Tempest in a Teapot: Céline on SartreLouis-Ferdinand Céline
In 1945 Jean-Paul Sartre [whom Céline calls Jean-Baptiste Sartre or J. B. S.] wrote an article in Les Temps Modernes attacking Céline, titled ‘Le portrait d’un Antisémite’ (‘The Portrait of an Anti-Semite’). Céline’s response originally appeared in 1948 in the book La Gala des Vaches by the French writer and defender of Céline, Albert Paraz (Paris: Éditions de l’Élan). The translation is by Mitch Abidor. Revised by Alex Kurtagic.
I don’t read much; I don’t have the time. So many years already lost in so much foolishness and prison! But people press me, abjure me, badger me. I must, it appears, read a kind of article, the “Portrait of an Anti-Semite’ by Jean-Baptiste Sartre (Temps Modernes, December 1945). I browse through this long homework assignment, glance at it, it’s neither good nor bad, it’s nothing at all, a pastiche . . . a kind of “Copycatwriters” . . . This little J. B. S. read “L’Étourdi,” “The Tulip Lover,” etc. He was caught up in them and can’t escape . . . Still in high school, this J. B. S.! Still with his pastiches, with his “copycatworks” . . . Céline’s style too . . . and many others . . . “Whores,” etc . . . “Replacement heads” . . . “Maya.”. . . Nothing too serious, of course. I have a few trailing behind my ass, these “Copycatwriters” . . . what can I do about it? Suffocating, hateful, half-baked, traitors, half-bloodsucker, half-tapeworm, they don’t do me any honor, I never speak of them, and that’s all. Children of the shadows. Decency! Oh, I don’t wish little J. B. S. any harm! There where he is his fate is cruel enough! Since we’re talking about a homework assignment I would give him a seven out of a possible twenty and let’s not talk about it anymore . . . But on page 462 the little turd shocks me! The damned rotten asshole! What does he dare to write? “If Céline supported the socialist theses of the Nazis it’s because he was paid.” And I quote. Yes! This then is what this little dung-beetle wrote while I was in prison risking a hanging. Filthy little bastard full of shit, you come out from between my ass cheeks to soil me from outside! Cain anus ptooey! What are you hoping for? That they murder me! It’s obvious! Here! Let me squash you! Yes! . . . I see his photos, those bug eyes . . . that hook . . . that slobbering leech . . . he’s a cestode! What won’t he invent, this monster, so that they assassinate me! Barely out of my caca and he denounces me! What’s best is that on page 451 he has the venom to warn us: “A man who finds it natural to denounce men can’t have our notion of honor. He doesn’t even see those for whom he is a benefactor with our eyes; his generosity, his kindness is not like our kindness and generosity: it isn’t possible to localize passion.”
In my asshole where he can be found we can’t ask of J. B. S. too see clearly or to explain himself simply. J. B. S. it seems has nevertheless foreseen the solitude and obscurity of my anus . . . J. B. S. obviously is talking about himself when he writes on page 451: “This man fears every kind of solitude, that of the genius as well as that of the assassin.” Let’s understand what this means . . . Based on the weeklies J. B. S. only sees himself in the skin of a genius. For my part and based on his texts, I am forced to see J. B. S. only in the skin of an assassin, and even more, of a fucking police informant, cursed, hideous, a pain in the ass, rumor monger, a donkey in glasses. Here I am getting carried away! It’s not appropriate for my age or condition! . . . I was going to close here . . . disgusted, that’s all . . . I think it over . . . Assassin and brilliant? We’ve seen this before . . . After all . . . Maybe that’s the case with Sartre. An assassin he is, he wants to be one, that’s understood, but brilliant? Brilliant tiny turd of my ass? Hmmm? . . . That remains to be seen . . . yes, to be sure, that could blossom . . . make itself known . . . but J. B. S.? His embryo eyes? His mean and petty shoulders? That fat little gut . . . and philosopher! . . . that add up to a lot of things . . . It seems he freed Paris on bicycle. He played around . . . at the Theater, the City , with the horrors of the era, the war, torture, irons, fire. But times change, and there he is growing, swelling up enormously, J. B. S.! He can’t control himself anymore . . . he no longer knows himself . . . from the embryo he is he’s becoming a creature . . . the cycle . . . he’s had enough of toys, cheating . . . he’s running after ordeals, real ordeals . . . prison . . . expiation . . . the stick, and the biggest of all sticks, the stake . . . J. B. S. becomes destiny . . . the Furies! No more bagatelles . . . He wants to become a true monster! Now he’s yelling at De Gaulle.
