Journey to the End of the Night

Journey to the End of the Night

Have you ever enjoyed a book while being thoroughly disgusted by the protagonist? Would you like to?

One of my all time favorite books, ever, is Journey to the End of the Night by French author Celine. This is the author who inspired Bukowski, one of the few authors for whom Bukowski had any respect. If you’ve never read Charles Bukowski, search the internet for just one short story or poem NOW. Later you can read his masterpiece Ham on Rye. Basically Bukowski made a career out of what Celine accomplished in just one book.

Journey to the End of the Night was also a big influence on Jim Morrison, and the Doors recorded a song with the same title.

Celine wrote what could best be called nihilistic, confessional fiction. He had his own style that used ellipses extensively. It’s a stream of consciousness narrative written by a doctor that really just doesn’t care about anything, especially not his patients. He writes about them as if they were pieces of meat, and he were a butcher.

The character drifts though life abusing those close to him, hating everything, but not summoning up enough emotion to be passionate about it. And somehow Celine pulls it off and creates an entertaining masterpiece.

Celine was something of a scoundrel in real life too. He was a Nazi sympathizer during World War 2, while living in occupied Paris! However there’s no doubt that the man was a master stylist.

Journey to the End of the Night gets all the fame, but his follow-up may be even better. Called Death on the Installment Plan (one of the best titles ever?), it is a prequel, following the quite disturbing childhood of the same protagonist. I highly recommend them both.