm this way and that on Danube. nothing really obtains, and often he's saying nothing. I got incredibly irritated with it while trying to read it on a plane the other day (not the best environment). just looking over my notes now in fact

this is almost gibberish

there is no argument here, just more or less well asserted word-opinions and tendentious allusion masquerading as sensitive approach

excuse of riverine or tortuous Danube does not validate similar style prob argues against it in fact

I softened later but mainly as a result of the Céline bit.

Fizzles, Sunday, 24 August 2014 15:12 (nine years ago) link

theres plenty of argument and some of it is tendentious, the level erudition is exemplary

a lot of it is abstracted to a glossy universalism, neutrality of style

he can write very well when he wants to

nakhchivan, Sunday, 24 August 2014 15:21 (nine years ago) link

I shall persist.

Fizzles, Sunday, 24 August 2014 15:22 (nine years ago) link

i don't know whether his assertion that he started to write so he could buy an apartment is absurd or meaningful (his works do not in any age seem commercial enough to warrant such an assertion, and yet i'm probably conditioned by a moribund lit scene, and after all, he has his apartment).

esp because surely he could've bought one on the back of his work as a Doctor. The thing here is more like 'oh i don't care about literature I am doing this for the money' (Thomas Bernhard said the same thing when he was accepting literary prizes; there is a disgust @ moribund lit scenes entwined in all of this and that is how it comes out), which is clearly ludicrous as that is clearly not the way to go about it.

I think I'll need to get Normance at the next LRB 10% off night

Gotta read Magris on the Habsburg myth in literature!

xyzzzz__, Sunday, 24 August 2014 22:28 (nine years ago) link

there's no reason to persist if it doesnt work between you and him, as much as i like magris

he is seldom trying to charm his reader, possibly even to engage them, his 'blindly' has been sitting here somewhere unread save for the first few pages since publication

the novella 'inferences from a sabre' is the most engaging of his books in translation

Nothing less than the Spirit of the Age (nakhchivan), Sunday, 24 August 2014 22:33 (nine years ago) link

Thanks for your account Fizzles I was just watching that interview again this morning and its very frustrating to watch the interviewer interrupt when the best approach could be to leave Celine to rant away - he seems to write as he talks and there is another interview found later where he does just that to the last question, to effect. otoh For me a gap was around his collaboration. I don't whether there was a clause or not pre-interview, or whether so much time has passed...

the additional bit about museums and countryside is lol to an outside, well to me, because you see in his manner, a congenital or pathological ferocious morbidity, that clearly precludes the happy experience of that sort of activity

For me this was more to w/his assertion at the beginning of his writing as an artisan/craftsman. It follows later on when he points to all those encyclopedias and is rather disdainful of that notion of looking them up and finding stories - rather he is a 'chronicler' (not a writer, a chronicler is a kid of artisan), and he wouldn't have time for encyclopedic novels like GR (probably the other great indirect account of WWII for me but in a completely different direction, they are not in conversation w/each other). Celine lives things, survives and tells us about them - and given how I dislike most encyclopedic fiction..

(Besides all that, countrysides (and I've only spend a little time in them) can be such unhappy places too, their vastness leading to these existential states (I was watching a film just last night which seemed to talk about this too so maybe I am giving this more attention than needed). The flipside of being confined in a cell is to have the whole world in front of you with no one immediately in it. I'll stop there...)

xyzzzz__, Monday, 25 August 2014 09:55 (nine years ago) link

four months pass...

got a copy of Danube for three quid yay.

Hope to make my way into it soon - from the index there is a ton on Musil, Roth, Holderlin, Kafka..

Could be seen as a companion to this film, also a journey along the Danube (?)


xyzzzz__, Wednesday, 14 January 2015 22:31 (nine years ago) link

one year passes...

hadn't heard about this... & (per the final paragraph) that his widow is still alive O_o

no lime tangier, Sunday, 13 March 2016 23:30 (eight years ago) link

Louis-Ferdinand Destouches met Cillie Pam in Paris, at the Café de la Paix, in September 1932. Destouches was a physician who worked at a public clinic in Clichy treating poor and working-class patients; Pam was a twenty-seven-year-old Viennese gymnastics instructor eleven years his junior on a visit to the city. Destouches suggested a stroll in the Bois de Boulogne, took Pam to dinner later that night, and afterward took her home. Two weeks together began, after which Pam returned to her work and life in Vienna. Over the next seven years, they saw each other infrequently but corresponded regularly. Pam, who was Jewish, married and had a son. Destouches, who wrote in his free time, became famous shortly after their brief affair, his first novel, Voyage au bout de la nuit, published at the end of 1932 under the pseudonym “Céline” (his maternal grandmother’s first name), proving an enormous success. In February 1939, Destouches received word that Pam had lost her husband: he had been seized, sent to Dachau, and killed. On February 21, Destouches wrote to Pam, who had fled abroad:

Dear Cillie,

What awful news! At least you’re far away, on the other side of the world. Were you able to take a little money with you? Obviously, you’re going to start a new life over there. How will you work? Where will Europe be by the time you receive this letter? We’re living over a volcano.