What a way of doing things! He wants to commit the irreparable! He insists on it! The witches are going to make him crazy, he came to tease them, they’ll never let him go . . . Tapeworm of a turd, fake tadpole, you’re going to eat the mandrake! You’ll be promoted to a succubus! The illness of being cursed evolves in Sartre . . . Old illness, as old as the world, that all of literature of literature is rotted with . . . Wait, J. B. S. before committing the ultimate mistake! Palpate yourself! Realize that horror is nothing without the Dream and without Music . . . I clearly see you a tapeworm, but not a cobra, not a cobra at all . . . no good at the flute! Macbeth is nothing but a Punch and Judy show, and that on a bad day, without music, without dream . . . You are wicked, filthy, ungrateful, hateful, pig-headed, and that’s not all J. B. S.! That’s not enough . . . You have to dance! . . . I could be mistaken, of course . . . I couldn’t ask for more. I’ll go applaud you when you finally become a true monster, when you’ll have paid them, the witches, what you have to, their price, so they transmute you, blossom you, into a true phenomenon. Into a tapeworm that plays the flute.
Didn’t you ask me directly and through Dullin , through Denoël , beg me “under the boot” to please come down and applaud you! I didn’t find you either danceable or fluteable, a terrible vice in my opinion, I confess . . . But let’s forget all this! Let’s only think of the future! Try to have your demons inculcate the flute in you! The flute before all! Later on for Shakespeare, high schooler! ¾ of flute, ¼ of blood . . . ¼ suffices, I assure you . . . but first yours before all the other blood! Alchemy has its laws . . . the “blood of others” doesn’t please the Muses . . . Let’s think . . . even so you had your little success at the Sarah  under the boot with your “Flies”  . . . Can’t you now find three little acts, quickly, for the occasion, in a hurry, “The Informants” ? A retrospective little revue . . . We’ll see you there in person, with your little buddies, sending your detested colleagues, called “Collaborators,” to the penal colonies, to the firing squad, into exile . . . Would this be comical enough? You, of course, strong in your text in the starring role . . . as a mocking and philosophical tapeworm . . . It’s easy to imagine a hundred of the most farcical coups de theatre, happenings, and developments in the course of a fairy tale of this kind . . . and then in the final tableau one of those “general massacres” that would shake all of Europe with mad laughter! (It’s about time!) The most joyous of the decade! They’ll still be pissing, bungling at the 500th performance! And even beyond . . . (The Beyond! Ha, ha, ha.) The assassination of the “signatories,” all shooting each other! . . . Yourself by Cassou  . . . The latter by Eluard ! The other by his wife and Mauriac ! And so on until the last one! . . . Can you imagine! . . . The hecatomb of apotheosis! Not to mention the flesh, of course! . . . A great parade of superb, naked, waddling girls . . . the orchestra of the Grand Tabarin . . . The jazz band of the “Builders of the Wall” . . . “Atlanticist boys” . . . assistance guaranteed . . . and the great orgy of ghosts in luminous double exposure . . . 200,000 assassinated, prisoners, cholera, unworthy . . . and women with their heads shaved! Dance the farandole! Heaven’s orchestra seats! Chorus of the “Hangmen of Nuremberg” . . . And in the tone you see more-than-existence, instantaneist, massacrist . . . Ambience set by hiccoughs of death throes, noises of colics, sobs, metal . . . “Help!” . . . As background noise: “Hurrah machine!” . . . You see? And the main attraction, at intermission: auction of handcuffs. And a drink of blood at the snack bar. The absolutist Futurist Bar. Nothing but real blood! By the glass, raw, certified by hospitals . . . from that very morning! Aortic blood, fetal blood, hymenal blood, blood of the executed! For all tastes! What a future! For J.B.S.! What miracles you will do when you will blossom as a True Monster! I already see you out of the asshole, playing the flute, a real little flute! Marvelously! . . . already almost a real artist!
