“War”, an unpublished novel by Céline and the new masterpiece of the writer

It is a miracle. The word is not too strong. To make it simpler, Warunpublished novel by Louis-Ferdinand Céline (1894-1961) appearing on May 5 (edited by Pascal Fouché, foreword by François Gibault, Gallimard, 192 p., €19, digital €14) at the end of Incredible Circumstances Almost Ninety Years after it was written, it certainly deserves to find its place in libraries, among Journey to the end of the night (1932) and death on credit (1936), the novelist’s two pre-war masterpieces. War It’s anything but a drawer bottom.”, summarizes Emile Brami, author of a biography of Céline (Ecriture, 2003). On the contrary, it constitutes a central piece in the immense literary puzzle that Céline has obsessively constructed from her life.

This colorful account of the convalescence of Ferdinand, the writer’s romantic double, in the fall of 1914, in Hazebrouck (North), after his forehead wound, fills an ellipse that was left open in the heart of Journey to the end of the night. At once war story, provincial chronicle and lewd novel, this unpublished novel should thrill the reader of 2022 with its sometimes unbearable rawness. Gallimard editions have fully measured the importance of the event: they have decided to print 80,000 copies from the start.

Brief tour of the confusing days of the liberation of Paris

Miracle, above all, because we should never have read these pages. To understand how they came to us, a brief detour through the confused days of the liberation of Paris is necessary. Since June 1944, Louis-Ferdinand Céline, author of three terrible anti-Semitic pamphlets and close to the Germans, knew that his days were numbered on the Montmartre hill, where he lived with his wife, Lucette. They barely have time to sew gold coins into the lining of a jacket and get their cat, Bébert, on board before heading to the Gare de l’Est, towards Baden-Baden, then Sigmaringen, where they all find the ultras of collaboration around Marshal Pétain.

In his haste, with death in his soul, the writer had to abandon a pile of manuscripts on top of a cupboard on rue Girardon. These bundles will mysteriously disappear in the confusion of Liberation. The rumour, later confirmed by Céline herself, accused a certain Oscar Rosembly, then arrested for having “visited” the apartments of some Montmartre personalities. Some rather evoke looting by a commando of the French Interior Forces.

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