Fable for Another Time

Overview

Fable for Another Time is one of the most significant and far-reaching literary texts of postwar France. Composed in the tumultuous aftermath of World War II, largely in the Danish prison cell where the author was awaiting extradition to France on charges of high treason, the book offers a unique perspective on the war, the postwar political purges in France, and Louis-Ferdinand Céline’s own dissident politics. The tale of a man imprisoned and reviled by his own countrymen, the Fable follows its character’s ...
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Overview

Fable for Another Time is one of the most significant and far-reaching literary texts of postwar France. Composed in the tumultuous aftermath of World War II, largely in the Danish prison cell where the author was awaiting extradition to France on charges of high treason, the book offers a unique perspective on the war, the postwar political purges in France, and Louis-Ferdinand Céline’s own dissident politics. The tale of a man imprisoned and reviled by his own countrymen, the Fable follows its character’s decline from virulent hatred to near madness as a result of his violent frustration with the hypocrisy and banality of his fellow human beings. In part because of the story’s clear link to his own case—and because of the legal and political difficulties this presented—Céline was compelled to push his famously elliptical, brilliantly vitriolic language to new and extraordinary extremes in Fable for Another Time. The resulting linguistic and stylistic innovation make this work stand out as one of the most original and revealing literary undertakings of its time. Louis-Ferdinand Céline (1894–1961) was a French writer and physician best known for the novels Journey to the End of the Night (1932) and Death on the Installment Plan (1936). Céline was accused of collaboration during World War II and fled France in 1944 to live first in Germany, then in Denmark, where he was imprisoned for over a year; an amnesty in 1951 allowed him to return to France. Céline remains anathema to a large segment of French society for his antisemitic writings; at the same time his novels are enormously admired by each new generation.
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Editorial Reviews

The Los Angeles Times
In France, when one looks at literature in the 20th century, there are two great mountains: Céline and Proust. You scale both at your own risk. While some are drawn to Proust, others seek Céline because of the haunting voice in Fable for Another Time that declares, "If there is no laughter inside you there's nothing." In life, it continues, "You'll cry out when you give birth! Even louder when you croak! And you'll still never measure up." — Thomas McGonigle
The Washington Post
Fable for Another Time allows us to take the full measure of the two incomparable but tightly linked aspects of Céline's work: his political delirium and his revolutionary style. Neither aspect can be neglected. — Alice Kaplan
The New York Times
Céline, best known for his novels Journey to the End of the Night (1932) and Death on the Installment Plan (1936), had been denounced for his anti-Semitic pamphlets of the 1930's, and he responded with Fable for Another Time, a defiant cri du coeur that attacked the hypocrisies of nearly everyone except his dead mother, his cat and his wife. — Dan Kaufman
Kirkus Reviews
Civilized society is portrayed as a constant threat to individual freedom in this savage text—the previously untranslated first half of a two-part novel the perversely great French author (1894-1961) published in 1952. This confrontational "novel in which invention is grafted onto a presumed autobiography" followed the pseudonymous Céline’s early masterpieces (Journey to the End of Night and Death on the Installment Plan) and preceded his hallucinatory WWII trilogy (North, Castle to Castle, Rigadoon). Composed while its author, indicted by his government for treasonable praises of anti-Semitism and Nazism, was imprisoned in Copenhagen awaiting extradition to France for trial, it’s a bitter howl of protest expressed in Céline’s characteristically fragmented style. Run-on sentences, angry accusations, imaginary conversations with an implied reader (who’s as abusive as the narrator) create a kaleidoscopic impression of terror, resentment, and psychic unbalance. The narrator (referred to by several names, each of which identifies the author) vilifies his tormentors and demands the respect denied both his literary accomplishments and his heroic military service (during WWI). Céline spares nobody, dwelling luridly on details of prison life, mocking the hypocrisies of nationalism and literary convention (critics, translators, and censors are favored targets), indulging a coprophiliac obsession with bodily processes and malfunctions ("Nature, you’re a pile of shit!"), and woolgathering about such remembered figures as a beautiful dancer who excited his lust, a legless artist friend who took seductive advantage of female pity, and his intemperate housecat Bébert (which creature seems to havebeen Céline’s beloved doppelgänger). The energy and rhythm of the narrator’s voice are intoxicating, but the content is so off-putting, you may hate yourself for not tossing it into the trash. Exactly the effect intended, we imagine, by one of the 20th century’s most eloquent and incorrigible misanthropes.
New York Times Book Review

"A defiant cri du coeur that attacked the hypocrisies of nearly everyone except [Céline's] dead mother, his cat and his wife. This autobiographical novel . . . is now available in English for the first time. . . . In this canny translation by Mary Hudson, Céline's tone—a strangely endearing combination of self-awareness and black humor—ultimately wins your admiration if not always your sympathy."—Dan Kaufman, New York Times Book Review