Damned J. B. S.
1. Parisian theaters.
2. Charles Dullin (1885–1949) – French actor, director, and theater manager.
3. Robert Denoël (1902–1945) – French publisher of Céline’s works.
4. Parisian theater.
5. Sartre’s play, initially performed in 1942 “under the German boot.”
6. Untranslatable French play on words: “Les Mouches” (The Flies). “Les Mouchards” (the Informants).
7. Jean Cassou (1897–1987) – French writer and Resistance member.
8. Paul Eluard (1895–1952) – French poet and member of the French Communist Party.
9. François Mauriac (1885–1970) – French writer. Winner of the Nobel Prize in 1952.
French original: http://tinyurl.com/3g6f2pn, online source: http://www.wermodandwermod.com/newsitems/news050520110000.html
Nueva Derecha vs. Vieja Derecha Capítulo 2: Hegemonía
Úryvky z Finis Germania Rolfa Petera Sieferleho, část 3: Nové státní náboženství
Notes on Strauss & Husserl
Remembering Louis-Ferdinand Céline (May 27, 1894–July 1, 1961)
Úryvky z Finis Germania Rolfa Petera Sieferleho, část 2: „Věčný nacista“
Úryvky z Finis Germania Rolfa Petera Sieferleho, část 1
Orgasmus coby zbraň? Pornografie jako židovský antifašistický aktivismus a kulturní terorismus, část 1
Dear lord, that was painful. I didn’t even finish the second paragraph…
I think the letter is hilarious and the style fitting.
Read Journey to the End of the Night and then make up your mind about Céline.
If I remember properly, Jean-Paul Sartre’s Portrait of an Anti-Semite was reprinted as a book, and translated into English. I’ve no doubt that it lives up to Léon de Poncins’ description of it as “a work of unutterably poor quality.” (Poncins, a traditionalist Catholic, would never have used Céline’s language.)
It might be noted that Robert Denoël, who published Céline’s works, was murdered during the so-called Libération, which was when the rats were released from the sewers.
Someone else familiar with Poncins. Great! I’ve long been a fan. Many, if not all, of his works were translated into English by The Britons Publishing Co., and I must have all of them. In fact, in the past I was tempted to ask Philippe Régniez whether he was familiar with Poncins (the fit seems natural), because I saw no mention of him on Philippe’s website. Perhaps I missed it.
I must say, if the prose sample presented here is representative of Céline’s work, I have to pass. The crudity doesn’t put me off, and I entirely agree with his point of view, but he’s unreadable. Kurt Vonnegut was a big fan, though.
Unfortunately, hundreds of thousands of French nationalists were murdered in 1944-46 by De Gaulle and his Marxist sidekicks during the so-called “liberation”. Sisely Huddleston covered the massacre extensively in his book ‘France: The Tragic Years’.
Leon Poncins wrote several good books about the corruption, and subversion of France and the West, as Andrew mentioned. Some were published in English in California by Tom Serpico’s Omni Publications in the 1960’s & 70’s.
Regarding this matter, I would recommend “L’Age de Caïn” (published by Les Editions de La Reconquête, and until recently impossible to find).
This is a first hand account of the épuration by René Château who was a Front Populaire man and a radical socialist prior to the war.
His description of the reign of terror he, his wife and his fellow prisoners had to endure at the hands of the communists is reminiscent of the La Terreur period of the French Revolution.
It is said according to official sources at the time that 100.000 French people were summarily executed during La Liberation.
L’AGE DE CAÏN
Premier témoignage sur les dessous
De la libération à Paris.
