Louis-Ferdinand Céline’s Two Literary Teachers

Louis-Ferdinand Céline
(Photo Source: Yann Dalon)

Louis-Ferdinand Céline is considered the second best French novelist after Proust (if not the best). If you felt delighted after reading Journey to the End of the Night (1932), and if you wondered what are the authors Céline respected and liked to read, I guess you wondered what were the authors that inspired Céline as a writer.

In Céline’s letters to his friend, American professor Milton Hindus, Céline mentions two authors as his “teachers.”

Henri Barbusse (1873-1935)

The first author is Henri Barbusse. In a couple of places, Céline insists on his novel Under Fire (La Feu, 1916).

Based on his own experience of the Great War, Henri Barbusse’s novel is a powerful account of one of the greatest horrors mankind has ever inflicted on itself.

For the group of ordinary men in the French Sixth Battalion, thrown together from all over France and longing for home, war is simply a matter of survival, lightened only by the arrival of their rations or a glimpse of a pretty girl or a brief reprieve in the hospital.

Paul Morand (1888-1976)

Second author Céline mentions is Paul Morand and his book Open All Night.

The sheer shapeliness of his prose recalls Hemingway; the urbanity of his self-destructiveness compares with Fitzgerald’s; and his camera eye is as lucidly stroboscopic as that of Dos Passos. He is, like Victor Segalen, Blaise Cendrars, Valery Larbaud, and Saint-John Perse, one of the great nomads of 20th-century French literature, racing through the apocalypse with the haste and glamor of an Orient Express. It is a pity we should have had to wait this long to catch up with him via Pound.

The New York Times

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