Thursday, May 27, 2010


I am just too lazy or too tired to try to hunt down a photograph of today's hero, so a non visual post will have to do. His name is Louis-Ferdinand Celine, and he was born this day 1894 in Courbevoie, France. He was born the only child of a lacemaker mother, and a father who worked in an insurance firm. At the age of 18 he, being mostly self-taught, obtained his baccalaureat degree, and begin to have aspirations of one day becoming a doctor. He joined the army in 1912, and saw a great deal of service during World War before eventually being declared unfit due to his war wounds. After the war, he decided to pursue his dream of becoming a doctor, and after a great deal of hard study, he obtained the necessary degree in 1924. However, the life of a doctor was not to be his stopping point, while obtaining his M.D. he had acquired a wife, and a daughter, both of which he left for good in 1925. Deciding to do a bit of world traveling, he visited Switzerland, Cameroon, the United States, and various other countries. It was during this time he began to write. His first book, and the one book by him I have read "Journey to the End of the Night" was published in 1932. It is an awesome book, full of the hate that Celine harbored against pretty much everything. Its writing style has been called "savage." An example of the type of savagery he wrote with, and of the picture of the horrible world that Celine believed we inhabit is below.

The worst part is wondering how you’ll find the strength tomorrow to go on doing what you did today and have been doing for much too long, where you’ll find the strength for all that stupid running around, those projects that come to nothing, those attempts to escape from crushing necessity, which always founder and serve only to convince you one more time that destiny is implacable, that every night will find you down and out, crushed by the dread of more and more sordid and insecure tomorrows.

That little paragraph is by turns, savage, bleak, and fucking beautiful, and it is a fantastic paragraph, it explains a lot about his world view, and it also happens to be one that I, in my more morose moments, share. The book made him a star, and he would go on to write a lot of other books that are on my to read list. I highly recommend you reading him, but be warned a little Celine goes a long way, and be prepared to be shocked, impressed, disturbed, and a little scared by him. However, each of those feelings is worth it, and you should start, as he did, with "Journey to the End of the Night." It is a highly autobiographical work, and if you keep your courage up to finish it, it will have a profound effect upon you. His record during World War II does not make for pretty reading, he was a pretty solid anti-Semite, and eventually fled France because he feared being executed for treason. He was found guilty, in absentia, of high treason, and spent a year on death row in Denmark (to where he had fled). I can't says that I condone his politics, or his views on race, but I can put that aside when I read him, because his prose is just fucking brilliant. He was eventually allowed to return to France, and regained some of his earlier fame. However, he does remain a polarizing figure to this day. Not for me, I am solidly pro-Celine, and I am pretty sure he would tell his detractors to go fuck themselves, and for that, and for writing some outstanding prose in a style that cannot be duplicated (Charles Bukowski wrote, "First of all read Celine, the greatest writer of 2,000 years.") Louis Ferdinand Celine (May 27th, 1894-July 1st, 1961, at the age of 67 of ruptured aneurysm), you are my (274th) hero of the day.

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