Céline’s Dark Journey

Will Self in the New York Times Book Review:

Screenhunter_1_18In Tom Stoppard’s play “Travesties,” a hostile inquisitor asks James Joyce what he did during the Great War, to which he replies: “I wrote ‘Ulysses.’ ” The same question might have elicited from Louis-Ferdinand Céline the answer: “I gathered the material for ‘Journey to the End of the Night.’ ” Yet on reading Céline’s notoriously emetic novel, you could be forgiven for wiping down your lapels and observing that not more than a twelfth of it is actually set in that hellish conflagration. Further, Céline’s war is not the familiar, muddy charnel house sketched by Remarque or the British war poets but a free-form affair, characterized by delirious mobility, the garish illumination of burning villages and chance encounters between renegade and cowardly combatants. It is a Goya etching animated in the style of a Tom and Jerry cartoon.

More here.