Journey to the End of the Night

Journey to the End of the Night

Book rating: 05 Paperback New Directions Paperbook

By (author) Louis-Ferdinand Celine, Translated by Ralph Manheim, Afterword by William T. Vollmann

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  • Publisher: New Directions Publishing Corporation
  • Format: Paperback | 464 pages
  • Dimensions: 132mm x 201mm x 33mm | 408g
  • Publication date: 2 June 2006
  • Publication City/Country: New York
  • ISBN 10: 0811216543
  • ISBN 13: 9780811216548
  • Sales rank: 14,249

Product description

Louis-Ferdinand Celine's revulsion and anger at what he considered the idiocy and hypocrisy of society explodes from nearly every page of this novel. Filled with slang and obscenities and written in raw, colloquial language, Journey to the End of the Night is a literary symphony of violence, cruelty and obscene nihilism. This book shocked most critics when it was first published in France in 1932, but quickly became a success with the reading public in Europe, and later in America where it was first published by New Directions in 1952. The story of the improbable yet convincingly described travels of the petit-bourgeois (and largely autobiographical) antihero, Bardamu, from the trenches of World War I, to the African jungle, to New York and Detroit, and finally to life as a failed doctor in Paris, takes the readers by the scruff and hurtles them toward the novel's inevitable, sad conclusion.

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Customer reviews

By bobbygw 04 Jul 2011 5

This disturbing novel almost won the Prix Goncourt Prize for fiction, the most notable award at the time for French fiction. It deserves to have won all the literary awards at the time of publication.

So why read it now? It's because the desperate, existential character of the novel, Ferdinand Bardamu, L-F Celine's alter ego in his fiction, draws you into his story from his personal first person perspective. It's no surprise that, in the 1930s, the novel caused such a storm, because of its frank, explicit depiction of the troubles and turmoils of working class French (and other) life. You become captive, in the hands of a true narrator/story teller: Bardamu, expressing the anguish of the human condition (the raison d'être of existential fiction), has nothing to embellish, he's at the bottom of the working class French such that, he can't even imagine anything else beyond a good meal and wine. If he gets these things, he's often lucky or fortuitous.

At the same time, you are reading through Bardamu's experience, living it, such that you feel trapped, suffocated, despairing, nihilistic, overwhelmed, annihilated, when he does. Yet he continues, through the dire madness and desperation of WW1, through to the equal nuttiness of French Colonial Africa, to the monster of the machine that is the Ford factory in Detroit, back to France, and Bardamu's desperate living as a doctor among the damned (the absolutely impoverished of France, with no hope, no legislation to defend them, no money, no succour, no opportunity to go beyond their desperate lives).

In other words: to read this novel is to experience, painfully and truthfully, the destitution, pain and annihilation of not only WW1 and its economic aftermath but, most especially, the troubles economic and otherwise that impact upon the poor. It is an incredible read; it is uncompromising, desperately true, always sincere, painfully hopeful, but destitute of opportunity that goes beyond the life of the simple, lower class bourgeois.

Review quote

The terrifying French novelist, Louis Ferdinand Celine-an enormously powerful and slashing, satiric, misanthropic writer. But what power of the imagination! --James Laughlin, founder of New Directions