Why this book?
Whether you love him or hate him (as he was a tortured and unpleasant soul), Céline innovated the philosophical novel in the modern context and brought the genre to its pinnacle with Journey to the End of the Night. Reflecting on the horrors, absurdity, and stupidity of World War I, returning soldier Ferdinand Bardamu (a stand-in for Céline) finds himself equally miserable in “peacetime” serving as a doctor for the poor in Paris (Céline was trained as a doctor). Céline is occasionally compared to another French writer of philosophical novels: Jean-Paul Sartre. Journey is not heavily allegorical like some of Sartre’s fiction works are (such as No Exit); Céline simply “shouts” at you, and sometimes you’re benefited in hearing the shouting. In Journey’s portrayal of inter-war urban decay, one gets the sense that Céline agrees with Sartre’s “hell is other people” but Céline never says it out loud.
Journey to the End of the Night
Why should I read it?
2 authors picked Journey to the End of the Night as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.
What is this book about?
Celine's masterpiece-colloquial, polemic, hyper realistic-boils over with bitter humor and revulsion at society's idiocy and hypocrisy: Journey to the End of the Night is a literary symphony of cruelty and violence that hurtles through the improbable travels of the petit bourgeois (and largely autobiographical) antihero, Bardamu: from the trenches of WWI, to the African jungle, to New York, to the Ford Factory in Detroit, and finally to life in Paris as a failed doctor. Ralph Manheim's pitch-perfect translation captures Celine's savage energy, and a dynamic afterword by William T. Vollmann presents a fresh, furiously alive take on this astonishing novel.