- 33,636 ratings
- May 17th 2006
by New Directions
(first published 1932)
- Date of birth: May 27, 1894
- Died: July 01, 1961
- Born: in Courbevoie, France.
- Description: Louis-Ferdinand Céline, pen name of Dr. Louis-Ferdinand Destouches, is best known for his works Voyage au bout de la nuit (Journey to the End of the Night), and Mort à crédit (Death on the Installment Plan). His highly innovative writing style using Parisian vernacular, vulgarities, and intentionally peppering ellipses throughout the text was used to evoke the cadence of speech.
Louis-Ferdinand Destouches was raised in Paris, in a flat over the shopping arcade where his mother had a lace store. His parents were poor (father a clerk, mother a seamstress). After an education that included stints in Germany and England, he performed a variety of dead-end jobs before he enlisted in the French cavalry in 1912, two years before the outbreak of the First World War in 1914. While serving on the Western Front he was wounded in the head and suffered serious injuries—a crippled arm and headaches that plagued him all his life—but also winning a medal of honour. Released from military service, he studied medicine and emigrated to the USA where he worked as a staff doctor at the newly build Ford plant in Detroit before returning to France and establishing a medical practice among the Parisian poor. Their experiences are featured prominently in his fiction.
Although he is often cited as one of the most influential and greatest writers of the twentieth century, he is certainly viewed as a controversial figure. After embracing fascism, he published three antisemitic pamphlets, and vacillated between support and denunciation of Hitler. He fled to Germany and Denmark in 1945 where he was imprisoned for a year and declared a national disgrace. He then received amnesty and returned to Paris in 1951.
Kurt Vonnegut, Jr., Henry Miller, William Burroughs, and Charles Bukowski have all cited him as an important influence.