Fable for Another Timeby Louis-Ferdinand Celine, Henri Godard, Mary Hudson
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/i>
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.
"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
"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
"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
“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
“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
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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