In 1954 Louis-Ferdinand Céline was still a pariah in France: a collaborator during the Occupation (it had ended only a decade earlier), a notorious anti-semite (his bloodthirsty 'pamphlets' dated from as recently as 1941), and in the view of many Frenchmen, the undeserving beneficiary of a 1951 amnesty that allowed him to return to France from Denmark, where he had taken refuge - and served over a year in prison - after the war. But for Céline there was something far worse than being hated, and that was being forgotten. He was certain he was the only living writer of any value, but the public and the critics - wasting their time reading Sartre - were ignor-ant of this essential truth, and perhaps even unaware that Céline was still writing novels. His publisher, Gaston Gallimard, warned him that his new novel, the second volume of Féerie pour une autre fois, risked selling as few copies as the first, which had been disparaged by some and ignored by others on its publication two years earlier. They would therefore need to release the book under a new title, rather than calling it Féerie II. It was published that June as Normance.
LRB 25 March 2010 | PDF Download