Normance

Overview

A landmark event: the last of Céline's novels to be translated into English, this account of an air attack on Paris during World War II shows a hallucinatory, altered space in which human aggressions, appetites, and suspicion come boiling to the surface in preposterous dimensions. A frantic narrator, in search of complicity, relates the story of an apocalyptic ballet that leaves reason and order in shreds, as bombing turns Montmartre into an underworld teeming with dirty deeds, while our guide resists the ...

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Overview

A landmark event: the last of Céline's novels to be translated into English, this account of an air attack on Paris during World War II shows a hallucinatory, altered space in which human aggressions, appetites, and suspicion come boiling to the surface in preposterous dimensions. A frantic narrator, in search of complicity, relates the story of an apocalyptic ballet that leaves reason and order in shreds, as bombing turns Montmartre into an underworld teeming with dirty deeds, while our guide resists the inhumanity with animal desperation and robust hilarity. Céline animates the events with the exuberance and speed of his narrative style, fully developed and uninhibited, and fully his own.

Dalkey Archive Press

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Editorial Reviews

The London Spectator
“Céline is one of the great revolutionaries of prose of our century, as great as Joyce or Kafka.”
Life
“Céline was the black humorist to his age three decades before the term was invented . . . Alongside this apocalyptically-minded Paris doctor our local batch of black comics are pretty gray cats.”
The New Yorker
“Increasingly, it does look as if the novels of Günter Grass, of William Burroughs, and of Norman Mailer would not have been written without Céline's precedent.”
Wyatt Mason - New York Review of Books
“To read any one single novel by Celine is to receive, in a bracing style, a hysterical primer on the abjection of being.”
Publishers Weekly

Céline, a doctor by trade, took the French literary world by storm in 1932 with Journey to the End of the Night. Then he destroyed his reputation by writing anti-Semitic hate tracts during WWII. Exile and a brief imprisonment followed. His early works changed international literature forever, but his later books, written during a period of self-inflicted, backhanded infamy, crystallized his inimitably visceral style and misanthropic attitude.

This is the last of Céline's novels to languish untranslated. The adroit Marlon Jones has produced an English text that compares with the brilliant translations of Ralph Mannheim (who brought Journey and Death on the Installment Plan into English). Even at his most lucid, Céline's prose reads like rapid bursts of slangy, profane argot-problematic enough in its own right-issued in a dramatic and confrontational style. True to form, this narrative is practically shouted in short exclamation-pointed bursts (connected, or disconnected, as it were, via ellipses) by a frenetic doctor-narrator named Ferdinand who endeavors to tell the reader about the allied bombardment of Montmartre in April 1944, "baroom!" and "baboom!" and all. The explosions are enough to make the furniture dance around the room, but Ferdinand attends mainly to his beloved cat, Bébert; his girlfriend, Lili; and Jules, a humpbacked local artist he despises. As the destruction of Paris grows more surreal, Ferdinand's invective against Jules follows suit, and Ferdinand convinces himself that Jules is conducting the entire offensive from atop a windmill. Lili and Ferdinand head to the lower floors of the building to search for theircat, finding that their neighbors, including the Normances, an obese man and his undersized wife, have taken cover under furniture. The bombardment worsens, civilization breaks down, the rooms flood with bodily fluids of all kinds, residents loot a hoard of liquor in a mad bacchanalia, and the giant Normance turns murderous.

Truly, there isn't much of a plot, and readers who pick this up are going to pick it up because they're already fans of Céline's work. Love him or hate him, Céline transformed 20th-century literature, and his influence in American letters is undeniable, hence the importance of this novel: it's the last missing piece of Celine's lifework to appear in English, and it provides fresh evidence of why this frustrating, misanthropic and inspired writer is still worth reading. (May)

Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Saturday Review
Céline's mastery in creating one of the truly cathartic experiences of contemporary literature is indisputable.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781564785251
  • Publisher: Dalkey Archive Press
  • Publication date: 5/5/2009
  • Series: French Literature Ser.
  • Pages: 328
  • Sales rank: 1,001,659
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 7.90 (h) x 1.20 (d)

Meet the Author

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.

Marlon Jones grew up in California, and lives in England. With Josephine Berganza and Jeff Fort, he translated French Theory by François Cusset.

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