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.

Read more at National Review

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


Universities Are in Thrall to a Constituency That Sees Israel as an Affront to Its Identity

Commenting on the hearings of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce on Tuesday about anti-Semitism on college campuses, and the dismaying testimony of three university presidents, Jonah Goldberg writes:

If some retrograde poltroon called for lynching black people or, heck, if they simply used the wrong adjective to describe black people, the all-seeing panopticon would spot it and deploy whatever resources were required to deal with the problem. If the spark of intolerance flickered even for a moment and offended the transgendered, the Muslim, the neurodivergent, or whomever, the fire-suppression systems would rain down the retardant foams of justice and enlightenment. But calls for liquidating the Jews? Those reside outside the sensory spectrum of the system.

It’s ironic that the term colorblind is “problematic” for these institutions such that the monitoring systems will spot any hint of it, in or out of the classroom (or admissions!). But actual intolerance for Jews is lathered with a kind of stealth paint that renders the same systems Jew-blind.

I can understand the predicament. The receptors on the Islamophobia sensors have been set to 11 for so long, a constituency has built up around it. This constituency—which is multi-ethnic, non-denominational, and well entrenched among students, administrators, and faculty alike—sees Israel and the non-Israeli Jews who tolerate its existence as an affront to their worldview and Muslim “identity.” . . . Blaming the Jews for all manner of evils, including the shortcomings of the people who scapegoat Jews, is protected because, at minimum, it’s a “personal truth,” and for some just the plain truth. But taking offense at such things is evidence of a mulish inability to understand the “context.”

Shocking as all that is, Goldberg goes on to argue, the anti-Semitism is merely a “symptom” of the insidious ideology that has taken over much of the universities as well as an important segment of the hard left. And Jews make the easiest targets.

Read more at Dispatch

More about: Anti-Semitism, Israel on campus, University