Tuesday, January 9, 2018


Several news articles have reported that the French publishing house Gallimard insists it will publish, after much public outcry,  a 1,000-page collection of 1930s pamphlets by the writer Céline. These pamphlets called for the extermination of Jews. So far, the publication date is unknown but Gallimard has insisted its intention is to frame the texts “and put them back in their context as writings of a great violence, marked by the antisemitic hatred of the author”. But Serge Klarsfeld, the celebrated French lawyer and Nazi-hunter who was hidden from Nazis in Nice as a child during the occupation, has demanded the publication be stopped. Klarsfeld has threatened legal action if Gallimard goes forward. Céline continues to be hailed as one of France’s most brilliant writers for his 1932 novel Journey to the End of the Night, regarded as one of the greatest French works of the 20th century.
But Céline, a doctor, who for much of his life worked in public health, treated the poor while he was writing fascist tracts. I've often wondered if anyone has explored the dichotomy he presents.  His reputation was tarnished by his rabid, antisemitic, pro-Hitler wartime pamphlets aiding the French collaborationist Vichy government. Céline fled France at the time of the Normandy landings in 1944 to Denmark. In his absence he was sentenced for collaboration, later spared prison and later able to return France with his wife.
When Gallimard was reported to be about to publish the collection of Céline’s anti-semitic writings this spring, the government stepped in. The prime minister’s delegation in charge of fighting racism, anti-semitism and anti-LGBT hatred last month made the rare move of summoning the publisher. It urged it to include, in any new edition of three anti-semitic texts written between 1937 and 1941, notes giving the full context drawn up by specialists, including historians. Then Klarsfeld, who founded the group Sons and Daughters of Jewish Deportees from France, stepped in to demand publication be stopped. Klarsfeld who previously called Céline the most antisemitic Frenchman of his day, said his pamphlets had “influenced a whole generation of collaborationists that sent French Jews to their deaths”. 

From both articles in the Guardian and Washington Post article background is given for publication: The pamphlets have been out of print since 1945 and Céline, who died in 1961, had said he didn’t want them re-issued. Since the end of World War II, those infamous works have been unavailable in France, save for dark corners of the Internet. In the spring of 2018, they are to be rereleased for the first time, following the authorization of Céline’s widow, Lucette Destouches, still alive at 105. For decades, she has forbidden their publication, but recently — for reasons no one quite knows — she changed her mind.
I ask why?
Cara - Tuesday


  1. Interesting, Cara. I think people of 105 can sometimes be persuaded to do things they might not have been willing to do ten years before. It seems like bad taste on the part of the publisher at best.

  2. My instincts in such cases is to follow the money, so I agree with Michael—the publisher did it...or abetted.

  3. Agree with you both - there's no real artistic or historical reason to this - but Euros!

  4. Just checked - the Agence France Presse reported Gallimard scrapped pub plans after huge public outcry!

  5. Public outcry caused publication plans to be scrapped! That's the way it should have been done.
    Power to the people!!!