Louis-Ferdinand Céline

French writer
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Louis-Ferdinand Céline (May 27, 1894July 1, 1961) was a French author.

Louis-Ferdinand Céline


  • I should be able to get the alligators to dance to the tune of the pan pipe.
    • (March 30, 1947)[1]
  • I should give all the works of Baudelaire for a female Olympic swimmer.
    • (Letters to Milton Hindus) [1]
  • Experience is a dim lamp, which only lights the one who bears it.
    • Des pays où personne ne va jamais. Interview of February 1960 with Jean Guenot und Jacques d'Arribehaude.
    • Reported in Céline à Meudon : transcriptions des entretiens avec Jacques d'Arribehaude et Jean Guenot. Éditions Jean Guenot, 1995 ISBN 2-85405-058-4
  • God is being repaired.
    • L'École des cadavres (School for Corpses), Denoël 1942, p. 6
  • Hate gave birth to the slang; Slang (‘argot’) exists not anymore.
    • ( « L'argot est né de la haine, il n'existe plus» Arts, 6. February 1957. in À l’agité du bocal et autres textes, (op. cit.) p. 55.
  • I clearly see you a tapeworm, but not a cobra, not a cobra at all...no good at the flute! (…) I’ll go applaud you when you finally become a true monster, when you’ll have paid them, the witches, what you have to, their price, so they transmute you, blossom you, into a true phenomenon. Into a tapeworm that plays the flute. (To the Fidgeting Lunatic)
    • in Albert Paraz, Le Gala des Vaches, Éditions de l’Élan, Paris, 1948 ; À l'agité du bocal, et autres textes de L.-F. Céline, l'Herne / Carnets de l'Herne ISBN 9782851976567, 2006, 85 p. ; To the Fidgeting Lunatic (Céline on Sartre), translation by Constantin Rigas.
Voyage au bout de la nuit, éd. Gallimard (1972) ISBN 2070360288; Journey to the End of the Night, tr. John H. P. Marks (1934); Journey to the End of the Night, tr. Manheim, Ralph (2006), New York: New Directions. ISBN 9780811216548.
  • You can be a virgin in horror the same as in sex.
    • Chapter 2
  • The biggest defeat in every department of life is to forget, especially the things that have done you in, and to die without realizing how far people can go in the way of crumminess. When the grave lies open before us, let’s not try to be witty, but record the worst of human viciousness we’ve seen without changing one word. When that’s done, we can curl up our toes and sink into the pit. That’s work enough for a lifetime.
    • Chapter 3
  • Anybody who talks about the future is a bastard, it's the present that counts.
    • Chapter 4
  • As far as they were concerned, gunfire was nothing but noise. That’s why wars can keep going. Even the people who make them, who fight in them, don’t really get the picture. Even with a bullet in their gut, they’d go on picking up old shoes that “might come in handy.” The way a sheep, lying on its side in a meadow, will keep on grazing with its dying breath. Most people don’t die until the last moment; others start twenty years in advance, sometimes more. Those are the unfortunates.
    • Chapter 4
  • The one thing any of us really cared about was living for one more hour, one more hour is a big deal in a world where everything has reduced itself to murder.
    • Chapter 4
  • "I don't think about anything," he says, "No thoughts at all! I think about not getting killed... that keeps me busy... One more day is one more day-That's what I think!"
    • Chapter 4
  • I believed in her body, I didn't believe in her soul. I thought of Lola as a charming goldbrick, miles away from the war, miles away from life.
    • Chapter 5
  • The sadness of the world has different ways of getting to people, but it seems to succeed almost every time.
    • Chapter 5
  • Then I fell sick, I was delirious, driven mad by fear, they said at the hospital. Maybe so. The best thing to do when you're in this world, don't you agree, is to get out of it. Crazy or not, scared or not.
    • Chapter 5
  • Everything interesting takes place in the dark; there is no doubt about it. We know nothing of the true story of the men. ― [6]
  • Almost every desire a poor man has is a punishable offence.[16]
  • We are, by nature, so futile that distraction alone can prevent us from dying altogether.[17]
  • Love is infinity - come down to poodles' level.[1]
  • It's harder to lose the wish to love than the wish to live.[7]
  • Living, just by itself - what a dirge that is! Life is a classroom and boredom's the usher, there all the time to spy on you; whatever happens, you've got to look as if you were awfully busy all the time doing something that's terribly exciting - or he'll come along and nibble your brain.[32]
  • And the music came back with the carnival, the music you've heard as far back as you can remember, ever since you were little, that's always playing somewhere, in some corner of the city, in little country towns, wherever poor people go and sit at the end of the week to figure out what's become of them, sometimes here, sometimes there, from season to season, it tinkles and grinds out the tunes that rich people danced to the year before. It's the mechanical music that floats down from the wooden horses, from the cars that aren't cars anymore, from the railways that aren't at all scenic, from the platform under the wrestler who hasn't any muscles and doesn't come from Marseille, from the beardless lady, the magician who's a butter-fingered jerk, the organ that's not made of gold, the shooting gallery with the empty eggs. It's the carnival made to delude the weekend crowd.
    We go in and drink the beer with no head on it. But under the cardboard trees the stink of the waiter's breath is real. And the change he gives you has several peculiar coins in it, so peculiar that you go on examining them for weeks and weeks and finally, with considerable difficulty, palm them off on some beggar. What do you expect at the carnival? Gotta have what fun you can between hunger and jail, and take things as they come. No sense complaining, we're sitting down aren't we? Which ain't to be sneezed at. I saw the same old Gallery of the Nations, the one Lola caught sight of years and years ago on that avenue in the park of Saint-Cloud. You always see things again at carnivals, they revive the joy of past carnivals. Over the years the crowds must have come back time and again to stroll on the main avenue of the park of Saint-Cloud...taking it easy. The war had been over long ago. And say I wonder if that shooting gallery still belonged to the same owner? Had he come back alive from the war? I take an interest in everything. Those are the same targets, but in addition, they're shooting at airplanes now. Novelty. Progress. Fashion. The wedding was still there, the soldier too, and the town hall with its flag. Plus a few more things to shoot at than before.[27]
  • The one who talks about the future is a rascal. The present is the only thing that matters. To invoke one’s posterity is to make a speech to maggots. [4]
  • A woman who spends her time worrying about pregnancy is a virtual cripple; she'll never go very far.― [7]
  • I warn you that when the princes of this world start loving you it means they are going to grind you up into battle sausage. ― [6]
  • If you aren't rich you should always look useful.
  • In the kitchens of love, after all, vice is like the pepper in a good sauce; it brings out the flavour, it's indispensable." ― [6]
  • - (Lola): Only mad men and cowards refuse to go to the war, when their homeland is in danger! - (Bardamu): So, hurrah for the mad men and the cowards! ― [6]
  • "The rich don't have to kill to eat." – [30]
  • The rich are inebriate in another way and cannot contrive to grasp these frenzied longings for security. To be rich is another form of intoxication: it spells forgetfulness. In fact, that is what one wants riches for: to forget.
  • I cannot refrain from doubting that there exist other genuine realizations of our deepest character than war and illness, those two infinities of nightmare.[39]
  • The natives, by and large, had to be driven to work with clubs, they preserved that much dignity, whereas the whites, perfected by public education, worked of their own free will.[12]
  • Why struggle, waiting is good enough, since thievery is bound to end up in the street. Basically, only the street counts. Why deny it? It's waiting for us. One of these days we'll have to make up our minds and go down in to the street, not one or two or three of us, but all. We stand on the brink, we simper and fuss, but never mind, the time will come.

Mea culpa; suivi de la vie et l'oeuvre de Semmelweis (1937)

  • Politics has putrified mankind more profoundly in the last three centuries than in the whole of pre-history. We were more united in the middle ages than we are today; then a common spirit took form.[16]
  • Since the end of the period of belief, leaders exalt every defect, every kind of sadism, and gain all the more through their vices: vanity, ambition, war, death in a word.[16]
  • [Industrialized man, drunk on alcohol and gasoline, becomes a confusion of sheep, bull and hyena.] Charming. The least obstructed little asshole looks on himself in the mirror as Jupiter.[18]
  • {Music symbolizes the loss of faith, of common belief.] The small, intimate church is closed, the organs are dead, it is sadder than before. Only those whom fate designs for the eternal mass of infinite love remain. They compose only a very small chapel of clarity in space and time.[45]
  • In this society which we are induced to frequent, composed above all of politicians and artists, one cannot realize one's true worth.[99]

L'Ecole des cadavres (The School for Corpses, 1938)

  • It is in the United States that one may better see, if one has the taste for it, the vast Jewish panic, the mad anguish that strangles, the camouflaged arrogance, at the slightest evocation of a possibility of their regulation for the general world-wide good.[50]
  • The three radios, the six cars, the four refrigerators, the seven telephones in each of the 300,000 Jewish households, and the super-television![51]
  • ...personally I find Hitler, Franco, Mussolini fabulously debonaire, admirably magnanimous, infinitely more sympathetic...than 250 Nobel Prize winners.
  • The judeo-Americans are notorious idiots, bellylanding in foolishness: look at Roosevelt, Otto Khan, Morgenthau, Filene, Barush, Rosenthal...Observe these cunts. [75]
  • [The fascist states want no war] Why? Because the fascist states realize before our very eyes, among Aryans, without gold, without Jews, without Freemasons, the famous socialist program, of which the communists have had their mugs full and have never brought off. [100]
  • Your system of producing wealth, factories, mines, cooperatives will fall apart, like everything else, under the attacks of the people, in the delirious, popular boulimia. [101]
  • Spiritually we are at ground zero, sunk, bored to perdition. All our arts prove it. Since the renaissance, so mechanized, we repeat with almost futile variants the same hackneyed sentimentalities (we call them eternal values!) Love! Re-love No Love! More Love! [102]
  • ...the material bungling, the ladder-climbing and the shit, you are going marvelously to be served! Shitty! You yourselves are promised to the revolutionary puppies! Bulging eyed, aberrant, pontificating, cock-up cancers, you committed at the outset the capital, inexpiable mistake: you have bet according to your guts, you have adulated, exalted, fawned on and glorified your tripes.[105]
  • You pin-heads, you have not understood in communism its admirable, instantaneous manner of appeasing all your ruined tax-payer grudges ferociously, in the name of a new purity, a non-existent proletarian virtue, you deceived jackals. Your intimate personal plan won't wash. I am well acquainted with you. [128]
  • Above all communism is a poetic vocation. Without poetry, without a burning, purifying altruistic fervor, communism is only a farce, the receptacle of all anger, of all plebian resentment, the decadent playhouse of sharks, of all the tragic pimps, of all Jews, performing their Talmudic imposture. [130]
  • The populace is a true museum of all the stupidities of the ages: it swallows everything, it admires everything, it preserves everything, it defends everything, it understands nothing. [145]
  • [The press from right to left, is corrupt. It will say anything if the bribe is large enough]...gloss over events according to the color of the subsidy, undress, attack, traduce, rant, all according to the sum in the envelope. [177]
  • In democratic politics it is money that commands. And the money is Jewish. [180]
  • Our French Republic is no more than a great gullet swallowing the negroizing of the French at the command of the Jews. Our governors are a clique of sadistic yids and yellow-bellied masons sworn to swallow us up, to bastardize us further, to boil us down by all the grotesque, primitive means of inter-mixture, part negro, part yellow, part white, part red, part monkey, part Jewish, part everything. [219]
  • "To be or not to be" Aryan? That is the question! And nothing more! All the doctrines concerning the absence of Race, concerning the vast racial confusion, all the spreading of racial jumbling at full pace, the esperanto-ism of the anus "Romain Rolland style," resulting in the greatest fornicating Babel are no more than destructive foul tricks, all emerging from the same Talmudic shop: "To the destruction of the Whites."
  • In the kingdom of the "fallen in the shit" the lunatics are king. [222-23]
  • You [Jews] terrify no one. The sun sinks, you swank about to the right, to the left. Europe forms up against you. [294]
  • Even the richest, the most superb. They continue to offer themselves. Indeed, their life is no more than a perpetual whoredom, more or less decorative, more or less seedy, more or less affected, sumptuous, pretentious. [299]

Les Beaux Draps (A Fine Mess, 1941)

  • [There are] more Jews than ever in the streets, more Jews than ever in the press, more Jews than ever at the bar, the Opéra, the Comédie Française, in manufacturing, in banks. Paris and France under the sway of Freemasons and Jews more than ever and more arrogantly than ever before.
  • Beating up Jews (by Jew I mean anyone with a Jew for a grandparent, even one!) won’t help, I’m sure, that’s just going around in circles, it’s a joke, you’re only beating around the bush if you don’t grab them by the strings [tefillins], if you don’t strangle them with them.
    • Cited in Wyatt Mason "Uncovering Céline" The New York Review of Books (14 January 2010).
    • From a review of the original French editions of Celine's antisemitiic writings, also including Bagatelles pour un massacre (Trifles for a Massacre, 1937) and L'École des cadavres (The School of Corpses, 1938).

About Louis-Ferdinand Céline

In alphabetical order by author or source.
  • To many Frenchmen, the Third Republic simply did not seem worth dying for, when so many of their fathers, brothers and friends had died for it already between 1914 and 1918. This was the mood - the refusal to pursue another Pyrrhic victory - that had been foreshadowed in Louis-Ferdinand Celine's Voyage au bout de la nuit (1932), with its stomach-churning evocation of the slaughter of the last war's opening phase. The same mood inspired the Nobel laureate Roger Martin Du Gard's letter to a friend in September 1936: 'Anything rather than war! Anything . . . even Fascism in Spain . . . Even Fascism in France: Nothing, no trial, no servitude can be compared to war: Anything, Hitler rather than war!'
    • Niall Ferguson, The War of the World: Twentieth-Century Conflict and the Descent of the West (2006), pp. 389
  • "Louis-Ferdinand Céline," taken from his grandmother's and mother's first names, with his first novel. His second novel, Mort à crédit (Death on the Installment Plan, 1936), his greatest work, moves back in time to his childhood on the Passage Choiseul, a commercial arcade in central Paris where his mother ran a lace shop. The family lived upstairs, suffocating from the odors emanating from the gas lighting. You can read the novel as a lower-class rewrite of Proust. Céline’s madeleine scene is a family puking on a ferry; his Albertine is Nora at a British boarding school, Meanwell College, where the smitten Ferdinand, a younger version of the Ferdinand Bardamu we meet in Voyage, resolves not to talk. The writing, far cruder and more physical than that of the first novel, was censored, and the first edition was full of white spaces where words and phrases had been cut.
  • [B]eing on the wrong side of history also served him a heaping plate of material for new work after 1945 when, in a trilogy of novels—D’un château l’autre (Castle to Castle, 1957), Nord (North, 1960), Rigodon (1961)—he chronicled a shattered world in ever more fragmented prose and honed his persecution complex via his increasingly deranged narrator. The writer who said he was only about style was in fact a revisionist historian, providing a rare and perversely instructive view of Vichy from the point of view of the defeated. His postwar novels are much more overtly political than the first two. They’re also ventures into Holocaust denial: "Nuremberg," he wrote in D’un château l’autre, "needs redoing."
  • A few days after the Normandy landings, knowing only too well that he would be either assassinated by résistants or condemned to death for treason by a new Gaullist or communist government, he fled France together with a thousand unrepentant French collaborators, one of whom was Marshal Pétain, the leader of the collaborationist Vichy government. With the help of Nazi occupiers, these fugitives absconded to the Sigmaringen Castle in the Swabian Alps of southern Germany. In March 1945, Céline and his wife, Lucette, then found refuge in Denmark, where they stayed until 1951, when Céline was assured he could return to France without fear for his life—although a French court had, in the meantime, condemned him in absentia as a "national disgrace." Having already served a spell in prison in Denmark at France’s behest, Céline was allowed to return home, settling in leafy Meudon, just outside Paris.
    • Agnès Poirier "Cashing In on Céline’s Anti-Semitism" The New York Review of Books (12 January 2018)
    • The article concerns proposals to reprint antisemitic texts by Louis-Ferdinand Céline published between 1937 and 1941 and not reprinted in France since 1945. Publication was suspended in early 2018.


  1. a b Letters to Milton Hindus (1947-1949), Les Cahiers de la NRF, Gallimard ISBN 2070134296
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