French literature

Louis-Ferdinand Céline was lucky to escape retribution in 1945

They rather like bad boys, the French. Louis-Ferdinand Céline (1894-1961) is one, in a tradition that stretches from François Villon to the dyspeptic Michel Houellebecq. But provocation doesn’t always get you where you want to be, as the careers of Richard Millet and Marc-Édouard Nabe demonstrate. Journey to the End of the Night, Céline’s first novel, was a huge success when it was published in 1932 and made him a darling of the left, with applause from Trotsky and Jean-Paul Sartre. That didn’t last long. His virulently anti-Semitic pamphlets (so extreme that André Gide thought he was joking) and his arguments for accommodating Hitler resulted in him going on the