Rigadoonby Louis-Ferdinand Celine
Completed right before his death in 1961and bringing to conclusion his trilogy consisting of North and Castle to CastleRigadoon, as the critic J. H. Matthews has said, "stands as a summation of its author's experiments in fiction," his turning French syntax and language upside-down, his digressive storytelling method that ignores the verities of the well-made novel, and his black humor that influenced a generation of writers to come after him.
World War II is ending, and our autobiographical, first-person narrator is fleeing France and witnessing the apocalyptic collapse of Nazi Germany and the end of the Third Reich. Both powerless and filled with rage as he and his wife try to survive by making their way to Denmark via Germany in the hope of avoiding punishment for their collaboration with the French Vichy government, the narrator depicts the destruction and chaos of war, and envisions a future that will only be worse than the past.
"As modern readers, we should feel extremely fortunate to have this celebration of the individual human spirit struggling to survive in a world obsessed with its destruction. Manheim's translation succeeds in capturing the powerful immediacy of Cèline's prose." (Library Journal 5-1-74)
"Cèline quite deliberately makes us feel the inescapable, mind-rotting horror of endless chaos, the fact of war as Americans have never known it." (Washington Post Book World 6-2-74)
"More than most modern authors, [Cèline is] able to plunge directly into the burning center, where Europe, in rage and anguish, is tearing itself apart. In so doing, he captures the heat and energy of he final holocaust better than almost anyone." (Nation 2-1-75)
"Cèline's explosive language and style is the very sign of his experience: its full impact explodes, as if by delayed reaction, before the eyes, and in the consciousness, of author, narrator, and reader alike." (Times Literary Supplement)
"Lit with a flash of frighteningly lucid prophecy, and seen to be nothing less than the doom of the human race. . . . But what is oddest of all about Rigadoon, and what distinguishes it from Cèline's other work, is its sense of peace, almost of consummation, at the sight of a Europe in rubble and flames." (New York Times Book Review 6-30-74)
- Random House Publishing Group
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Meet the Author
Louis-Ferdinand Celine (1894-1961) was a French writer and doctor whose novels are antiheroic visions of human suffering. Accused of collaboration with the Nazis, Celine 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, Celine 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.
Kurt Vonnegut was a master of contemporary American Literature. His black humor, satiric voice, and incomparable imagination first captured America's attention in "The Siren's of Titan" in 1959 and established him as "a true artist" with "Cat's Cradle" in 1963. He was, as Graham Greene has declared, "one of the best living American writers."
Ralph Manheim (b. New York, 1907) was an American translator of German and French literature. His translating career began with a translation of Mein Kempf in which Manheim set out to reproduce Hitler's idiosyncratic, often grammatically aberrant style. In collaboration with John Willett, Manheim translated the works of Bertolt Brecht. The Pen/Ralph Manheim Medal for translation, inaugurated in his name, is a major lifetime achievement award in the field of translation. He himself won its predecessor, the PEN translation prize, in 1964. Manheim died in Cambridge in 1992. He was 85.
Kurt Vonnegut was a master of contemporary American Literature. His black humor, satiric voice, and incomparable imagination first captured America's attention in The Siren's of Titan in 1959 and established him as "a true artist" with Cat's Cradle in 1963. He was, as Graham Greene has declared, "one of the best living American writers."
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