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when i saw "london bridge" (guignol's band II), i was ecstatic as i had read all of celine's work available in english before it had come out (even searching out the then-out-of-print "north"-"castle to castle"-"rigadon" trilogy).
to my dismay i did not care for it as much as i had hoped.
for me (and others may have a different experience), i did not like the tone of the translation (but i did not like the translation of guignol's band I either). for me, london bridge felt self-conciously hip.
i much prefer mannhiem's translations of celine's work. perhaps i have come to equate his tone with celine's.
i think that journey and installment plan (both 5-star ratings)are better places to start with celine, then moving on to the afore-mentioned trilogy (4.5 stars each). if completeness is needed, i'd move on to the guignol's band series.
others may have a different viewpoint.
'London Bridge' is the most excessive of Celine's books, flooded with exclamation marks and ellipses. Celine does not so much write as yell prose in 'London Bridge'. This is a book written entirely in italics, managing to sustain a mood of delirious excitement which always modulates into more interestingly musical prose.
It is a story of a youth and his dubious mentor, two Frenchmen, who are travelling abroad, and have found themselves in London. Ostensibly they are in London to get rich on the proceeds of the older man's invention - a revolutionary gas mask that will save the lives of Allied soldiers. But everything goes completely wrong from the start. The book is dominated by the protagonist Ferdinand's careening, drunken tours of the city's filthiest, sexiest precincts, and he has lots of wild violent adventures. No-one makes any money on the invention, of course. Everyone is broke and in a state of physical collapse by the end and the endless exclamations, bangings, crashings and frantic, sweat-slicked pursuits seem to have been calculated to wear the reader's nerves to a pulp. At its best, 'London Bridge' is funny, high-speed, carnivalesque farce.
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This compilation is boring and dull. Not worth the money!
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This peculiar entry in the Library of Conservative Thought examines Hindus's summer visit in 1948 to Celine, who was living in exile in Denmark for writing anti-Semitic editorials. Appended to that story is their correspondence from 1947 to 1949, an afterword and preface, both from 1985, and the introduction to the Transaction edition from 1997, near the end of Hindus's life. I think of it as a sad, coming-of-age story, the literary equivalent of the disappointed admirer trying to come to terms with his fallen hero.
The book implicitly raises some interesting questions about the relationship between the writer and his work, between the writer and his politics, and between the writer and society. If artists are as irrelevant as the utilitarians say, why the harsh treatment of men like Celine and Ezra Pound? Why did Socrates, while excluding poets from the republic, make an exception in the case of Aristophanes? Why was Celine the physician unable to diagnose or treat his own illness? Why did Walker Percy, another author-physician, blame so many human ills on society, the times, or bad metaphysics, rather than take the more classical route of self-knowledge, or face the hard-won discoveries of traditional medicine? When faced with such questions and contradictions, I recall the words of Russell Kirk: "From reading the ancients, I learned not to expect too much of life."
The truest statement in the book is that Celine is "completely sick, physically and mentally." Any remark outside this context, aside from being uncharitable, tells only a partial story. Suffice it to say I did not rush to the library to seek out his novels.
I cannot help thinking that Celine would have been less a splinter in the mind for Hindus if he had let go his faith in special pleading for the artist, and instead realized that they have feet of clay like the rest of us. Perhaps an admission like that would have diminished the sustaining faith in his lifelong vocation. To the end Hindus insisted that Celine was a divinely-inspired poet in the Romantic tradition who must be allowed special treatment, like the cabin boy in Moby Dick, accidentally thrust into deep waters, who emerged "crazy-witty," babbling and hallucinating. Unfortunately, the literary mind has been late in realizing that life does not create hallucinations. Only a sick mind does.
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