Mòrt à credit e` scritto in uno
stile esagitato e comico.
Ferdinand, medico con ambizioni letterarie, vive un’esistenza mediocre con la
vecchia Vitruve, madre d’una sua antica amante, e sua nipote Mireille, solo
sedicenne ma non voluttuosa, dalle quali si sente abusato. Durante una febbre
delira, ed inizia a raccontare la sua vita.
Figlio di piccoli borghesi, un padre, Auguste, manesco e tuttofare, ed una madre
bottegaia, Ferdinand dà loro una delusione dietro l’altra, perdendo un
posto di lavoro dietro l’altro; dai Gorloge sta per avere successo, ma il
padrone, arruolato, affida a lui un prezioso gioiello e la padrona, baldracca,
glielo ruba fingendo di lasciarsi sedurre, così lui viene accusato di
furto. Allora la famiglia lo manda in un collegio inglese, che però
fallisce per la concorrenza d’una scuola più moderna; uno ad uno gli
studenti lasciano l’insegnante, il vecchio Merrywin, e la sua giovane moglie,
Nora, prima si getta, in un momento di disperazione, fra le braccia di Ferdinand
(che l’aveva sempre desiderata), e poi va a suicidarsi nel fiume.
Ferdinand torna dai suoi genitori, che gli addebitano tutte le loro disgrazie;
lui dà loro ragione da vendere, non riesce a trovare lavoro, gozzoviglia
fino a tardi. Un giorno si scontra con il padre e quasi l’uccide, rischiando il
linciaggio dei vicini. Lo zio Edouard lo porta via e gli presenta l’inventore e
tipografo Courtial des Pereires; diventa suo assistente sia al giornale sia ai
suoi strampalati tentativi di fare fortuna (per esempio con una mongolfiera),
che mandano su tutte le furie sua moglie Irene.
Un prete eccentrico dà loro l’idea d’organizzare un concorso per il
recupero di tesori sottomarini: l’idea ha successo, ma non appena l’impresa
rivela i suoi limiti, inventore ed assistente sono inseguiti dai creditori e
devono fuggire in un altro Paese. Lì Courtial sperimenta la
radiotellurgia per l’agricoltura, servendosi d’una dozzina d’aiutanti
ragazzini; ma, al cospetto del fallimento, questi ultimi si mettono a rubare
verdura e polli ai vicini. Già malvisto dai contadini, Courtial è
nel mirino della polizia; come se non bastasse, Irene scopre che la
radiotellurgia ha come effetto di far proliferare un tipo particolare di verme
che distrugge le colture di patate: alla fine Courtial s’uccide, lasciando la
moglie sul lastrico.
Tornato a Parigi, Ferdinand non osa chiedere, per la vergogna, ospitalità
ai suoi e peferisce riparare dallo zio, meditando di partire per un viaggio.
Céline usa un linguaggio turpe e sconnesso, pieno di parolacce ed
imperfezioni, un linguaggio proletario. I suoi personaggi sono meschini e
volgari, guidati dal materialismo del quotidiano; la loro esistenza si trascina
grama e violenta. Nell’assenza di qualunque sentimento, i rapporti sono
improntati all’astio ed al disprezzo, tutt’al più all’insofferenza; in
particolare, Ferdinand è paralizzato dall’impulso erotico, dal bisogno di
conquistare la donna, e dal fastidio d’esserne ricattato.
(Translation by/ Tradotto da xxx) |
If you would like to translate the Italian text into English, contact me
"Voyage a Bout de la Nuit/ Journey to the End of the Night" (1932) is a
satirical fictional biography of the ultimate anti-hero, a young man who
grows up during World War I and simply tries to avoid being killed.
The book describes his comic adventures like in the old picaresque novels
except that Ferdinand lives in the age of world wars, colonialism,
capitalism and the welfare state, all of which he mocks unceremoniously.
The book becomes a frank study of the human nature, which is in general
not pretty at all.
What holds the philosophical meditations, the satire and the narration together
is the style: Celine's writing is simply spectacular.
