Publication of a long-lost book about London by a French author who supports the Nazis

Céline’s manuscripts reappeared in 2021, 78 years after their disappearance

Nicolas BOVE

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The second installment of long-lost manuscripts by famed French author – and notorious Nazi supporter – Louis-Ferdinand Céline was released on Thursday, based on his time in London.

For decades, Celine’s manuscripts were thought to have been destroyed by Resistance fighters after the author fled his Paris apartment in June 1944.

But at some point in the 2000s, the papers ended up with a retired journalist, who passed them on – completely out of the blue – to Celine’s heirs last summer.

A first episode was released in May – the short novel “War” (War) – based on his battlefield injury in Belgium during World War I and his recovery.

The new novel, “Londres” (London), follows him to England where he has become a fixture among the drunks, tramps and prostitutes of Soho.

France is still struggling with Celine’s legacy.

The anti-war message and slang style of his novels are still considered progressive and revolutionary.

They seem completely detached from the virulent anti-Semitism that emerged in a series of propaganda tracts he wrote after 1936, or from the man who dined regularly with the head of the Gestapo during the Nazi occupation of Paris.

Critics raved about “War” when it was released in May, and it was a huge hit for publisher Gallimard, selling 163,000 copies.

Many were outraged, however, that Gallimard barely mentioned Celine’s politics in its introduction and marketing.

The issue was harder to ignore this time, since “London” includes Jewish characters – but again, there are few signs of anti-Semitism in the way Celine portrays them.

“The novel does not lend itself to oversimplification,” scholar Regis Tettamanzi, who helped assemble it from the manuscripts, told AFP.

It is not yet clear whether English translations of the books are in the works.

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