Louis-Ferdinand Celine Louis-Ferdinand Céline (1894-1961)

From up high where I was, you could shout anything you liked at them. I tried. They made me sick, the whole lot of them. I hadn't the nerve to tell them so in the daytime, to their face, but up there it was safe. "Help! Help!" I shouted, just to see if it would have any effect on them. None whatsoever. Those people were pushing life and night and day in front of them. Life hides everything from people. Their own noise prevents them from hearing anything else. They couldn't care less. The bigger and taller the city, the less they care. Take it from me. I've tried. It's a waste of time.

--from Journey to the End of the Night

Louis Céline, originally named Louis Ferdinand Destouches, b. May 27, 1894, d. July 1, 1961, was a French writer and doctor whose novels Journey to the End of the Night (1932; Eng. trans., 1943) and Death on the Installment Plan (1936; Eng. trans., 1938) are innovative, chaotic, and antiheroic visions of human suffering. Pessimism pervades Céline's fiction as his characters sense failure, anxiety, nihilism, and inertia. Céline was unable to communicate with others, and during his life sank more deeply into a hate-filled world of madness and rage. A progressive disintegration of personality is visible in the stylistic incoherence of Guignol's Band (1944; Eng. trans., 1954), Castle to Castle (1957; Eng. trans., 1968), and North (1960; Eng. trans., 1972). His novels are verbal frescoes peopled with horrendous giants, paraplegics, and gnomes, and are filled with scenes of dismemberment and murder.

Accused of collaboration, Céline fled (1944) France to live in Germany at Sigmaringen and then moved (1945) to Denmark. Condemned by default (1950) in France to one year of imprisonment and declared a national disgrace, Céline returned to France after his pardon in 1951.

Bettina Knapp

Bibliography: Buckley, W. K., ed., Critical Essays on Louis-Ferdinand Céline (1988); Carson, J., Céline's Imaginative Space (1989); Hewitt, N., The Golden Age of Louis-Ferdinand Céline (1987); Knapp, Bettina, Céline: Man of Hate (1974); Ostrovsky, Erika, Céline and his Vision (1967); Thomas, M., Louis-Ferdinand Céline (1980); Vitoux, Frederic, Céline: A Biography, trans. by Jesse Browner (1992).

Text Copyright © 1993 Grolier Incorporated

Céline Links Undergraduate Writing Awards

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Dalkey Archive Press will be making three awards of $500 dollars each for excellence in critical essay writing for undergraduate students. The subject for the 1996-97 academic year will be Louis-Ferdinand Céline's novel North, which will be published by Dalkey Archive in August of 1996. These awards are being established in order to encourage writing exellence among undergraduate students.