French writer Louis-Ferdinand Céline.

Louis-Ferdinand Céline

(1894 - 1961)

Céline’s first two novels—Journey to the End of the Night (published in France in 1932) and Death on the Installment Plan (1936)—were profoundly influential among writers in his native country and in the United States. Beginning in 1937, he published a series of anti-Semitic pamphlets; he subsequently became a Nazi collaborationist, and spent a year in a prison in Copenhagen after the war. “Life is in fact as dangerous and unforgiving and irrational as Céline said it was,” wrote the novelist Kurt Vonnegut. “There is some question as to whether we have two or three centuries remaining to us in which to prepare civilization for the teaching of Céline in high school.”

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Even diseases have lost their prestige, there aren’t so many of them left.

—Louis-Ferdinand Céline, 1960

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