EppsNet Archive: Louis-Ferdinand Celine

EppsNet Book Reviews: Death on the Installment Plan by Louis-Ferdinand Céline

7 Jan 2018 /

Death on the Installment Plan is a fictionalized coming-of-age story based on Céline’s youth in pre-World War I France.

Absent are heroism, transcendence, love and the possibility of love. Instead, there is a lot of human action that comes to nothing. Death is not ennobling.

That said, hopelessness has never been described with more wit, energy and imagination or more droll, breathtaking language.

Here’s a sample of the black comedy, as the narrator remembers a local physician (all ellipses in the original):

“The most exquisite deaths, remember that, Ferdinand, are those that attack us in our most sensitive tissues . . .” He had a precious, elaborate, subtle way of talking, like the men of Charcot’s day. His prospecting of the Rolandic, the third ventricle, and the gray nucleus didn’t do him much good . . . in the end he died of a heart attack, under circumstances that were anything but cozy. An attack of angina pectoris that lasted twenty minutes. He held out for a hundred and twenty seconds with his classical memories, his resolutions, the example of Caesar . . . But for eighteen minutes he screamed like a stuck pig . . . his diaphragm was being ripped out, his living guts . . . a thousand open razors had been plunged into his aorta . . . He tried to vomit them out at us . . . I’m not exaggerating. He crawled out into the living room . . . He damn near hammered his chest in . . . He bellowed into the carpet . . . in spite of the morphine . . . You could hear him all over the house and out in the street . . . He ended up under the piano. When the cardiac arterioles burst one by one, it’s quite a harp . . . it’s too bad nobody ever comes back from angina pectoris. There’d be wisdom and genius to spare.

Rating: 5 stars

2017: The Year in Books

2 Jan 2018 /

These are the books I read in 2017, roughly in the order listed. Not as many as I wuld have liked but I spent the first half of the year having a mental and physical breakdown. I’m back on track now.

The ratings are mine. They don’t represent a consensus of opinion.

Books of the Year: Death on the Installment Plan by Louis-Ferdinand Céline (fiction) and From Bauhaus to Our House by Tom Wolfe (non-fiction).

“Hiring the Best” Explained

19 Aug 2002 /

An employer is always somewhat reassured by the ignominiousness of his staff. At all costs the slave should be slightly, even much, to be despised. A mass of chronic blemishes, moral and physical, are a justification of the fate which is overwhelming him. The world gets along better that way, because then each man stands in it in the place he deserves.

A being who is useful to you should be low, flat, prone to weakness; that is what’s comforting; especially as Baryton paid us really very badly. In cases of acute avarice like this, employers are always a bit suspicious and uneasy. A failure, a debauchee, a black sheep, a devoted black sheep, all that made sense, justified things, fitted in, in fact. Baryton would have been on the whole rather pleased if I had been slightly wanted by the police. That always makes for real devotion.

— Louis-Ferdinand Céline, Journey to the End of the Night

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