Bad Reasons for Publishing Céline’s Anti-Semitic Screeds

June 20 2018

In addition to his celebrated 1932 novel Journey to the End of the Night, Louis-Ferdinand Céline wrote three political “pamphlets”—one nearly 400 pages in length—between 1937 and 1941 warning of the Jewish threat to France. These often-scatological works endorse wild anti-Semitic conspiracy theories and justify the murder of Jews. Last year, the French publishing house Gallimard announced its plans to publish a new edition of these pamphlets, leading to months of intense controversy in France. Eventually Gallimard backed down, although not without issuing a statement that “condemning [the pamphlets] to censorship hinders efforts to reveal their roots and ideological reach and cultivates an unhealthy curiosity instead of critical reasoning.” Robert Zaretsky responds:

First, it has never been a question of censorship. The pamphlets can be found not just in libraries and used bookstores . . .  but also on the Internet, where one can download a PDF in seconds. Besides, the work of examining the literary roots and measuring the ideological reach of these pamphlets has been under way for decades. From Alice Kaplan’s pathbreaking work . . . to Pierre-André Taguieff and Annick Durafour’s recent study Céline, le race, le juif, there has been no shortage of scholarly works. (Or for that matter damning ones: Taguieff and Durafour reveal that Céline denounced a number of French Jews to the Vichy authorities.) Finally, Gallimard’s refusal to issue the pamphlets à la Mein Kampf—namely, with the texts buffered by a solid critical apparatus—would more likely encourage than discourage “an unhealthy curiosity.”

But this last point nevertheless raises a number of questions. How reasonable is the assumption that a full-blown scholarly edition of Céline’s pamphlets would protect innocent readers against its radioactive qualities? . . . Why, in fact, do we need a critical edition of Céline’s murderously anti-Semitic ravings at all? As the historian Tal Bruttmann remarked, Céline’s pamphlets, unlike Hitler’s Mein Kampf, which is historically unavoidable, hardly deserves such attention. His writings were not a blueprint for a totalitarian state’s war aims, but instead a collage of rancid claims thrown together by a vile man who happened to be a great novelist. What do they tell us—apart, that is, from that Céline was an anti-Semite? That is hardly, Bruttmann drily concludes, “a great discovery.

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Read more at Jewish Review of Books

More about: Anti-Semitism, Arts & Culture, France, Vichy France

Why the Leader of Hamas Went to Russia

Sept. 30 2022

Earlier this month, the Hamas chairman Ismail Haniyeh and several of his colleagues visited Moscow, where they met with Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and other Russian officials. According to Arabic-language media, Haniyeh came seeking “new ideas” about how to wage war against the Jewish state. The terrorist group has had good relations with the Kremlin for several years, and even maintains an office in Moscow. John Hardie and Ivana Stradner comment on the timing of the visit:

For Moscow, the visit likely reflects a continuation of its efforts to leverage the Palestinians and other issues to pressure Israel over its stance on Russia’s war in Ukraine. Russia and Israel built friendly relations in the decades following the Soviet Union’s dissolution. After Russia invaded Ukraine in February, Jerusalem condemned the war, but made sure to tread carefully in order to preserve working ties with Moscow, lest Russian military forces in Syria disrupt Israel’s strategically important air operations there.

Nevertheless, bilateral tensions spiked in April after Yair Lapid, then serving as Israel’s foreign minister, joined the chorus of voices worldwide accusing Russia of committing war crimes in Ukraine. Jerusalem later provided Kyiv with some non-lethal military aid and a field hospital. In response, Moscow hardened its rhetoric about Israeli actions in the Palestinian territories.

The Palestinian issue isn’t the only way that Russia has sought to pressure Israel. Moscow is also threatening, on seemingly spurious grounds, to shutter the Russian branch of the Jewish Agency.

Moscow likely has little appetite for outright conflict with Israel, particularly when the bulk of Russia’s military is floundering in Ukraine. But there are plenty of other ways that Russia, which maintains an active intelligence presence in the Jewish state, could damage Israel’s interests. As Moscow cozies up with Hamas, Iran, and other enemies of Israel, Jerusalem—and its American allies—would do well to keep a watchful eye.

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Read more at Algemeiner

More about: Hamas, Israeli Security, Russia