The weakest point of the novel is that there is no ending: Celine stimply
stopped the protagonist's adventures when he got tired of narrating them, but
it could have gone on forever. There is no real "closure". The final scene
is not particularly inspiring nor revealing.
Ferdinand Bardamu, a self-professed anarchist, is chatting with his friend
Arthur and suddenly decides to enlist in World War I. Before he knows it,
he is marching through the streets of countless towns. The war is senseless:
he doesn't understand why the Germans are shooting at the French. After all,
they were neighbors. Nonetheless, he is plunged into the demented cruelty of
warfare, with soldiers dying next to him and officers (sometimes sadistic ones,
sometimes indifferent ones) living the nice life
while sending the young ones to die at the front. None of the soldiers wants
to fight, but they have to. They are aware of being "condemned to a deferred
death". His captain sends him to find out where the Germans are and he finds
villagers who sell him wine for the highest price, a mayor who clearly does
not want French troops around for fear of German reprisals, and a fellow soldier
who would love to surrender and be taken prisoner, Leon.
Wounded, Ferdinand ends up in a military hospital with a medal. There he meets
Lola, a female soldier from the USA who becomes his lover, a girl obsessed with
diet. That's when he starts dreaming of moving to America. One day he goes
mad, mad with fear of the war, and is interned in a mental asylum, where
the concierge sells sex to the patients and where Ferdinand meets the
teacher Princhard, accused of theft, but soon forgiven of his crime so that
he can return to the front. Lola forgets him, seduced by the aviators.
Allowed to wonder around Paris, the patients attend
the salon of the promiscuous Madame Herote, who gets rich selling her body to
the Allies. Ferdinand falls in love with her protege Musyne, but she is soon
monopolised by the Argentine soldiers.
Ferdinand realizes ever more clearly that his missions in life is to save is
skin and to find a way to emigrate to America. He realizes that Lola and Musyne
are the real winners, because the war has created a huge demand for
Sent to a new hospital, he has to compete with Branledore, a big mouth who
boasts of heroic feats, while their doctor boasts that the war has been a
godsend for the psychiatric profession. A beautiful actress likes Ferdinand
and asks a poet to write a tragedy about Ferdinand's heroism, but
Branledore manages to steal the show at the premiere. And the actress ends up
sleeping with the poet instead of Ferdinand. Ferdinand has now lost three women,
one after the other: one to the aviators, one to the Argentines and one to a
The army releases Ferdinand and he jumps into a ship bound for Africa. His
mysterious behavior becomes the object of gossip especially by the ladies
on board. He saves himself by giving a comically patriotic speech.
Once they arrive at the French colony of Fort-Gono, Ferdinand applies for a
job to run a store in the jungle. During his stay in Fort-Gono he witnesses
how the whites use black slaves and is repulsed by life there. The only decent
places are the hospital and a restaurant whose female owner he befriends.
Next he travels to Topo, where a small group of soldiers is being trained
by a sergeant, Alcide, who also trades illegally with the natives,
while a lieutenant, Grappa, administers the justice with unorthodox means.
Ferdinand assumes that Alcide is a corrupt scoundrel until Alcide confesses
that he is taking care of his niece Ginette, who lost both parents and is
paralyzed, back in France. Ferdinand travels by canoe to the trading post
in the jungle, where he meets Robinson, a crazy man who routinely steals
from the natives and is robbed at night by them. One night Robinson disappears
with the entire stock of the trading post. Ferdinand fears that he will be
accused of stealing the goods. He also falls very sick, during which time the
natives proceed to steal whatever items are left. The rainy season comes and
floods the village. Ferdinand, exhausted, sets fire to the shack and, afraid
of returning to the fort, sets out for the same jungle into which Robinson
disappeared. He is still sick with malaria and the priest who takes care of
him in the first village readily sells him to a ship captain. That turns out
to be a lucky turn of events because Ferdinand finds himself on a ship bound
for the USA. He finally arrives in New York and merges with the millions of
poor people of the megalopolis. Reduced to extreme poverty and still stricken
with African fevers, he looks for and finds Lola, now relatively wealthy,
but absolutely indifferent to his problems. Her black servant, a former
activist who openly
collects bombs, tells Ferdinand that Lola owns cars and even a yacht.
