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Journey to the End of the Night Paperback – February, 1988

4.5 out of 5 stars 155 customer reviews

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Paperback, February, 1988
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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

When it was published in 1932, this then-shocking and revolutionary first fiction redefined the art of the novel with its black humor, its nihilism, and its irreverent, explosive writing style, and made Louis-Ferdinand Celine one of France's--and literature's--most important 20th-Century writers. The picaresque adventures of Bardamu, the sarcastic and brilliant antihero of Journey to the End of the Night move from the battlefields of World War I (complete with buffoonish officers and cowardly soldiers), to French West Africa, the United States, and back to France in a style of prose that's lyrical, hallucinatory, and hilariously scathing toward nearly everybody and everything. Yet, beneath it all one can detect a gentle core of idealism.


'My favourite French classic has to be Journey to the End of the Night by Louis-Ferdinand Celine. It's an epic that takes you all around the world, but the centre of the world is Paris, or Celine's delirious, slightly hallucinatory, incredibly poetic vision of it.' Andrew Hussey, The Guardian --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 446 pages
  • Publisher: New Directions Publishing Corporation (February 1988)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0811208478
  • ISBN-13: 978-0811208475
  • Product Dimensions: 8 x 5.2 x 1.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (155 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #882,281 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
For the uninitiated, Journey to the End of the Night is a 450-page chronicle of anger, bitterness, hopelessness, despair, disillusionment, and resignation. It is one of the most pessimistic, negative books ever written. It addresses almost every base and negative aspect of the human experience: warfare, cowardice, lies, corruption, betrayal, slavery, manipulation, exploitation, perversion, persecution, cheating, greed, sickness, loneliness, madness, lust, gossip, abortion, disease, vengeance, and murder. In a book that explodes with adjectives, there is hardly a cheerful word to be found.

But don't let that stop you from reading it. It is also a weird and wonderfully written mix of prose, philosophy, rant, and slang. At times it is hilarious. It is also sad, moving, and deeply insightful. Celine's voice is unique, and his dark vision changed the face of twentieth century literature.

True to its title, the book is a metaphorical journey into the dark side of humanity. It doesn't really have a plot. In a nutshell, it follows Ferdinand Bardamu (who is telling the story), who joins the army on a whim, entering World War I. The fear and madness of his war experiences leave him shell-shocked. He spends the remainder of the war convalescing in a hospital, where he spends his time avoiding the front, laying nurses, and pulling himself together. After the war, he yearns to escape, so he travels to the French African colonies to run a trading post deep in the jungle. There, he contracts malaria and is sold into slavery by a Portuguese priest, only to be dumped in a quarantine facility in New York.

He eventually winds up in Detroit, where he works a dead-end factory job at Ford and falls in love with a prostitute. Restless, he leaves his love behind and returns to France.
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Format: Paperback
Celine was a WWI veteran, sometimes discontented vagabond, and qualified but barely surviving Doctor/Physician who wrote one of the greatest novels of the 20th Western century. This is it. It's like a bomb hitting you on every page. The level of pessimism, cynicism, black humor, and its concomitant in the bargain--unflinching honesty--had never been equaled before in literature & few have matched it since. By his example, he inspired Henry Miller, Philip Roth, Jean-Paul Sartre, Jack Kerouac & many other luminaries to write in a similar no-holds-barred style. But as they say, the original is always the best & Celine was an original. No less a literary master and 'black satirist' than Nabokov himself has called Celine nothing but a second-rater; but even if you agree with that assesment of Celine's purely literary skills, you have to give credit to the guy for originating the no-nonsense style which made possible an artistically illuminating foray of unprecedented brutal honesty into the seedier aspects of life.
During the second World War, Celine wrote and distributed anti-semitic pamphlets and was ardently pro-Nazi and pro-German occupation of France. A lot of people couldn't understand how such an indisputably important artist could also be a Fascist sympathizer. Fascism & art didn't go together in their minds (especially since most of the literati in France who had liked Celine's novels were either strong lefists and/or pro-USSR Communists). Celine had to live in exile for many years as a result of this war-time pro-fascist business, and never regained the scary perfection of form, the shattering style evident on every page of "Journey" (and its less impressive but still amazing follow-up "Death On the Installment Plan").
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Format: Paperback
I do not see Ralph Manheim's new translation of Celine's ''Journey to the End of the Night'' (New Directions) as an improvement over John H.P. Marks's fine 1934 version, I see it as more of a refinement of the times, read both of them if you can. It is good to see Celine being brought back to the public's attention. For all his paranoia and the questions raised by the anti-Semitic pamphlets he wrote at the time of World War II, Celine remains one of the great European novelists of the century, the only logical successor, one might say, to Dostoyevsky. This is a powerful book not for the weak at heart, it is damaging to all your senses and engulfs you in a wonderful passion for true, great literature.
In 1932, with ''Journey to the End of the Night,'' Celine snatched French fiction from the manicured hands of Gide and Proust and gave it an elementary gusto, a savage bite it had hardly known since Rabelais. Four years later, with ''Death on the Installment Plan,'' he had already snarled and elbowed his way into the pantheon.
''Journey'' is a picaresque novel whose protagonist fights in World War I, works in Africa, travels to the United States and returns to Paris to become a doctor. An impoverished doctor in a Paris slum like his antihero Ferdinand, Celine clearly announced his position when he wrote this fantastic book, he was "against all". While Cervantes, the other great picaresque novelist, mourned the death of chivalry, Celine's subject was the death of civility. As a slum doctor, he had heard every kind of cry of pain, anger and dispair; you can find them all in his novels, mixed with his own archetypally French humor and transmogrified by a style of exalted disgust.
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