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Summary

Louis-Ferdinand Celine's revulsion and anger at what he considered the idiocy and hypocrisy of society explodes from nearly every minute 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 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 listeners by the scruff and hurtles them toward the novel's inevitable, sad conclusion.

©1952 Louis-Ferdinand Céline. Translation copyright 1983 by Ralph Manheim. Afterword copyright 2006 by William T. Vollmann (P)2016 Tantor

Critic reviews

"Céline showed me that it was possible to convey things that had heretofore seemed inaccessible. " ( New York Times)

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  • mike holt
  • 15-05-17

My first Celine

I'm going to be reading the rest of his novels. I made several bookmarks throughout this read because there were phrases and ideas I never want to forget. At times I was reminded of Bukowski and Kerouac but the author having probably inspired those two, certainly has a voice all his own.

5 of 5 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Eli Morrow
  • 28-03-17

Hysterical

Sarcastic, hysterical, black and beautifully insightful and narrated. I cannot imagine this book in a different, better voice.

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

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    3 out of 5 stars
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  • W Perry Hall
  • 15-03-17

Miserable Ride with Cynic Supreme


"A cynic can chill and dishearten with a single word." Ralph Waldo Emerson

From Journey to the End of the Night:

The sadness of the world has different ways of getting to people, but it seems to succeed almost every time.

****

I cannot refrain from doubting that there exist any genuine realizations of our deepest character except war and illness, those two infinities of nightmare.


This 1932 novel follows the wayfarings of French antihero Ferdinand Bardamu in and after World War I through war-ravaged Europe, the African jungles and post-World War I New York City and Detroit, then back to France where he became an unsuccessful medical doctor after setting up a practice in a poverty-stricken Paris suburb. Celine's impetus to writing this book largely came from the trauma he suffered while serving in World War I. Celine was a continual and consistent cynic who no doubt loathed what he viewed as a society full of hypocrisy and folly.

The gloomy narrative is replete with vulgar slang, sardonic jocosity, incessant agonies and pessimism, with heavy use of exaggerations and ellipses to reflect the flow of Bardamu's dialogue. He seems preoccupied to the point of mania with, or to gaining serial self-gratifications by, ferociously hurling vituperations at society, human nature and life generally, and by vilifying all human institutions and Jews.

In short, Journey to the End of the Night, and each word of it, constitute the literary equivalent of dark chocolates for those seeking to maintain maximum melancholia and perfect a plenary pessimistic perspective.

A black cloud followed me for a week after reading this.


"A cynic is a man who, when he smells flowers, looks around for a coffin." H. L. Mencken


7 of 10 people found this review helpful

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  • Private Name (required)
  • 06-08-18

An Untimely confirmation.

I wish I'd finally read/listened to this in happier times. Too relatable. Too perfect.
Read it. Listen.
Just listen to him. (he wasn't antisemitic yet)

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    1 out of 5 stars
  • Sandra
  • 19-06-18

Not my cup of tea

Very hard to understand. The total overall feeling of the book was very had to gage. I did not like the very racist comments.

0 of 1 people found this review helpful