UN AUTRE SON DE CLOCHE. Oui, c’est un autre son de cloche que nous vous proposons avec cet ouvrage, un autre son de cloche sur « la libération » qui a suivi la seconde guerre mondiale, et toutes les festivités et les joyeusetés qui l’accompagnèrent. Car il paraît que le peuple de France ne peut s’émouvoir et ne célébrer dans son histoire – d’après ceux qui la rédigent et qui l’imposent aujourd’hui – que les grands massacres, les grands massacres fondés sur la haine de quelque chose qu’il faut faire disparaître pour pouvoir exister. Mais si les tueries de la « révolution » sont encore chantées, celles qui ont accompagné et suivi « la libération » sont savamment occultées – n’ont pas que l’on en ait honte, mais plutôt que l’on ait honte qu’il y eut de tels Français qu’il fallut éliminer, la bonne excuse. Précieux témoignage que cet ouvrage, donc. Il faut signaler qu’il n’a jamais été contesté, et que les noms et les événements qui y sont décrits le sont d’une manière très précise qui ne prête pas à confusion. Signalons toutefois que l’encyclopédie trotskyste en ligne « wikipedia » se permet d’informer ceux qui la consultent de la façon suivante : En 1948, Abel rédige le récit de sa détention (L’Âge de Caïn) où il critique sévèrement les méthodes employées par la les forces de la libération envers les détenus. Il s’attaque à ce qu’il juge être de l’épuration “sauvage”. Cet ouvrage est toutefois suspect de révisionnisme et compte parmi le répertoire des textes dont se revendiquent aujourd’hui les négationnistes La belle affaire !
Car ce sont bien des dizaines de milliers de Français qui, à travers la France, furent sommairement exécutés, la plupart parfaitement innocents de ce qu’on leur reprochait, ou, plus directement, victimes de règlements de compte ; sans parler de tous ceux qui furent plus simplement incarcérés et torturés (…, car le ministère de l’intérieur, officieusement, donne des chiffres qui varient entre 80.000 et 100.000 exécutions sommaires. Citation d’une note de l’ouvrage).
Quant à l’auteur de l’ouvrage, qui est-il ? Le livre est signé Jean-Pierre Abel, mais ce n’est là qu’un pseudonyme qui fait référence au titre L’âge de Caïn. Lisons à son sujet ce qu’en dit le site internet de bibliothèque en ligne « Aaargh » : Quelques précisions : Jean-Pierre Abel est en fait René Château. Elève d’Alain, Proche de Gaston Bergery, radical-socialiste et fondateur de la Ligue de la Pensée Française en 1940, directeur jusqu’en 1943 de La France Socialiste, quotidien de Déat. Il a été arrêté le 30 août 1944 comme collaborateur notoire et détenu à l’Institut d’hygiène dentaire et de stomatologie 158, avenue de la Choisy, pendant soixante seize jours. Cet immeuble fut réquisitionné dès la libération et transformé en centre de détention de collaborateurs par des FFI qui s’étaient arrogé le droit de rendre leur propre justice. Robert Aron, dans son Histoire de l’épuration, raconte que cent cinquante personnes, environ, y ont été emprisonnées (dont l’ancien député socialiste L’Hévéder dont il est question dans le texte) en dehors de toute légalité. Certaines furent fusillées dans l’enceinte de l’institut, d’autres furent repêchées dans la Seine. La Préfecture de police, avertie de ces faits, tenta d’y pénétrer mais accueillis à coups de mitraillette, les policiers reculèrent pour éviter un massacre. Le préfet de police Charles Luizet chargea le colonel FFI Aron-Brunetière, chef du 2ème bureau, de faire procéder à la fermeture de l’institut et des autres centres de détention (le lycée Janson de Sailly, la caserne de Reuilly, la mairie du 18ème arrondissement, l’hôtel du Dôme rue Léopold Robert …). Les détenus, au nombre de 1500 environ, furent transférés à la prison de Fresnes où après un premier interrogatoire, 800 d’entre eux furent immédiatement libérés.
