A Celebrated French Writer’s Attack on Conventional Language, Conventional Morality, and Jews

In 2019, under murky circumstances, someone discovered thousands of pages of lost writings of the French author Louis-Ferdinand Destouches, better known as Céline, who died in 1961. Among them is a previously unknown World War I novel, which has been published by the preeminent French publisher Gallimard under the title Guerre, to critical acclaim. David Pryce-Jones reviews the novel, and discusses some uncomfortable facts:

Journey to the End of the Night (1932) and Death on Credit (1936) are the novels that have given Céline the status of master, and their disregard for the conventional rules in writing French is absolute. Playing fast and loose with grammar, vocabulary, punctuation, and the use of the three dots of an ellipsis, taking whatever risks might serve his purpose and dispensing with anything like good manners towards the reader, he succeeded in destroying the classical language. One of the central props of civilization had been done away with.

The promotion of Guerre is silent about the three polemics Céline wrote between 1937 and 1941. Bagatelles pour un massacre, L’École des cadavres, and Les beaux draps are an inescapable feature of the time when Hitler was conquering Europe. Céline was now destroying conventional morality with the same eager fanatical spirit that motivated the working of his mind. He became the personification of the contempt that Nazis felt for the normal world. Gloating over the persecution and mass murder of Jews, he could write, “There is only one anti-Jewish force in this world, only one real pacifist force: the German army.”

Returning to France after the war, General de Gaulle was reluctant to punish French collaborators and said that poets ought not to be shot. . . . Once back home in Paris, Céline showed no remorse. His literary reputation has obscured the hatred he felt for humanity, a hatred so deep that it makes a virtue out of mass murder. Those 80,000 copies of Guerre are part of the discussion that has been going on since the country’s wartime collapse about what it means to be French. Unhappy is the nation that can still make a great man out of Céline.

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Read more at National Review

More about: Anti-Semitism, France, Holocaust, Literature

Salman Rushdie and the Western Apologists for Those Who Wish Him Dead

Aug. 17 2022

Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the founder and supreme leader of the Islamic Republic of Iran, issued a fatwa (religious ruling) in 1989 calling for believers to murder the novelist Salman Rushdie due to the content of his novel, The Satanic Verses. Over the years, two of the book’s translators have been stabbed—one fatally—and numerous others have been injured or killed in attempts to follow the ayatollah’s writ. Last week, an American Shiite Muslim came closer than his many predecessors to killing Rushdie, stabbing him multiple times and leaving him in critical condition. Graeme Wood comments on those intellectuals in the West who have exuded sympathy for the stabbers:

In 1989, the reaction to the fatwa was split three ways: some supported it; some opposed it; and some opposed it, to be sure, but still wanted everyone to know how bad Rushdie and his novel were. This last faction, Team To Be Sure, took the West to task for elevating this troublesome man and his insulting book, whose devilry could have been averted had others been more attuned to the sensibilities of the offended.

The fumes are still rising off of this last group. The former president Jimmy Carter was, at the time of the original fatwa, the most prominent American to suggest that the crime of murder should be balanced against Rushdie’s crime of blasphemy. The ayatollah’s death sentence “caused writers and public officials in Western nations to become almost exclusively preoccupied with the author’s rights,” Carter wrote in an op-ed for the New York Times. Well, yes. Carter did not only say that many Muslims were offended and wished violence on Rushdie; that was simply a matter of fact, reported frequently in the news pages. He took to the op-ed page to add his view that these fanatics had a point. “While Rushdie’s First Amendment freedoms are important,” he wrote, “we have tended to promote him and his book with little acknowledgment that it is a direct insult to those millions of Moslems whose sacred beliefs have been violated.” Never mind that millions of Muslims take no offense at all, and are insulted by the implication that they should.

Over the past two decades, our culture has been Carterized. We have conceded moral authority to howling mobs, and the louder the howls, the more we have agreed that the howls were worth heeding. The novelist Hanif Kureishi has said that “nobody would have the [courage]” to write The Satanic Verses today. More precisely, nobody would publish it, because sensitivity readers would notice the theological delicacy of the book’s title and plot. The ayatollahs have trained them well, and social-media disasters of recent years have reinforced the lesson: don’t publish books that get you criticized, either by semiliterate fanatics on the other side of the world or by semiliterate fanatics on this one.

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Read more at Atlantic

More about: Ayatollah Khomeini, Freedom of Speech, Iran, Islamism, Jimmy Carter