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Louis-Ferdinand Céline

Biography

Louis-Ferdinand Céline was born Louis-Ferdinand Destouches in 1894 in Courbevoie, near Paris. His father worked for an insurance company and his mother sold lace. He had only a basic education and had a variety of minor posts before joining the army in 1912. His unit was called to fight in World War I and Céline was injured in action, for which he received the military medal. He was then sent to the French consulate in London. After the war he studied medicine (having married the daughter of the Director of the Rennes medical school). After qualifying he worked for the Rockefeller Institute and was sent to Africa and the United States but did not, contrary to rumour, work for Ford, though he did briefly visit the company. He also worked for the League of Nations. After his League of Nations contract finished, he went to work in the Paris suburbs in a dispensary.

It was during this period that he wrote his first and best-known novel, Voyage au bout de la nuit (Journey to the End of the Night), which is ground-breaking, both in its use of language, using colloquial speech, to create what he called petite musique (little music) as well as its highly pessimistic and cynical style. He used a similar style in his subsequent novels. When his second novel – Mort à credit (Death on the Installment Plan; UK: Death on Credit) – was less well received, he turned to writing pamphlets, which were anti-Soviet, pro-Hitler and anti-Semitic. During World War II, he continued with this tone, attacking Jews, freemasons, Communists and Gaullists and accusing most of his fellow-countrymen of being of mixed race. At the end of the War, he fled to Germany and then to Denmark. These adventures will be recounted in his later novels. He was imprisoned for collaboration and amnestied in 1951. Despite receiving a generous advance from Gallimard, he maintained that he was living in penury. He died in 1961.

Books about Louis-Ferdinand Céline

Nicholas Hewitt: The Life of Celine: A Critical Biography
Merlin Thomas: Louis-Ferdinand Celine

Other links

Louis-Ferdinand Céline
Louis-Ferdinand Céline (1894-1961)
Notorious Anti-Semite Louis-Ferdinand Céline and the Jews Who Read Him
Louis-Ferdinand Céline 1894-1961 (in French)
Louis-Ferdinand Céline (in French)
Louis-Ferdinand Céline (in French)
Bibliographie (in French)
Société d’études céliniennes (in French)

Bibliography

1924 La vie et l’œuvre de Philippe Ignace Semmelweis
1932 Voyage au bout de la nuit (Journey to the End of the Night)
1933 L’Église
1936 Mort à credit (Death on the Installment Plan; UK: Death on Credit)
1936 Mea culpa
1937 Bagatelle pour un massacre
1938 L’École des cadavres
1941 Les Beaux draps
1944 Guignol’s Band (Guignol’s Band)
1948 Foudres et flèches
1949 Casse-pipe
1950 Scandale aux abysses
1952 Féerie pour une autre fois
1954 Normance (Féerie II) (Normance)
1955 Entretiens avec le professeur Y
1957 D’un château l’autre (Castle to Castle)
1960 Nord (North)
1964 Guignol’s Band II (Le pont de Londres)
1969 Rigodon
1970 Carnet du cuirassier Destouches
1978 Progrès
1983 Arletty, jeune fille dauphinoise
1985 Maudits soupirs pour une autre fois
1997 Histoire du petit Mouck
2006 A l’agité du bocal
2007 Rencontre à Copenhague