Oh my, we have some real philistines that are “right wingers.” That is brilliant writing. That was not propaganda…It’s called creative writing…look into it. Explosive, passionate and sharp as a razor. The style presages the coming of the soundbite. Even Celine could see the limitations of the printed word in the age of cinema and radio. Maybe you should look it over again. On the other hand, Sartre would probably be more your speed. Or maybe Faulkner and Hemingway…Yawn…
I am a catholic traditionalist and I publish Céline’s work. One has to go a bit further than one’s skin deep reactions. His writings, especially his so-called pamphlets, have both a prophetic quality and a power to uncover the truth unparalleled in recent literature.
… one’s own….
Léon de Poncins. Yes, unfortunately I cannot publish all things of interest to me.
Translating Céline is very difficult. One has to capture his rythm, his world and the organic growth of his style and writings. The vocabulary too can be sometimes puzzling. One has to share his vision of things, if not there is no point. The translation of Trifles that I publish is in all these respects a good one.
Here is a passage of Céline poetical style from Trifles.
“In order to set things into a location, I must first of all tell you a little about how excellent Leningrad is… It is not here that they have built the “Guépéou” structures of Stalin… They cannot even maintain it… It is above the abilities of the Communists… All of the streets have fallen through, all of the façades are dropping bits and pieces… It’s sad… Don’t get me wrong, in its own way, it is the most beautiful city in the world… in the genre of Vienna… Stockholm… Amsterdam… How exactly can I express all of the beauty of this place… Imagine just a little bit… the Champs-Elysées… but four times as wide, and inundated with pale water… the Neva… She stretches on… always further… unto the livid infinitude… the sky… the sea… still further on… clear to the end… at infinity… the sea which climbs towards us… towards the city… She puts the sea at the disposal of the entire city!… diaphanous, fantastic, outstretched… at arm’s length… all along the banks… the entire city, a powerful arm… of palaces… and still more palaces… Hard rectangles… with cupolas… marbles… enormous hard jewels… by the side of the pale waters… To the left a little canal, quite tenebrous, which flows right up to there, beside the colossal Admiralty, gilded on each of its aspects… endowed with Renown, shimmering, everything in gold… What a trumpet! made of walls… Now this is majesty!… Is this some sort of giant fantasy? Is this some sort of theater for Cyclopses?… a hundred properly spaced decors, each more grandiose than the last… towards the sea… But a treacherous breeze pirouettes, twitters, and slips on by… a wintry breeze in the middle of summer… The cold waters along the edge roll, splash against the rocks… In the background, defending the park is a long, high, delicate grille… infinitely detailed forged lace… tall trees enclosed within… the ancient horse-chestnuts… formidable monsters thick with branches… clouds of dreams redrawn from the earth… the petals falling away into rust already… Some sad seconds… too light against the wind… when the gusts maltreat them… crumple them… cast them into the current… Further off, other footbridges, “of sighs,” between the crevasses of the gigantic Catherine Palace… still implacable at the water’s edge, with a single terrible vault… the garrote of the Neva… its bracelet of tremendous confection. The bridge is stretched upon the pale arm, between those two notorious hecatombs: the Palace of Alexander the Mad, a catafalque of leprous rose, completely debilitated with Baroque… and the Peter and Paul prison, a squat citadel, crushed upon its own walls, nailed onto its island by the atrocious Basilica, the Tsars’ city of the dead, massacred to the last. A rosette made of prison stone, pinned-down, run-through by that terrible golden dagger, very sharp, of the church, the steeple of a parish of the murdered.
