The Exile of Celine

Tom Clark, Author Random House (NY) $16.95 (214p) ISBN 978-0-394-55312-2
Louis-Ferdinand Celine (18941961) is famous in the history of modern literature primarily for two scurrilous, obscenely funny, brilliant black novels of the '30s, Journey to the End of the Night and Death on the Installment Plan. He is infamous as the author of venomous, stridently anti-Semitic, pro-facist pamphlets. This erratic, vivid, episodic biographical novel, by a poet and one-time poetry editor of Paris Review, is centered on the war years, beginning with Celine's flight from France, along with tattered remnants of the Petain regime, in November, 1944, when the end was already in sight. It follows him on his sojourn in Germany and travels to Denmark, where his money was hidden. Celine's personality is grippingly depicted. Sardonic, mocking, contemptuous, wildly vituperative, despising Hitler and the Nazis as ineffectual and loathing the Vichy collaborators, he was equally fearful of the mortal threat to the ""civilization of whites'' represented by the Communists. Clark has not strayed from the facts of his subject's life. He shows us a man wracked by inner turmoil, dangerously paranoid, a snarl of contradictions. This is not a pleasant read, but it is a distinctive one. (February 2)
Reviewed on: 01/01/1987
Release date: 01/01/1987
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