Celine's alter ego, Bardamu, undergoes the idiocy of World War I and then becomes a doctor attempting to care for broken and diseased people after the war. He's sort of a contemporary and older brother of some of the characters in Henry Miller and Bukowski. But he's colder, more bitter, more corrosive in his judgments of the world, of women, of himself. The story takes him through the war, to French West Africa, Manhattan, and back to Paris, and it has a dreamlike, hallucinatory quality. It's easy to dislike him, for his tenderness and regret is subtle and elusive under all the ostensible sarcasm and misogyny, but it's there -- and couched in beautiful, often breathtaking as well as bracing prose.
This report prepared by David Loftus
Celine's misanthropic 1932 novel broke radically with French literary traditions in both style and subject matter. "Celine often said that he regarded himself primarily as a stylist. He held that the French literary language was stiff and spent with age, that classicism and academicism had emasculated the language of Villon and Rabelais, and that in our age emotion could be captured only in the spoken tongue.
This report prepared by Yevgeny Bazarov