The prestigious Gallimard publishing house publishes this Thursday, May 5, 2022, in its classic White collection, the novel “War” by Louis-Ferdinand Céline. A long-lost work then mysteriously reappeared. The book of about 150 pages contains illustrations and appendices. The Gallimard gallery is also devoting an exhibition to it manuscripts found with Alban Cerisier as curator. On view from May 6 to July 16, 2022.
This book, probably written in 1934, remained in the novelist’s archives for ten years, in his apartment in the Montmartre district. In June 1944, when he felt the wind change, this collaborator left Paris hastily. Towards Germany, where he does not have the opportunity to take his unpublished. Resistance fighters confiscated these 6,000 sheets. Their fate remains unknown for sixty years, until they are given to a former journalist, Jean-Pierre Thibaudat, who contacts the beneficiaries.
This one, the lawyer François Gibault and another neighbor of Celine’s wife, Véronique Robert-Chovin, did not want to work with him. And Jean-Pierre Thibaudat had no choice but to hand over the manuscripts to the police, as his lawyer, Emmanuel Pierrat, told Europe 1 on Tuesday. Gallimard is determined to publish these unpublished works immediately before all of Céline’s work falls into the public domain in 2032. “The work has to be done very meticulously”said the publisher’s CEO, Antoine Gallimard.
The novel “was transcribed from a manuscript of the first draft, all that is known. (…) The text presented here restores the last state of writing”written in a “edit note” the historian Pascal Fouché. †Céline writes a lot in abbreviated form. With practice we can decipher it, but it strikes out, rewrites between the lines, and they are often small additions that are very difficult or even impossible to read”, he told AFP. Certain words or passages are therefore enclosed in square brackets.
“It’s written very quickly, on the pen. He leaves spaces, there are repetitions, there are blunders that he would necessarily have corrected in proofreading. There are no punctuation or very little. There are no paragraphs,” he adds. Gallimard added some, according to the habits of the scribe, instead of transcribing literally the continuous flow of the first version. In terms of content, the novelist had a very successful version. Why did he never publish it himself? “We can only make assumptions”said Pascal Fouché.
The press unanimously applauds the event. “The end of a mystery, the discovery of a great text”according to The Point. “A short, lively, tragic and lewd text, to be placed next to the author’s masterpieces” et “a miracle”said LeMonde. “Breathtaking”, says Le Journal du dimanche. In the purest tradition of Celinian’s novel, dark, nervous and raw, Guerre begins with the awakening of 20-year-old Brigadier Ferdinand, miraculously alive on the battlefield at Poelkappelle (Belgium), one night in 1915.
The writer tells how an English soldier rescues him, then his recovery not far from the front at Peurdu-sur-la-Lys (actually Hazebrouck, in France), and finally a hasty departure for England. The Sojourn across the Channel will be the subject of another unpublished, longer, Londonwhich will be released in the fall. Guerre was probably written in 1934, shortly after the scandal of Céline’s first novel, journey to the edge of the night (1932).
The anti-Semitic turn, from which the writer will never repent, dates back to 1937, with the publication of the pamphlet Little things for a bloodbath† At the end of 2017, Gallimard announced the publication of this pamphlet and the like, with critical apparatus. The project got out of hand due to a lack of “methodological and memory conditions (…) to think about it serenely”said CEO Antoine Gallimard.
Now that this controversy has subsided, the return of Guerre et London celebrates an important work of 20th-century French literature. “These manuscripts come at the right time or by a divine surprise, if you will, for Céline to become a writer again: the one that matters, from 1932-1936”says Philippe Roussin, researcher specialized in Céline, interviewed by AFP.
The pamphleteer is unanimously against him. But the novelist, whether we like his popular verve or not, occupies a privileged place in the history of the genre, having shattered bourgeois literature, conventional narrative and style by translating the fear of being “between two wars.” . Show his trauma “hairy”seriously injured, and his creative frenzy of the 1930s takes center stage in the exhibition opening Thursday at Galerie Gallimard, Céline, the found manuscripts†
In the Gallimard Gallery, sheets are framed, including the first of Guerrewhich ends with what should become a cult quote from Celine, symbolic of the obsessive pounding of the cannon in the story: ‘I have the war trapped in my head. It’s locked in my head.’ “There are anthological scenes, and this constant presence of death, of the horrors of the fighting that the war in Ukraine reminds us of today, but also of sex… For a first draft, the text is extremely strong”told AFP historian Pascal Fouché, who founded the edition.
Another quote, engraved on a wall: “They burned them, almost three manuscripts, the pest-repelling vigilantes!” This one, from a Céline furious at having lost the fruit of his labors, distorts reality. The good state of preservation of the manuscripts in the following century proves it.