The language is, indeed, alive. In French particularly one registers the profound technical gift Céline possessed, his ability to sew vernacular into his syntactically exacting prose, prose Simon de Beauvoir called "a new instrument: writing as alive as speech." But the theme played on that instrument—"The truth is an endless death agony. The truth is death"—one repeated in book after book, is shallow and simpleminded. To read any single novel by Céline is to receive, in a bracing style, a hysterical primer on the abjection of being. To read them all is to register a unique species of racism: a hatred not of particular elements of humanity but of the human race as a whole. Thus Jean Giono said of Céline's writing, "If Céline had truly believed what he wrote, he would have killed himself."
Sunday, January 03, 2010
Bagatelles pour un massacre
At the NYRB, Wyatt Mason considers Céline's anti-Semitism: