Louis-Ferdinand Céline Removed from Honor Roll
Sarcasm, gloating and contempt for French Minister of Culture Frédéric Mitterand have characterized the output from several websites these past few days, after it was announced that the name of Louis-Ferdinand Céline (1894-1961) had been removed from the list of five hundred national commemorations for the year 2011. Sarcasm towards the government officials for thinking they had to punish Céline for his anti-Semitism by removing his name, all in the name of anti-racism and atonement for the sins of France. Gloating, because everyone knows that more books by Céline will be sold than ever before, thanks to this latest act of official censorship. Gloating, too, because everyone knows that were he alive Céline would be tickled pink to be censored by the Minister of Culture. And contempt for Frédéric Mitterand for yielding to pressure from Serge Klarsfeld. (I should add that some are relieved over the decision because they feel Céline was not worthy of France.)
Here is the English-language article from Haaretz:
One of France's best-known 20th century novelists has been removed from the list of national commemorations for 2011, French culture minister Frederic Mitterand announced over the weekend.
Mitterand decided not to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the death of Louis-Ferdinand Celine, author of Journey to the End of Night, Mea Culpa, Guigol's Band and other works, following protests by Jewish community groups over his well-known anti-Semitism.
"Celine's talent must not allow us to forget the man who called for the killing of Jews during the occupation," said Serge Klarsfeld, president of the FFDJF, an association of descendents of Jews deported from France during World War II.
Klarsfeld called Mitterand's decision "courageous."
The list of commemorations this year includes the establishment of the national center for space exploration, the first issue of the graphic novel Asterix and the birthday of the French composer Franz Lizst.
Note: That must be an error. Franz Lizst was Hungarian. If he is on the list it might be because of his influence on European music, but Haaretz has still committed a glaring error in calling him "French".
Richard Prasquier, the president of KRIF, France's umbrella organization of Jewish community groups, said he welcomed Mitterand's decision.
"It is not logical that Celine serve as an example for a medal of honor," he said. "When the text is despicable, so is the writer."
Celine, who died in 1961, is considered the second most widely read author in France after Marcel Proust.
Journey to the End of the Night, which brought Celine into the literary limelight in the 1930s, is still considered one of the most significant books written about World War I.
With the rise of the Nazis, Celine published a number of anti-Semitic tropes, one of which, Trifles for Massacre sold some 500,000 copies.
"We will finish off the Jews or we will die because of the Jews," he wrote, claiming that "the Jews and only the Jews are pushing us to arms."
Not everyone welcomed Mitterand's decision to ban Celine from this year's honors. A number of academics called on Mitterand not to mix "Celine the literary genius" with "Celine the anti-Semitic bastard."
Sorbonne Prof. Henri Godard, one of France's leading experts on Celine, said the author should not be ignored, being one of France's most widely read novelists and one of the world's most widely translated writers.
Debate over separating the man from his work was also sparked in Israel when Journey to the End of the Night was translated into Hebrew in 1994 by Ilana Hammerman.
The publisher, Am Oved, was roundly criticized, including by then-Education Minister Amnon Rubinstein.
Celine fled France immediately after the Allied landing in Normandy. He was deported to Denmark but in 1951 he was allowed to return to France after receiving a pardon because he was wounded in World War I. Celine mourned the loss of his reputation until his dying day, although he never expressed remorse for his anti-Semitic writings.
Catholic writer Bernard Antony, while not overjoyed at the removal of Céline's name, feels there are others, far worse, whose names should have been given unquestioned priority:
Monsieur Serge Klarsfeld obtained from Minister of Culture Frédéric Mitterand the removal from the list of national celebrations the name of Louis-Ferdinand Céline, even though he was a great writer.
But is it possible then for us to tolerate streets and high-schools and middle-schools bearing the name of Louis Aragon?
Aragon was at times a sensitive poet and talented novelist. But he was for his entire life an atrocious lauder of all the Communist abominations and exterminations. A veritable Stalinist thug, honored for his servility, he was not just the eulogist of the gigantic assassin of the Kremlin, but he shouted it to the skies, and he exaggerated in the most vomitive manner imaginable.
While at the Lubyanka, headquarters of the Cheka (secret police) and its successive names - NKVD, G.P.U. (Guépéou), then the KGB, they tortured, "liquidated" hundreds of thousands of victims (the official Russian figure is five million assassinated), Aragon was writing: "I call on the terror from the depths of my lungs" (La Revolution Surréaliste, 1925).
Note: The word "Guépéou" is based on the letters G.P.U. I could not find an English equivalent. In English G.P.U. is left as is.
This Bolshevik thug confirmed this bloody aspiration: "The burst of rifle fire adds to the countryside a gaiety never before seen: it is engineers and doctors that they are executing." (Front Rouge - 1930)
While millions of Russians, Balts and Ukrainians would die in the Gulag, in famines and in en masse exterminations, this darling of our media, who denounced and condemned his former surrealist friends whom Stalin didn't like, didn't hesitate, O gentle poet, to reveal himself: "I sing of the Guépéou that is forming in France right now. I sing of the Guépéou necessary for France." The G.P.U. was necessary also for Nazi Germany! For at the moment of the honeymoon between Stalin and his comrade Hitler, the latter, on the invitation of the former, sent Gestapo leaders to be trained by the G.P.U.
Need I add that, satisfied with the exterminations of the "kulaks" and the peoples cursed by Stalin, Louis Aragon, 1957 winner of the Lenin prize for literature, did not bat an eye at the news of the elimination of Jewish doctors in the imaginary "doctors' plot" that started a great wave of anti-Semitic extermination interrupted only by the death of Stalin, called back by the Devil.
Note: Read about the Doctors' Plot here.
But while Céline was for a longtime a reprobate and an "auteur maudit", Aragon was wallowing in the luxury of palaces and honors.
With the total lack of shame characteristic of him, François Mitterand decorated Aragon with the Legion of Honor on November 19, 1981.
Considering that Louis Aragon used his talent for half a century in the service of Communism's crimes against humanity, we can at the very least hope that Frédéric Mitterand and the entire government ban Louis Aragon from the honors of street names and public buildings, and that no denials of his abject character create an obstacle to the necessary revision of the way in which he is described in school manuals.
Read more about Céline at Wikipedia.
Photo at the top from Le Monde blogs.