Issue 31, Winter-Spring 1964
Facsimile of letter from Jack Kerouac on Céline
Louis Ferdinand-Céline was a general practitioner in the poor quarters of Paris. He was also highly sensitive and actually a kindly doctor according to my instinct as I read his angry accounts of the senseless suffering of some of his clientele. The sweet little boy coughing to death...the beautiful young girl bleeding to death...the old landladies long dead. Readily “voyage au bout d’la nuit” was to like seeing tho greatest French movie ever made, a super heavenly “Quai dee Brumea” a thousand times sadder than Jean Gabin’s bitter lip or Michel Simon’s lugubrious lechery or the carnival where lovers cry...
It seemed to me that Céline was actually the most compassionate French writer of his time. He himself said (in 1950) (in a newspaper interview in Paris) that there were only two real writers in France at the tine, himself and Jean Genet. He dismissed Genet half-Jokingly for the obvious reason known to us all. Yet he was wise enough to recognize Genet, I feel that Genet completed the tragedy of the French Queer underworld for Balzac, but In Rim baud’s terms, or rather under Rim baud’s terms, and under Villon’s critical eye (as Baudelaire watches from a distant balcony). This investigation was something portly Bourgeois master Balzac could never have dared to undertake. And the prose of Genet is every bit as angelic, from the street, as the prose of Proust was angelic from the upper apartment. And I say Céline was right about Genet.