When we arrived in Santiago the other afternoon we had an hour to wait before our apartment was ready. We walked down the street, had a cold drink and then walked around a few small market stalls that were set up nearby. There were several tables of second hand paperback books and of course that is always a red flag to my then very exhausted jet lagged brain.
I glanced down at a small row of books and saw the Penguin logo and just below it the number: 2441. A quick flick to the inside pages told me it was indeed a first published and No, I do not have this one in my collection so less than a cat's whisker flick it became mine. It is funny how fast one can figure out currency conversion when needed.
Journey to the End of the Night by Louis-Ferdinand Celine, originally published by Penguin as a Penguin Modern Classic, translated from the French by John H.P. Marks.
It is quite serendipitous that this was the first book, much less a Penguin that I would find on the first day of an extended trip. When I opened it to the first page I noticed on the left page there is a short prologue.
"Travel is a good thing; it stimulates the imagination. Everything else is a snare and a delusion. Our own journey is entirely imaginative. Therein lies the strength.
It leads from life to death. Men, beasts, cities, everything in it is imaginary. It's a novel, only a made up story. The dictionary says so and it's never wrong.
Besides, everyone can go and do likewise. Shut your eyes, that's all that is necessary. There you have life seen from the other side."
"Notre vie est un voyage
Dans l'Hiver et dans la Nuit,
Nous cherchons notre passage
Dans le Ciel ou rien ne luit."
(Chanson des Gardes Suisses 1793)
I think the cover of this book makes a potential reader want to dive into it as a train station at night always appears so mysterious. It opens the imagination as to where people are going, where are they coming from and I question what their individual stories may be.
I think this little book might contain a most interesting tale.
From the back cover- About the cover.".Louis-Ferdinand Celine was one of the major European writers of the 1930's. Only the fact that he collaborated with the Vichy government in France during the Second World War, and his consequent public denigration by free French governments have made him a post-war "forgotten man."
His works are epics of adamant pessimism, of the belief- common to writers living in the between-the-wars shadow- that man is fundamentally ignoble.
The story itself is advertised as: "the first of two autobiographical novels. It is the story of Ferdinand Bardamu, and his search for personal fulfilment in war, the lower depths of Paris, through African jungles, and finally in the slums of the USA and the factories of Detroit. It is a violent, exciting odyssey, told with distinctive vividness and sensitivity."
Has anyone read this book? or know anything more about this author?