Issue 31, Winter-Spring 1964
Louis-Ferdinand Céline was born and died near Paris (May 27, 1894-July 1, 1961). Of his books and pamphlets, some eighteen appeared in his lifetime, some six remained unpublished. His principal works were ‘Journey to the End of Night’ (1932), ‘Death on the Installment Plan’ (1936) and 'One Chateau from Another' (1957).
His books often seemed case histories of himself. His World War One wounds, which caused him lifelong suffering, both physical and neurological, were a primary theme in his work.
Céline was the pen-name of Dr Louis Destouches, son of a clerk and a lace seamstress. After World War One, he swiftly earned his medical degree—in three years. He worked with clinics in France, Africa and America, and for the Rockefeller Foundation and the Ford factory, Detroit —for whom he wrote a sociological study,'La Medicine Chez Ford’.
He was twice married (to Edith Follet, 1917-1924, to Lucette Almanzor, 1939-1961), and once refused—by Elizabeth Craig, in 1932.
He lived partly on royalties from his books and partly on fees from his patients, most of whom, however, were too poor to pay.
Céline's published works became bestsellers. He had a characteristic flair for titles: ‘Ballet without Music, without People, without Anything;’ ‘The School for Corpses’; ‘Fantasy for Another Day.
Céline’s special contribution to French literature was to have written the language he spoke, unobstructed by academic consideration, the argot of the streets.