France publishes long-lost novel by Nazi collaborator Céline

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A novel by one of France’s most famous authors, Louis-Ferdinand Céline, is published on Thursday, nearly 90 years after it was written. Part of a collection of lost manuscripts being published this year, the book has won over literary critics, despite Celine being known as one of France’s most passionate Nazi collaborators.

Celine’s lost manuscripts are part of an exhibition that opens Thursday at the Gallimard gallery. It is entitled “Céline, Manuscripts Recovered”, and includes the original manuscript pages of war (War), an autobiographical novel about his experience of the First World War.

Gallimard, France’s most prestigious book publisher, expects successful sales for wardespite Céline’s notorious anti-Semitism.

He was one of France’s most ardent anti-Semitic propagandists even before the Nazi occupation of France in World War II.

Mystery of the Manuscripts

Celine left Paris in a hurry in June 1944, feeling that the tide of war was turning and that he would be targeted by Allied forces.

He travels to Germany, leaving behind his unpublished manuscripts in his apartment in Montmartre. These papers disappeared and he accused the resistance fighters of having burned them.

But it turns out that the papers had been kept, and in the 2000s, the 6,000 pages ended up in the hands of a former journalist, Jean-Pierre Thibaudat.

Thibaudat offered them to Céline’s heirs, who didn’t want them, so he approached the police, who made them public in the summer of 2021.

Gallimard immediately wanted to publish them, before Céline’s work fell into the public domain in 2032.

Positive reviews

Reviews for war, the first of the novels to come out of the manuscripts, were brilliant. Many seem keen to separate the first Céline, the novelist, from Céline later, as his anti-Semitism only came out openly in an early tract published in 1937.

war would have been written in 1934, shortly after the publication of Celine’s first novel, journey to the Edge of the Night (journey to the Edge of the Night) in 1932.

This novel full of slang and piquant bourgeois sensibilities made him famous, and it is still taught in schools.

Like much of Celine’s work, war is autobiographical. It opens with 20-year-old Brigadier Ferdinand waking up on a Belgian battlefield one evening in 1915, miraculously alive.

Ferdinand is rescued by a British soldier, and the novel follows his recovery and hasty departure for England – all based on Celine’s real-life experiences during World War I.

Another novel newly discovered in the manuscripts, London (London), recounts his stay in England, and will be published this fall.

Eliminate Celine’s anti-Semitism

There are mysteries as to why the books weren’t published at the time they were written, following the success of journey to the Edge of the Night.

war has explicit sexual content, which may have offended sensibilities at the time. Moreover, the political climate changes and Céline turns away from novels for political pamphlets.

He published Trifles for a massacre (Trifles for a massacre) in 1937, in which he openly revealed his anti-Semitism for the first time.

He published two other anti-Semitic tracts during the war and after launching a Holocaust denial campaign.

Céline covered up her experience during the war and the occupation, allowing her to return to France without suffering any backlash.

(with AFP)

Irene B. Bowles