The sky of the great North, is even more gloomy, more diaphanous than the immense river, but not by much… just a tad more, haggard… Still more bell-towers, twenty tall golden pearls… wept by the sky… And then the Admiralty, ferocious, hulking, somber under an open sky… at he far end of October Avenue, Kazan Cathedral casts its shadow over twenty streets… an entire quarter, all of wings outstretched from a cloud of colonnades… Opposite it is that mosque… that monster in torture… the “Holy Blood”397… twists… coils… chanterelles398… with pustules… in every color… thousands upon thousands. A fantastic toad lying dead on a bank of its canal, motionless, and below, all black, simmering…
Twenty avenues again… of different overtures, perspectives, always towards greater spaces… ever more airy… The city stretches itself out towards the clouds… no longer keeping to the earth… She leaps in every direction… Fabulous avenues… made to absorb twenty frontal assaults… a hundred squadrons… Nevsky!399 Serious people!… of prodigious follies… who saw only immensities… Peter… Emperor of the Steppes and the Sea!… A city built to the measure of the sky!… A sky of glass, an infinite mirror… Houses in their decline… Old, giant, wrinkly, handicapped, crumbling, from an enormous past… stuffed with rats… And then that horde that creeps, intermittently, along the street… stuck right up against the sidewalks… creeps some more… tackiness all along the shop fronts… spittle-faced… the enormous, murmuring, viscous swarming of miserable types…edged with garbage… A haunting nightmare as overwhelming as can be… Oozing into all of the crevasses… the enormous tongue of Asia consuming everything all along the length of the sewers… It is the frightful missing washcloth of Tatiana Famine… Miss Russia… Giant… as great as all of the steppes, as great as a sixth of the world… and which agonizes… This is not an error… I would have you understand, to greater detail, a few things still… with words a little less fantastic… “
The vast majority of Léon de Poncins’ numerous works in French have already been reprinted by Éditions Saint-Rémi (http://www.saint-remi.fr/), and Duquesne Diffusion (http://www.duquesne-diffusion.com/) reprinted Christianisme et Franc-maçonnerie a few months ago. The latter work was translated into English as Freemasonry and the Vatican; judging from the number of pages of the French and English editions, the English edition might be abridged.
I’ve noticed that although Poncins wrote a steady stream of books before and during the Second World War, he did not write any books for around fifteen years after the Second World War, and those books had to be published by small publishing houses with quite limited means of promotion and distribution. This was a far cry from the time when works such as Lucien Rebatet’s Les Décombres could be best-sellers, and periodicals such as Je suis partout had very large circulations. (Needless to say, such publications are habitually characterised by Jews as “virulently anti-Semitic.” In other words, they told the truth about the Jews.) It would seem that the late Thomas Molnar was not wrong to characterize the so-called épuration as the decapitation of counter-revolutionary France.
There’s a new book by Pierre-Denis Boudriot, L’Épuration, 1944-1949, which is available from book dealers such as Akribeia and Duquesne Diffusion. I’d recommend caution regarding estimates of the number of those murdered during the épuration. It’s often difficult to accurately estimate such things. As I see it, what matters is not so much the numbers of those murdered as the effects of such murders. Terrorism doesn’t need to be practiced on a particularly large scale to be effective.
Céline’s style is not for everyone. As the Romans would say, de gustibus non est disputandum. Insulting people because they like or dislike a particular author, musician, or artist is boorish, childish, and egotistical, at any rate when it concerns differences in taste, as distinct from the absence or the perversion of taste. I believe that Maurice Bardèche said that he didn’t particularly like Céline’s style — he preferred Rebatet to Céline — but that doesn’t mean that he was a philistine. Céline’s work might well be an acquired taste, something you have to immerse yourself in before you understand it, something you have to familiarise yourself before you appreciate it.
Apparently Céline’s ideas and style have some precedents in the “reactionary left” Marc Crapez examines in La gauche réactionnaire.
A question for Philippe Régniez: would you be interested in getting or reprinting La Bête sans nom by Prince Michel Sturdza? I addressed this book at some length in the comments for Theodore O’Keefe’s “Codreanu and the Iron Guard” a while ago. It looks like a rare and important book.
Why not, but I must confess that time is scarce in the midst of many projects.
I remember you mentioning La Bête sans nom. I am not certain but I believe the book is currently available.
It is true that Céline’s style can disagree with some. A complete immersion until recognition of its merits might be the solution.
Comments are closed.
If you have Paywall access,
simply login first to see your comment auto-approved.
Note on comments privacy & moderation
Your email is never published nor shared.
Comments are moderated. If you don't see your comment, please be patient. If approved, it will appear here soon. Do not post your comment a second time.
Edit your comment