“War”, an unpublished novel by Céline and the writer’s new masterpiece

It’s a miracle. The word is not too strong. To put it simply, Warunpublished novel by Louis-Ferdinand Céline (1894-1961) which appears on May 5 (edited by Pascal Fouché, foreword by François Gibault, Gallimard, 192 p., €19, digital €14) at the end of circumstances incredible nearly ninety years after it was written, hands down deserves to find its place in libraries, between journey to the Edge of the Night (1932) and Death on credit (1936), the novelist’s two pre-war masterpieces. War is anything but a drawer bottom”, sums up Emile Brami, author of a biography of Céline (Ecriture, 2003). On the contrary, it constitutes a central piece in the immense literary puzzle that Céline has obsessively fashioned from her life.

This colorful account of the convalescence of Ferdinand, the writer’s novelistic double, in the fall of 1914, in Hazebrouck, after his wound on the forehead, comes to fill in an ellipsis left gaping in the heart of journey to the Edge of the Night. Simultaneously a war story, a provincial chronicle and a lewd novel, this unpublished novel should thrill the reader of 2022 with its sometimes unbearable rawness. Gallimard editions have fully measured the importance of the event: they have decided to print 80,000 copies from the outset.

Brief detour through the confused days of the liberation of Paris

Miracle, above all, because we should never have read these pages. To understand how they reached us, a brief detour through the confused days of the liberation of Paris is necessary. From June 1944, Louis-Ferdinand Céline, author of three terrible anti-Semitic pamphlets and close to the Germans, knew that his days were numbered on the Montmartre hill, where he lived with his wife, Lucette. They barely have time to sew gold coins into the lining of a jacket and take their cat, Bébert, on board before heading off to the Gare de l’Est, towards Baden-Baden, then Sigmaringen, where they all find the ultras of the collaboration around Marshal Pétain.

In his haste, death in his soul, the writer must abandon a pile of manuscripts above a cupboard in the rue Girardon. These bundles will mysteriously disappear in the confusion of the Liberation. The rumour, later accredited by Céline himself, accused a certain Oscar Rosembly, arrested at the time for having “visited” the apartments of some Montmartre personalities. Some rather evoke looting by a commando of the French Forces of the Interior.

You have 76.05% of this article left to read. The following is for subscribers only.

Leave a Comment