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Journey to the End of Night  
Author Louis-Ferdinand Céline
Original title Voyage au bout de la nuit
Translator John H. P. Marks (1934), Ralph Manheim (1988)
Country France
Language French
Publication date 1932

Journey to the End of Night (Voyage au bout de la nuit, 1932) is the first novel of Louis-Ferdinand Céline. This semi-autobiographical work describes antihero Ferdinand Bardamu. His surname, Bardamu, is derived from the French words Barda—the "pack" carried by World War I soldiers—and mu, the past participle of the verb mouvoir, meaning to move. (As the novel progresses, circumstances compel Bardamu to drop his "baggage" of conventional morality and his youthful optimism.[1]) Bardamu is involved with World War I, colonial Africa, and post-World War I America (where he works for the Ford Motor Company), returning in the second half of the work to France, where he becomes a medical doctor and establishes a practice in a poor Paris suburb, the fictional La Garenne-Rancy. The novel also satirizes the medical profession and the vocation of scientific research. The disparate elements of the work are linked together by recurrent encounters with Léon Robinson, a hapless character whose experiences parallel, to some extent, those of Bardamu.

As its title suggests, Voyage au bout de la nuit is a nihilistic novel of savage, exultant misanthropy, combined, however, with cynical humour. Céline expresses an almost unrelieved pessimism with regard to human nature, human institutions, society, and life in general. Towards the end of the book, the narrator Bardamu, who is working at an insane asylum, remarks:

…I cannot refrain from doubting that there exist any genuine realizations of our deepest character except war and illness, those two infinities of nightmare,"
("…je ne peux m'empêcher de mettre en doute qu'il existe d'autres véritables réalisations de nos profonds tempéraments que la guerre et la maladie, ces deux infinis du cauchemar,")

Literary style

Céline's first novel is most remarkable perhaps for its style. Céline makes extensive use of ellipsis and hyperbole. He writes with the flow of natural speech patterns and writes vernacular, while also employing more erudite elements. This influenced French literature considerably. The novel enjoyed popular success and a fair amount of critical acclaim when it was published during October 1932. Albert Thibaudet, perhaps the greatest of the entre-deux-guerres critics, said that during January 1933 it was still a common topic of conversation at dinner parties in Paris (Henri Godard, "Notice," in Céline, Romans, vol. 1 [Paris: Bibliothèque de la Pléiade, 1981], p. 1262).

Influence and legacy

Kurt Vonnegut cited Journey as one of his influences in Palm Sunday, and Bardamu's misadventures appear to have influenced Joseph Heller's Catch-22. Charles Bukowski makes reference to Journey in a number of his novels and short stories, and employs prose techniques borrowed from Céline. Bukowski once said that "Journey to the End of the Night was the best book written in the last two thousand years."

The Xiu Xiu song "F.T.W." references the book.

Italian film director Sergio Leone was a fan of the novel and was considering a film adaptation in the 1960s.

The poem inspired the Israeli singer and songwriter Aya Korem to write a song called "Tania". It is a sad yet satirical song, and Journey is credited in the liner notes of the album.

The name of the book is also a main lyric in the song "End of the Night" by The Doors, as the book was an inspiration to their singer Jim Morrison.

The title of noise/punk band Heroine Sheiks' 2008 release "Journey to the Edge of the Knife" is a reference to the novel.

The movie Bringing out the Dead by Martin Scorsese contains a scene showing the book on a shelf in Frank Pierce's home.

The movie Wild Things contains a scene in which Suzie Toller (Neve Campbell)is reading the book when Ray Duquette (Kevin Bacon) goes to question her.

Publication history

Jacques Tardi illustrated a 1988 edition with 130 drawings.

  • Céline, Louis-Ferdinand; Manheim, Ralph (translator) (1983). Journey to the End of the Night. New York: New Directions. ISBN 9780811208475.  
  • Céline, Louis-Ferdinand; Manheim, Ralph (translator) (1988). Journey to the End of the Night. London: Calder. ISBN 9780714541396.  
  • Sturrock, John (1990). Louis-Ferdinand Celine, Journey to the End of the Night. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0521378540.  
  • Céline, Louis-Ferdinand; Vollman, William T. (afterword); Manheim, Ralph (translator) (2006). Journey to the End of the Night. New York: New Directions. ISBN 9780811216548.  
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Journey to the End of Night  
Author Louis-Ferdinand Céline
Original title Voyage au bout de la nuit
Translator John H. P. Marks (1934), Ralph Manheim (1988)
Country France
Language French
Publication date 1932

Journey to the End of Night (Voyage au bout de la nuit, 1932) is the first novel of Louis-Ferdinand Céline. This semi-autobiographical work describes antihero Ferdinand Bardamu.