Lola is only interested in adopting a child and in her mother's cancer.
The doctors told her that the cancer is curable but Ferdinand is adamant
that the cancer is incurable and that the doctors are simply trying to get
as much money as possible out of her. Lola, furious, gives him money to stay
away from her.
Ferdinand travels to Detroit where it is supposedly easier to find jobs.
The brutal work of the assembly line quickly ruins his mental health.
He finds solace only in the local brothel and eventually falls in love with
one of the prostitutes, Molly, who even starts dreaming about marriage.
She even supports him when he stops working. Even knowing that she's the
best thing that happened to him, Ferdinand chooses freedom and, after
running into Robinson, who is wanted by the authorities for immigrating
illegally, decides to return to France, regretting from that day on that
he lost track of the loving Molly.
Once in France, Ferdinand completes his studies in Medicine and starts his
own practice. He has few patients and even fewer who actually pay.
His main worry is a boy, Bebert, an orphan who lives with his aunt,
a child who has contracted typhoid and is likely to die.
He also meets the Henrouilles, who have saved money all their lives to finish
paying their house and now are worried that their son will get into debt and
are trying to send granma to a convent, so they keep her pension (which they
already do) and not spend a penny for her. They basically bribe Ferdinand
to declare the old woman crazy but the old woman kicks him out of the house
before he can be bribed.
He also meets a young woman, still single, who has had three abortions,
whose parents, ashamed, keep moving from one place to another.
He can hear a girl being tortured by her parents in an apartment nearby,
but they behave like a respectable family when they walk in the street.
Another single young woman already has a two-year child and she reacts
hysterically to Ferdinand's rude manners, something that adds to Ferdinand's
dubious reputation in the neighborhood. His reputation now depends on
saving Bebert's life, and for that Ferdinand travels to meet an expert in
the field, Parapine, but the old professor simply rambles on and on without
providing any help, and ultimately is more interested in spying on the little
girls of the nearby high school than in saving Bebert's life. And so Bebert dies.
Surprisingly, granma Henrouille gets out of her apartment and socializes with
Robinson resurfaces. He now has an honest job but a job that is destroying his
health: his lungs are in terrible conditions. Ferdinand is annoyed by his
presence. Not only does Robinson, a failed man, remind Ferdinand
of his own failed life, but Robinson is also desperate to get out of his job.
Eventually, Ferdinand discovers that Robinson has made a deal with the
Henrouille to provoke the death of granma Henrouille. Ferdinand is not
particularly outraged, since granma is very old. Ferdinand is busy bandaging
the barmaid Severine while Robinson reveals his dream of rescuing his own life
with the huge sum of money he will receive from the Henrouilles.
However, the scheme fails badly: granma understands what is going on, and
Robinson makes a mistake that costs him his eyes. Now the Henrouilles have
to keep him in their house, Ferdinand is called to care for the eyes of the
failed murderer, granma is more hysterical than ever. Ferdinand realizes that
he's actually happy with this weird situation. Meanwhile he is assigned a
dispensary for poor people afflicted with turberculosis, people who survive
on microscopic government pensions. One day the Henrouilles finally come up
with a new plan to get rid of both granma and Robinson: they pay a priest,
bribe Ferdinand so that all together they can convince both granma and the
blind Robinson to move to a convent in the south of the country.
Ferdinand gladly accepts the deal but, not trusting the couple and even less
the priest (a priest had sold him into slavery in Africa after all), he
asks to be paid upfront.
After this Ferdinand decides to leave the town. He is six months behind in
rent and sneaks out of his building without saying goodbye to anybody.
He meets Parapine at a cafe: the old pervert has been fired from his laboratory
and has been beaten by the principal of the high school for spying on the
little girls. He is now working on some applications of Freudian theory
to the subconscious.
Ferdinand moves to a hotel mostly patronized by students. The students
introduce him to Pomone, a shady character who provides erotic encounters to
both sexes but suffers from the odd disease of wanting to touch his genitals
all the time. Ferdinand becomes friend with a Polish girl, who has a
long-distance relationship with a middle-aged bank clerk based in Germany.
