Bad Reasons for Publishing Céline’s Anti-Semitic Screeds

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.

Read more at Jewish Review of Books

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

To Save Gaza, the U.S. Needs a Strategy to Restrain Iran

Since the outbreak of war on October 7, America has given Israel much support, and also much advice. Seth Cropsey argues that some of that advice hasn’t been especially good:

American demands for “restraint” and a “lighter footprint” provide significant elements of Hamas’s command structure, including Yahya Sinwar, the architect of 10/7, a far greater chance of surviving and preserving the organization’s capabilities. Its threat will persist to some extent in any case, since it has significant assets in Lebanon and is poised to enter into a full-fledged partnership with Hizballah that would give it access to Lebanon’s Palestinian refugee camps for recruitment and to Iranian-supported ratlines into Jordan and Syria.

Turning to the aftermath of the war, Cropsey observes that it will take a different kind of involvement for the U.S. to get the outcomes it desires, namely an alternative to Israeli and to Hamas rule in Gaza that comes with buy-in from its Arab allies:

The only way that Gaza can be governed in a sustainable and stable manner is through the participation of Arab states, and in particular the Gulf Arabs, and the only power that can deliver their participation is the United States. A grand bargain is impossible unless the U.S. exerts enough leverage to induce one.

Militarily speaking, the U.S. has shown no desire seriously to curb Iranian power. It has persistently signaled a desire to avoid escalation. . . . The Gulf Arabs understand this. They have no desire to engage in serious strategic dialogue with Washington and Jerusalem over Iran strategy, since Washington does not have an Iran strategy.

Gaza’s fate is a small part of a much broader strategic struggle. Unless this is recognized, any diplomatic master plan will degenerate into a diplomatic parlor game.

Read more at National Review

More about: Gaza War 2023, Iran, U.S. Foreign policy