Stochastic Bookmark

abstruse unfinished commentary

about correspondence


Filling in the ellipses

No. 2 pencil at ready ... Castle to Castle, North, Rigadoon treat of Céline at the end of WW II in Sigmaringen, Zornhof, and transit by rail through Germany respectively and retrospectively, if not chronologically. The most impolitic of writers, his narration smacks of Quixote's Inferno; Céline's ravishment parallels that of Europe. Vonnegut, in his introduction to Rigadoon, puts it better than I can, with only the occasional false note; I'll isolate those comments that underscore Céline's hypocritical misanthropy (which mitigate egotism as well as each other):

"[...] Céline has been praised as a stylist. He himself mocked the endlessly repeated typographical trick that made every page he wrote easily recognizable as being his: 'Me and my three dots ... my supposedly original style! ... all the real writers will tell you what to think of it! ...'
"The only writers who admire that style enough to imitate it, as far as I know, are gossip columnists. [...]
"With no especial help from his eccentric typography, in my opinion, Céline gave us in his novels the finest history we have of the total collapse of Western civilization in two world wars, as witnessed by hideously vulnerable common women and men. [...]
"Readers may find their experience softened and deepened, too, if they reflect that the author was a physician who chose to serve patients who were mainly poor. [...]
"After years of unselfish and often brilliant service to mankind in literature and medicine, he revealed himself as a fierce anti-Semite and a Nazi sympathizer. [...]
"The anti-Semitism appears only flickeringly here and there, and usually in the context of his being absolutely ga-ga about all the varieties of treacherous and foolish human beings. [...]
"Since he is punished and dead, and since the Nazi nightmare is so long ago now [1974], it may at last be possible to perceive a twisted sort of honor in his declining to speak of remorse or to offer excuses of any kind. Other collaborators with the Nazis, of whom there were tens of thousands in France and millions in all of Europe, had stories to tell of how they were forced to behave as badly as they did, and of daring acts of resistance and sabotage they commited, at the risk of their lives.
"Céline found that sort of lying ludicrous in a very ugly way.
"I get a splitting headache every time I try to write about Céline. I have one now. I never have headaches at any other time. [...]"

I think I've just about run out of fair use. Vonnegut also notes (opens with) the dual identity on the tombstone (while in the text his mother's is effaced) but without remarking on the author/narrator distinction.
(This just in: Jonathan Littell's Les Bienveillantes takes the ideologue's (i.e., not Céline) side for the first time in a long time.)

Changing trains, I followed up with Claude Simon's The Trolley, his late, spare novel. In a word, Proustian -- but having not lost a lot of time on reading Proust myself, I'll leave it at that.


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