One day she is informed that the man died. Ferdinand does not waste time
to make love to her, but then he wants to get rid of her as soon as possible.
Ferdinand visits the Henrouilles and finds out that the man is terminally
sick and in fact he dies soon afterwards. His wife's main regret is that she
didn't get his expensive dental plate. Protiste brings good news about
Robinson and granma Henrouille: they are making money in the south with
a tourist attraction (some century-old mummies) and Robinson is to be
married to a young girl. Protiste offers Ferdinand the money to visit the
pair and Ferdinand sees it as an opportunity to run away from the Polish
girl, Tania. Robinson's fiance Madelon gives him a tour of the crypt where
the mummies are kept. Granma is more energetic than ever, having taken control
of the business and enjoying doing the tour for the paying tourists. She doesn't
seem too sorry that her son died.
Robinson's eyes improve, but he still cannot see Madelon. He doesn't want to
have sex with her until wedding day. She, instead, is not faithful
to him, and Ferdinand himself takes advantage. Before leaving, Ferdinand
educates the discreetly promiscuous Madelon about venereal diseases.
Just when he is heading for the train station he is informed that granma
Henrouille has fallen down the treacherous steps of the cellar where the
mummies are kept. Ferdinand doesn't want to know what happened and how hurt
she is: he simply gets on the first train.
Back home Ferdinand is in desperate need of a job and Parapine offers him one
in the clinic where he works. The clinic for madmen and idiots is run by the
verbose Baryton. Ferdinand enjoys the lodging and the availability of the nurses
to sleep with the staff. Baryton is obsessed with a coming apocalypse of sorts
and Parapine is so nauseated that he decides to stop talking to the boss.
Ferdinand then becomes Baryton's favorite, and soon appointed personal
assistant. Baryton even hires Ferdinand to teach English to his daughter Aimee.
The girl has no desire to learn but Baryton does: soon Ferdinand is teaching
Baryton, not Aimee, and Baryton forgets everything else and becomes obsessed
with the Anglosaxon civilization. Eventually he decides to resign and travel
to England, leaving Ferdinand in charge of the hospital, the first lucky
event in a long time.
But luck doesn't last long. First Protiste shows up
to tell him what Ferdinand already suspected, namely that granma was pushed
down the stairs by Robinson, who inherited the lucrative business (the
neighbors did not suspect him because he was known to be blind and the woman
was very old), and Ferdinand dislikes and distrusts the priest even more
than the murderer. Then Robinson himself shows up. His eyes are almost
completely healed, but now that he can see he has no intention of marrying
Madelon whereas the girl and her mother expected it (and the financial benefits
that would come from marrying the man who inherited the mummy crypt) especially
since they supporter Robinson when he was poor and blind (granma was keeping
most profits for herself). Now that
he ran away the girl could retaliate by sending him to jail for the murder.
Robinson begs Ferdinand to give him shelter and a job, and Ferdinand has no
choice. Robinson starts playing music for the idiots of the clinic.
However, Ferdinand sees Madelon spying on the clinic: she tracked him down.
At the same time Ferdinand is getting tired of his life.
They become friends with the neighborhood cop, Gustave, a man who likes to
play cards and drink alcohol. Madelon reappears, determined to get back her
Robinson. Eventually she wins him over. Meanwhile, Ferdinand hires a new
nurse, Sophie, from Slovakia, and becomes her official lover, although aware
that she also sleeps with another man. Ferdinand and Robinson takes the ladies
to a carnival. Robinson and Madelon get into a heated argument. First she
threatens to tell the police how granma fell down the stairs, then she pulls
out a revolver and shoots him. Ferdinand and Sophie take the dying man to
the clinic but there is nothing to do. Gustave and Parapine take the dead body
Life goes on. Ferdinand, Parapine and Gustave go to a bar. Gustave gets drunk
and wants to do the Fire Dance, but falls asleep before he can.
(Translation by/ Tradotto da xxx) |
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