Your email is not valid
Recipient's email is not valid
Submit Close

Your email has been sent.

Click here to send another

thescroll_header

Leave Céline Alone!

Anti-Semites still deserve their honors

Print Email
Drawing of Louis-Ferdinand Céline.(Wikipedia)

“I don’t want to go to war for Hitler, I’ll admit it, but I don’t want to go against him, for the Jews,” Louis-Ferdinand Céline ranted in 1937. He turned his attention to the French prime minister, Léon Blum: “I’d prefer a dozen Hitlers to one all-powerful Blum. Hitler, at least, I could understand, while with Blum it’s pointless, he’ll always be the worst enemy, absolute hatred, to the death.”

Such vile lines—there were many others—cast a dark shadow over a man who, in a universe devoid of context, would have been celebrated as one of the greatest French writers of the twentieth century, second, perhaps, only to Proust. After the war, he had to flee Paris—where, after the fall of the Vichy regime, he was tried in absentia as a collaborator with the Nazis—and hide out in Denmark until he was pardoned in 1951. Even death put no end to Céline’s shame: Just this week, Jewish community activists successfully petitioned culture minister Frederic Mitterrand to remove Céline’s name from an annual list honoring major figures in French history.

Céline—who died of an aneurysm in 1961, a broken 67-year-old—would, most likely, have taken no end of perverse pleasure in the decision to deny him his just merits. One of his favorite themes, in his prose and correspondence alike, was the laurels denied him—a few real, most imagined—for his anti-Semitic opinions. And nothing, of course, thrills a paranoid man more than proof that he is being chased. But the decision also shows how little we’ve learned from the old debate about learning to separate the artist from the art.

Céline’s great novel, Journey to the End of the Night, as well as his lesser works (most notably the wild, chaotic, and heartbreaking Death on the Installment Plan), still speak much louder than his petty pronouncements and hate-filled screeds. Choosing to hear the latter and not the former, and focusing our attention on the politics of the man and not on the permanence of the art, makes us not purer but poorer. It is time—it was time a long time ago—that we stopped with such nonsensical bits of identity politics.

“I can’t help suspecting that the only true manifestations of our innermost being are war and insanity,” Céline wrote in Journey to the End of the Night. Add to that narrow-mindedness, and the nightmare is complete.

French Author Céline Pulled from Recognition Over Anti-Semitic Past [JTA]

Print Email

Instead of the fake-scientific term,”anti-Semitic”,(coined to give a patina of intellectual respectability to Jew-Hatred)write this…Jew -Haters still deserve their honours…do they?…not from me…I want their books neither burned nor banned but that’s the extent of civility I would tender…

fred lapides says:

We are told to address the art and not the artist. But then what if the artist brings his own venomous views into his art?

I agree with FTW. Celine’s books can be bought and sold and studied by all who are interested. But to honor him in any fashion would be to ignore the open bigotry that he displayed during his lifetime as well as offend those who were hurt, directly or indirectly, by that bigotry.

Edwin Svigals says:

The text of the Honor should include a full exposition of his Jew-hating sentiments. Not to discuss what scum he was implies indifference to his bigotry…It pleases me to learn he died a ‘broken’ man.

M. Brukhes says:

Having read all of “Journey to the End of Night” and half of “Death on the Installment Plan” (the best part of which, in English or in French, is the title…), I have to disagree strongly with the “received wisdom” that Céline is the second best French author of the century, after Proust (who in every sense conceivable is Céline’s polar opposite). He had an authentic, ultimately limited talent for cultivating an aesthetic of disgust, but with each book his talent evaporated more thoroughly, and his megalomaniacal anti-Semitism wasn’t an aberration of his character, but instead its fulfillment. If Liel Leibovitz wants to spend his time reading Céline, so much the better for him. But there are plenty, plenty other writers more obscure and more talented who deserve recognition and reward. Paranoiacs love being the center of a conspiracy, but nihilists love being cosigned to the trash-heap, and in my opinion that’s where we should leave Céline….

Celine called for extermination of the Jews. Your headline says “Leave Celine Alone-Anti Semites still deserve their honors”. Have you totally lost your sanity? For a long time I thought that Jewish liberalism is a death wish. Now I know that it is. I cannot imagine members of any other ethnic group under attack that wouild defend its enemies. Shame on “Tablet”

R.E. Prindle says:

Always good to know the book burners are alive and well.

M. Brukhes says:

…to say nothing of the apologists for anti-Semitism….

Mark S. Devenow says:

Garry has this exactly right. Only (liberal) Jews would suffer such a piece lauding their blood libelist enemy as appears in Tablet; a publication which, of late in particular, seems to have descended to depths where moral relativism reigns supreme.

LazerBeam says:

So if Hitler were a better artist, we should celebrate his paintings? Like an earlier commenter, not burning Mein Kampf is as far as I am willing to go. The Germans don’t even grant him that much.

Neveragain says:

Yes, you can praise Celine.And some think Hilter was a good painter, so you can praise him as well.
I had relatives who died due to French collaborators like Celine.
Is the writer crazy or just plain nuts!

I’ve said that least 2446671 times. The problem this like that is they are just too compilcated for the average bird, if you know what I mean

2000

Your comment may be no longer than 2,000 characters, approximately 400 words. HTML tags are not permitted, nor are more than two URLs per comment. We reserve the right to delete inappropriate comments.

Thank You!

Thank you for subscribing to the Tablet Magazine Daily Digest.
Please tell us about you.

Leave Céline Alone!

Anti-Semites still deserve their honors

More on Tablet:

Poems About Kaddish, War, and Everyday Life

By the Editors — Celebrate National Poetry Month with Tablet’s stories about poets and poems