“Céline, the imprecator”, a special issue of the “World” on a work that is still disturbing

Special issue. For advertising reasons, by simple provocation, most often out of modesty, Céline liked less to lie than to disguise reality. “The truth is out of date”, he wrote. Also, the private man as the public figure has long been shrouded in legends. Fantasy misery. The imaginary trepanation. The amazing claim – “I have never collaborated” – exile in Denmark. The last image, the one that remains: the poor wretch of Meudon (Hauts-de-Seine) riveted to his work table in an icy building, a migraine sufferer forced to write to earn his living.

Fortunately, after the biography of François Gibault and those that followed, we are now able to disentangle the true from the false and perhaps we would say, like Arletty: “It was a very small life. » The anti-Semitic pamphlets, which were debated for so long without anyone being able to read them, are now accessible despite the ban maintained by his widow, Mrs.me Destouches, who died in 2019.

A before and an after

The work, now recognized as major, is available in its entirety since the discovery, in 2021, of thousands of unpublished manuscript pages, which was absolutely necessary: ​​we speak knowingly, even if we continue to ask each other for a comment character of such finesse was able to indulge with delight in the vulgar coarseness of anti-Semitism, which August Bebel described as “socialism of fools”. To form an opinion on the man, his qualities and his faults, his “miserable pile of little secrets” only has a relative interest.

Read also (2021): Article reserved for our subscribers Thousands of unpublished sheets: the found treasures of Louis-Ferdinand Céline

More importantly, he claims to be hated for going out of fashion, with journey to the Edge of the Night – single son “wicked book” –, all the writers of his time. And he was right, there is, in literature, a before and an after Celine: can write nowadays, whether he has read it or not, knows that he is in debt with him. The work continues to disturb, still raises the question. We wonder about the mystery of the “emotional rendering” or the tempos of “little music”, we try to measure the radical upheaval imposed on the language.

Thus, in this special issue of World, four authors, Pierre Assouline, Delfeil de Ton, Jean-Pierre Martin, François Gibault, may have very different approaches in the texts written for this publication. As for Jean-Pierre Thibaudat, who, last summer, publicly revealed the existence of thousands of unpublished manuscript pages, he lifts a part of the veil on this incredible event. For his part, Henri Godard, Céline’s editor in “La Pléiade”, relativizes the importance of these unpublished works. Everyone makes their own Céline.

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