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

Recognizing a Palestinian State Won’t Help Palestinians, or Even Make Palestinian Statehood More Likely

While Shira Efron and Michael Koplow are more sanguine about the possibility of a two-state solution to the Israel-Palestinian conflict, and more critical of Israel’s policies in the West Bank, than I am, I found much worth considering in their recent article on the condition of the Palestinian Authority (PA). Particularly perceptive are their comments on the drive to grant diplomatic recognition to a fictive Palestinian state, a step taken by nine countries in the past few months, and almost as many in total as recognize Israel.

Efron and Koplow argue that this move isn’t a mere empty gesture, but one that would actually make things worse, while providing “no tangible benefits for Palestinians.”

In areas under its direct control—Areas A and B of the West Bank, comprising 40 percent of the territory—the PA struggles severely to provide services, livelihoods, and dignity to inhabitants. This is only partly due to its budgetary woes; it has also never established a properly functioning West Bank economy. President Mahmoud Abbas, who will turn ninety next year, administers the PA almost exclusively by executive decrees, with little transparency or oversight. Security is a particular problem, as militants from different factions now openly defy the underfunded and undermotivated PA security forces in cities such as Jenin, Nablus, and Tulkarm.

Turning the Palestinian Authority (PA) from a transitional authority into a permanent state with the stroke of a pen will not make [its] litany of problems go away. The risk that the state of Palestine would become a failed state is very real given the PA’s dysfunctional, insolvent status and its dearth of public legitimacy. Further declines in its ability to provide social services and maintain law and order could yield a situation in which warlords and gangs become de-facto rulers in some areas of the West Bank.

Otherwise, any steps toward realizing two states will be fanciful, built atop a crumbling foundation—and likely to help turn the West Bank into a third front in the current war.

Read more at Foreign Affairs

More about: Palestinian Authority, Palestinian statehood