— Dan Kaufman

Los Angeles Times Book Review

"Although the political thrusts, the literary asides and the paranoid imaginings—that his wife is being seduced by a legless artist—are great fun (and much else is wonderfully explained in Hudson's introduction and notes), it is the sheer human content, the consolation of not being alone at the extreme, that brings at least this reader back again and again to Céline. . . . Fable is Céline's rasping tortured cry, faithful to the moment he is describing 50 years ago and yet presciently capturing the foreboding contained in the headlines of today's newspaper. The awfulness, his work says to us, never goes away."—Thomas McGonigle, Los Angeles Times Book Review

— Thomas McGonigle

Washington Post Book World

"Fable for Another Time was Céline's new literary beginning. It set the stage for a subsequent trilogy of postwar novels. . . . Since then, Céline's stature has only grown: In France today he is ranked with Proust as the leading novelist of the 20th century. . . . More than his famous use of slang, his fragmented sentences or his punctuation, it is Céline's effect on the reader that makes his novels so radically different from the well-mannered French fiction of his contemporaries. . . . Translating his voice was Mary Hudson's daunting task. . . . She understands Céline's writing but resists the temptation to paraphrase and explain. And she gives us Céline in a language that is more colloquial, more contemporary."—Alice Kaplan, Washington Post Book World

— Alice Kaplan

New York Press

“On the surface, it may look and sound like many of his other works, especially the later novels. Hudson argues that it’s much more subtle than that, but I think the similarity is important. I’ve long felt that Céline only wrote one novel, but that it was several thousand pages long and doled out in small portions. That’s why the publication of Fable for Another Time is so important for those of us who can’t read French. Until now, it’s been the chapter that was missing—the link, the foot-bridge that connects everything else. Short as it is, it might be the most important novel he ever wrote.”—Jim Knipfel, New York Press

— Jim Knipfel

Times Literary Supplement

“In a foreword Godard describes Céline’s spell in prison in Denmark when he worked on Féerie, pitting his language against the sounds of the prison . . . and argues convincingly that this neglected novel has an important place in Céline’s evolution. Ms. Hudson does as well as one could reasonably expect. . . . She gets the important things right and she understands that Céline is playing a language game rather than telling a story. Perhaps she should try her hand at Féerie II.”—Patrick McCarthy, Times Literary Supplement

— Patrick McCarthy

New York Times Book Review - Dan Kaufman
"A defiant cri du coeur that attacked the hypocrisies of nearly everyone except [Céline's] dead mother, his cat and his wife. This autobiographical novel . . . is now available in English for the first time. . . . In this canny translation by Mary Hudson, Céline's tone—a strangely endearing combination of self-awareness and black humor—ultimately wins your admiration if not always your sympathy."—Dan Kaufman, New York Times Book Review
Los Angeles Times Book Review - Thomas McGonigle
"Although the political thrusts, the literary asides and the paranoid imaginings—that his wife is being seduced by a legless artist—are great fun (and much else is wonderfully explained in Hudson's introduction and notes), it is the sheer human content, the consolation of not being alone at the extreme, that brings at least this reader back again and again to Céline. . . . Fable is Céline's rasping tortured cry, faithful to the moment he is describing 50 years ago and yet presciently capturing the foreboding contained in the headlines of today's newspaper. The awfulness, his work says to us, never goes away."—Thomas McGonigle, Los Angeles Times Book Review
Washington Post Book World - Alice Kaplan
"Fable for Another Time was Céline's new literary beginning. It set the stage for a subsequent trilogy of postwar novels. . . . Since then, Céline's stature has only grown: In France today he is ranked with Proust as the leading novelist of the 20th century. . . . More than his famous use of slang, his fragmented sentences or his punctuation, it is Céline's effect on the reader that makes his novels so radically different from the well-mannered French fiction of his contemporaries. . . . Translating his voice was Mary Hudson's daunting task. . . . She understands Céline's writing but resists the temptation to paraphrase and explain. And she gives us Céline in a language that is more colloquial, more contemporary."—Alice Kaplan, Washington Post Book World
New York Press - Jim Knipfel
“On the surface, it may look and sound like many of his other works, especially the later novels. Hudson argues that it’s much more subtle than that, but I think the similarity is important. I’ve long felt that Céline only wrote one novel, but that it was several thousand pages long and doled out in small portions. That’s why the publication of Fable for Another Time is so important for those of us who can’t read French. Until now, it’s been the chapter that was missing—the link, the foot-bridge that connects everything else. Short as it is, it might be the most important novel he ever wrote.”—Jim Knipfel, New York Press
Times Literary Supplement - Patrick McCarthy
“In a foreword Godard describes Céline’s spell in prison in Denmark when he worked on Féerie, pitting his language against the sounds of the prison . . . and argues convincingly that this neglected novel has an important place in Céline’s evolution. Ms. Hudson does as well as one could reasonably expect. . . . She gets the important things right and she understands that Céline is playing a language game rather than telling a story. Perhaps she should try her hand at Féerie II.”—Patrick McCarthy, Times Literary Supplement
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780803264243
  • Publisher: University of Nebraska Press
  • Publication date: 4/1/2003
  • Series: French Modernist Library Series
  • Edition description: Illustrated
  • Pages: 239
  • Product dimensions: 5.40 (w) x 8.90 (h) x 0.70 (d)

Meet the Author

Mary Hudson has a Ph.D. in French and works as a translator and language teacher in New York.
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