Fred R's Reviews > Journey to the End of the Night

Journey to the End of the Night by Louis-Ferdinand Céline
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M 50x66
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Jun 18, 2011

really liked it

Celine sends his put-upon hero with marvelous speed to trot all over the globe. I am impressed by the ease of these movements, and by Celine's often marvelous rhythm, which allows things and people to slowly gather significance, almost behind the scenes, as it were, until they suddenly billow up to crowd the sky with meaning. There, I am even infected by his joy in metaphor, a strangely congenial pastime for a book with such nihilistic thoughts. I should qualify this by saying his control is not 100%, and there are periods where the story becomes a little slack.

I am impressed by his insight, which generally ferrets out the vanity powering human action, even self-destructive action. On the other hand. the journey to the end of the night is, when you boil it down, superficial. Ferdinands quest to eliminate his own vanities, to strip away the feelings that shield him from seeing the essential nihilism of human life, sounds to me like its own kind of vanity. After all, it ends with the kind of sordid stale scene of resentment that are a dime a dozen, that I can easily imagine and probably continually experience, if that's what I wanted. On the other hand, don't be fooled by the generally second-rate authors who have taken up his mantle (Bukowski, Camus, Henry Miller, Gunter Grass), or the third rate minds who claim to be into "nihilism". Celine's style is excellent, he has enormous talent.

The few moments of positive emotion in the book are tender enough to make one wish he had taken a broader view of the "human scene."
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