His surname, Bardamu, is derived from the French words barda—the "pack" carried by World War I soldiers—and mu, the past participle of the verb mouvoir, meaning "to move".

Bardamu is involved with World War I, colonial Africa, and post-World War I America (where he works for the Ford Motor Company), returning in the second half of the work to France, where he becomes a medical doctor and establishes a practice in a poor Paris suburb, the fictional La Garenne-Rancy. The novel also satirizes the medical profession and the vocation of scientific research. The disparate elements of the work are linked together by recurrent encounters with Léon Robinson, a hapless character whose experiences parallel, to some extent, those of Bardamu.

As its title suggests, Voyage au bout de la nuit is a nihilistic novel of savage, exultant misanthropy, combined, however, with cynical humour. Céline expresses an almost unrelieved pessimism with regard to human nature, human institutions, society, and life in general. Towards the end of the book, the narrator Bardamu, who is working at an insane asylum, remarks:

…I cannot refrain from doubting that there exist any genuine realizations of our deepest character except war and illness, those two infinities of nightmare,"
("…je ne peux m'empêcher de mettre en doute qu'il existe d'autres véritables réalisations de nos profonds tempéraments que la guerre et la maladie, ces deux infinis du cauchemar,")

In 2006 Will Self described the book as being "a furious attempt to place one man's consciousness at the epicenter of a world that is exploding under the centripetal influences of capitalism, imperialism, consumerism and licentiousness."[1]

Contents

Literary style

Céline's first novel is most remarkable perhaps for its style. Céline makes extensive use of ellipsis and hyperbole. He writes with the flow of natural speech patterns and writes vernacular, while also employing more erudite elements. This influenced French literature considerably. The novel enjoyed popular success and a fair amount of critical acclaim when it was published during October 1932. Albert Thibaudet, perhaps the greatest of the entre-deux-guerres critics, said that during January 1933 it was still a common topic of conversation at dinner parties in Paris (Henri Godard, "Notice," in Céline, Romans, vol. 1 [Paris: Bibliothèque de la Pléiade, 1981], p. 1262).

Influence and legacy

Will Self has written that Journey to the End of the Night "is the novel, perhaps more than any other, that inspired me to write fiction".[1]

Kurt Vonnegut cited Journey as one of his influences in Palm Sunday, and Bardamu's misadventures appear to have influenced Joseph Heller's Catch-22. Charles Bukowski makes reference to Journey in a number of his novels and short stories, and employs prose techniques borrowed from Céline. Bukowski wrote in Notes of a Dirty Old Man that "Céline was the greatest writer of 2000 years."[2]

The Xiu Xiu song "F.T.W." references the book.

The Charlotte Gainsbourg song "Voyage" also references the book's French and English titles.

Italian film director Sergio Leone was a fan of the novel and was considering a film adaptation in the 1960s.

The poem inspired the Israeli singer and songwriter Aya Korem to write a song called "Tania". It is a sad yet satirical song, and Journey is credited in the liner notes of the album.

The name of the book is also a main lyric in the song "End of the Night" by the Doors, as the book was an inspiration to their singer Jim Morrison.

The title of noise/punk band Heroine Sheiks' 2008 release Journey to the Edge of the Knife is a reference to the novel.

The movie Bringing out the Dead by Martin Scorsese contains a scene showing the book on a shelf in Frank Pierce's home.

The movie Wild Things contains a scene in which Suzie Toller (Neve Campbell) is reading the book when Ray Duquette (Kevin Bacon) goes to question her.

Publication history

Jacques Tardi illustrated a 1988 edition with 130 drawings.

  • Céline, Louis-Ferdinand; Manheim, Ralph (translator) (1983). Journey to the End of the Night. New York: New Directions. ISBN 9780811208475. 
  • Céline, Louis-Ferdinand; Manheim, Ralph (translator) (1988). Journey to the End of the Night. London: Calder. ISBN 9780714541396. 
  • Sturrock, John (1990). Louis-Ferdinand Celine, Journey to the End of the Night. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0521378540. 
  • Céline, Louis-Ferdinand; Vollman, William T. (afterword); Manheim, Ralph (translator) (2006). Journey to the End of the Night. New York: New Directions. ISBN 9780811216548. 

References

  1. ^ a b Will Self (September 10, 2006). "Céline’s Dark Journey". The New York Times. http://www.nytimes.com/2006/09/10/books/review/Self.t.html. Retrieved July 17, 2010. 
  2. ^ Notes of a Dirty Old Man, p. 86.

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