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hux

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Posts posted by hux

  1. This was one of the most glorious things I've ever read. In fact, I think this might now be my all-time favourite book. It's just magnificent.

     

    The book is another Roman à clef (they tend to be the books I most enjoy). This is Celine's early life in fictionalised form.

     

    It begins in World War I with Bardamu (Celine's alter ego) and explores the trauma and futility of the war. Then Bardamu goes to Africa which results in more suffering. Then he goes to New York and works at the Ford company and meets a prostitute called Molly. Then the book jumps ahead six years to when Bardamu has become a qualified doctor. He begins working in a working-class suburb of Paris and deals with horrific things such as botched abortions, miscarriages and the death of a local child. This is where Leon Robinson, someone he first met in the war and bumped into again in Africa and New York, becomes a regular character in his life. 

     

    The book is often described as a celebration nihilism. Celine has very little respect for humanity. To him, it's suffering, crime, greed, and pain. He witnesses awful things but responds to them as though they're the utter embodiment of normalcy (the book is actually quite funny because of this). Even when Robinson plots to murder an old woman, Bardamu doesn't care, he simply thinks... 'it's nothing to do with me.'

     

    There's an underlying message about the trauma caused to both him and Robinson due to the war. They have both been numbed to the point that they are no longer human.

     

    The prose is some of the most exquisite I've ever come across. Which is interesting because it was made famous for its more authentic, real-life writing. 

     

    There's a chapter where he's on the boat to Africa which is amazing. It encapsulates humanities distrust of other people and their tendency to hate. Bardamu doesn't speak much or get involved so everyone on the ship turns against him and you genuinely feel the sense of threat, that they might actually kill him for daring to be different. 

     

    Celine, of course, was a noted antisemite in real life. That might be an issue for some. Personally speaking, the fact that Celine is a fairly awful person himself only makes the book resonate more. I have a tendency to separate the artist form the art. And thank God because this book is a masterpiece.

     

  2. This was wonderful. 

     

    Really hard to believe this was published in 1881. It really does feel like it could have been written today (in terms of tone and humour). I guess because so many of us associate 19th century literature with the British and Russian greats. Their bombastic and proper style kind of sets a tone for what you begin to expect of literature from that era but the Brazilian style presumably kicks against that without being very familiar to us. Books like this were so hard to find in the pre-internet days. They've found a new audience now.

     

    The story is told by a Bras Cubas after he dies. He begins by describing his funeral before telling us his life story. It's not an especially epic story. He just lives, loves, works, and often fails. There's not much more to him. Because that's what life is for most of us. It's more the humour and darkness of the book that make his story interesting. He rejects his marriage match then, once she marries someone else, begins an affair with her. But that's about as interesting as his life gets. Then, as promised, he dies. He takes comfort in having no children, specifically in the idea of not forcing the misery of life onto another. 

     

    The chapters are very short, some only a paragraph long. Some chapters are blank. Some are merely an opportunity to speak directly to the reader (or to the critic as he does in one short chapter). I was always of the opinion that people like Joyce invented the modern novel, but again, it seems clear that isn't the case. This book certainly qualifies.

     

    Superb. 

  3. Once you get past all the pervy stuff, it really does have some beautiful prose.

     

    Quote

    I stretched out in the grass, my skull on a large, flat rock and my eyes staring straight up at the Milky Way, that strange breach of astral sperm and heavenly urine across the cranial vault formed by the ring of constellations: that open crack at the summit of the sky, apparently made of ammoniacal vapours shining in the immensity (in empty space, where they burst forth absurdly like a rooster's crow in total silence), a broken egg, a broken eye, or my own dazzled skull weighing down the rock, bouncing symmetrical images back to infinity.

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