On my side, my little dramas are nothing compared to yours (for the moment), but tragedy looms nonetheless….

Because of my anti-Semitic stance I’ve lost all my jobs (Clichy, etc.) and I’m going to court on March 8. You see, Jews can persecute too.

How a reader responds to this letter is, I suspect, a fair predictor of how capable he or she might be of tolerating the extreme disjunctions that predominate in the life and art of its author. One of Céline’s biographers, for example, describes the letter as possessing “a curious blend of concern and sheer tactless selfishness,” a response that itself seems to exhibit its own curious blend of sheer shortsightedness and apologism. Another biographer calls it, reasonably if inadequately, “astonishing,” but does offer the useful detail that Pam, upon receipt of the letter, “never saw [Destouches] again and stopped writing.”

tremendous crime wave and killing wave (Joan Crawford Loves Chachi), Monday, 14 March 2016 00:33 (eight years ago) link

(from here, a very good read imo: http://www.nybooks.com/articles/2010/01/14/uncovering-celine/)

tremendous crime wave and killing wave (Joan Crawford Loves Chachi), Monday, 14 March 2016 00:40 (eight years ago) link

Yeah, v good piece - read it at the time.

Inevitably some of Céline’s greatest supporters have emerged from France’s far right. The website Egalité et Reconciliation, run by Alain Soral, a former member of the Front National, accused Bourdieu of “assassinating” Céline. It said Bourdieu and leading lady Géraldine Pailhas, who plays Céline’s wife, Lucette Almenzor, were part of a “champagne socialist” set who control French cinema and members of a “band of leftwing intellectuals … a tribe whose members can be found in almost all César-winning films. They are trophy collectors.”“A half century after the disappearance of the biggest French writer ever, it’s not useful, that a film realised by the son of a self-righteous thinker... should reduce Céline to his antisemitism,” it said.


xyzzzz__, Monday, 14 March 2016 11:27 (eight years ago) link

five years pass...

Marie Darrieussecq serving up a fine endorsement for Damian Catani's forthcoming biography of Louis-Ferdinand Céline: ‘One of the best French writers ever, who re-invented the very language of literature, and a complete SALOPARD.’ pic.twitter.com/hMe4wc8RZk

— David Hayden (@seventydys) June 29, 2021

xyzzzz__, Tuesday, 29 June 2021 11:36 (three years ago) link

ten months pass...

Reading it atm !

AlXTC from Paris, Tuesday, 17 May 2022 07:32 (two years ago) link

How is it?

xyzzzz__, Tuesday, 17 May 2022 07:35 (two years ago) link

I read Death on the Installment Plan during my first trip to London while staying in a youth hostel. I think I read Journey to the End of the Night on a subsequent trip, but I am not certain about this. That they are explicitly excluded in the question for this thread makes me think I should read further or revisit those novels again. (Celine seems right for London because he makes me think of a more miserable version of Baudelaire, which is all I could experience of the city at the time and perhaps forever.)

youn, Thursday, 19 May 2022 12:34 (two years ago) link

Well, I'm 2/3 in and it's... Celinien !
It's unfinished and reconstructed in parts so a bit inconsistent but so far it's a powerful, carnal, dirty and vibrant testimony to WWI.
And it's pretty short.

AlXTC from Paris, Thursday, 19 May 2022 12:57 (two years ago) link

I had a version of Death on The Installment Plan translated by Billy Childish in the late 80s. I think that's what he called it and I do like that name and I think it is the one I first heard about the book under. Seems to be more evocative than Death ON Credit. the relentless drip of a thing hanging over one incrementally and all like that. I did think that name was older anyway.

I have had a couple of other titles by the writer but I think I only read part of them. THink I had both Castle To Castle and North. Given to me by the girlfriend of the guy from whom I used to buy the posters I sold.

Stevolende, Thursday, 19 May 2022 13:02 (two years ago) link

"That they are explicitly excluded in the question for this thread makes me think I should read further or revisit those novels again."

Not for any reason other than that these are the books that most people would've read.

Aixtc - thanks for your post. Wonder if they'll get translated anytime soon.

xyzzzz__, Thursday, 19 May 2022 13:15 (two years ago) link

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