Louis-Ferdinand Céline (1894-1961) was a French writer and doctor whose novels are antiheroic visions of human suffering. Accused of collaboration with the Nazis, Céline fled France in 1944 first to Germany and then to Denmark. Condemned by default (1950) in France to one year of imprisonment and declared a national disgrace, Céline returned to France after his pardon in 1951, where he continued to write until his death. His classic books include Journey to the End of the Night, Death on the Installment Plan, London Bridge, North, Rigadoon, Conversations with Professor Y, Castle to Castle, and Normance.
Guignol's Bandby Louis-Ferdinand Celine
InGuignol’s Band, first published in France in 1943, Céline explores the horror of a disordered world. The hero, the semi-autobiographical Ferdinand, moves through the nightmare of London’s underworld during the years of World War I. In this distressing setting, he meets pimps and prostitutes, pawnbrokers and magicians, policemen and arsonists.
InGuignol’s Band, first published in France in 1943, Céline explores the horror of a disordered world. The hero, the semi-autobiographical Ferdinand, moves through the nightmare of London’s underworld during the years of World War I. In this distressing setting, he meets pimps and prostitutes, pawnbrokers and magicians, policemen and arsonists. He sees social and physiological decomposition as these processes unfold along parallel lines of development. The illusions of existence are nakedly exposed. The narrative erupts in Céline’s characteristic elliptical style. His splintered sentences and scatology reflect his fury at the fragmentation of experience and at his own impotence in the face of it. Out of his rage, he forces the meaninglessness back on itself, and the exuberance of his struggle triumphs in the comic exaggeration of satire. Ultimately, his subject is not death but life, and he responds to it by a strengthened commitment to the sensual and concrete. His hallucinatory world is so vividly realized that it does, indeed, challenge the reality of the reader’s more conventional world.
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Celine is a tough guy to understand. However, with proper insight in Celine's personal life, one will find clues to his writing, which is always partly autobiographical. Guignol's Band unfolds at the time of the first world war in London's underworld, city spared by the ravages of war and among others, a refuge for dubious elements and men fleeing from their past. My thought right from the start was that Guignol's Band is not one of Celine's greatest hits. The truncated phrases, specific to Celine, don't make things easier but nevertheless this novel offers certain elements that capture attention. If this is the first Celine novel you read, prepare to be provoked, maybe loathed. Celine mingles with the scum of the earth; thugs, pimps, prostitutes, drug dealers, and criminals and he seems to understand them. He's not very high on the social scale himself but Celine is not an ignorant. His insight in a corrupt and decomposing society is paradoxical with the world he finds himself living in. Nevertheless, he manages somehow to distance himself and is able of a clear introspection and mordant criticism of the greatest follies of them all: war. Celine empties his bag of revulsion, frustration and disappointment at a world that is far less than perfect. His disgust just oozes through all the pores, infecting, choking, shocking. Is he just describing what he sees or is everything an expression of his profound hatred, and acute cynicism stemming from his own truly miserable childhood and adult failures? If you really wish to read a representative work by Celine, try 'Journey to the End of the Night' and 'Death on the Installment Plan'. After reading that, you'll surely be able to see Guignol's Band in a different light, maybe better.