lunedì 28 gennaio 2008

Mea Culpa (English Text)

Mea Culpa

by L.-F. Céline

Translated from the French by Simon Green

"I'm still short of a few hatreds.
But I'm certain they exist."

What is so seductive about Communism, in fact its major advantage, is that at last it'll unmask Man! Strip him bare of his "excuses." For centuries he's been leading us down the garden path, going on about his instincts, his sufferings, his fantabulous inventions... giving us anything we want to dream about... it's impossible to comprehend to what lengths this jerk will go to tell lies to us... There's no way you can know! Hidden snugly as he is, well out of sight, behind the Grand Alibi. "Be Exploited by the Strongest!" It's an irrefutable reason to do what you want... call him a Martyr of the Abhorrent System! He's a veritable Jesus!

"I am, as you are, as he is! We're all being exploited!"

Away with this imposture! Away with this abomination! Come, Johnny Lunchbox, throw off your shackles! Come on you ninny, get up on your feet! This can't go on! Stop hiding your light beneath a bushel! Show us your happy face! Let's look you over! Let's admire you! From top to bottom! We want to discover the poetry in you, at last we'll have time to love you for yourself! Good God, so much the better! The sooner the better! Kill off the Bosses! On the double! They're stinking rejects! Move it! Do them in altogether or one by one. Pronto, Subito! Recta! Show no mercy, not for a moment! Put them to death, kindly or atrociously. I don't give a damn! I'm shivering in Expectation! Let not a cent be spent on conciliating the breed! Down with the jackals, down into a mass grave. Pitch them into the sewers! No half measures, now! Did these hairy handed monsters ever spare the life of a single frail hostage held to good King Profit? No, no naivete! No way Jos»! Spot any laggards? Sniff 'em out and knock 'em off! What has to be done has to be done! The Struggle has arrived... There'll be no two ways about it... And why not? They don't even make you laugh! They're unbelievably stupid and clumsy. You'll only get a laugh out of them if you roll them over!
Don't count on me to shed a tear over their stinking carcasses, you have my oath on it!... Make no mistakes about this, let's not put things off! No remorse! No weeping! No sighs! It won't cost a wooden nickel! So at that price it's a bargain! Bellow out the Angelus... Watch them croak... it'll be like honey... candy, yum yum! Give me! Give me! Now that's what I like!

One evil night for you, my carrion you
I'm going to kill you!
Plant two black holes where your eyes used to be
Your stinking soul will join death's dance!
They're going to turn out by the thousands to
Watch you at the graveyard of Bons Enfants!

These lively lyrics go dancing through my head... so I'm giving them to you all free of charge, along with the melody of "the Slaughter House Hymn"...

Don't you worry, it'll be alright
One goes off, lovely number one
Number two comes back!

That's what our joyous bridge-builders used to sing out together! "Tread it down! Let's tread it down! Stamp! Stamp! Stamp it out!" This timely disease! To cure it they'll have to knock off the whole race... You have to go back to biblical times to find such a cunning, obscene and degrading plague as the one visited upon us by this clinging bourgeois grasp. Never has there been a class so hypocritically tyrannical, rapacious and priggish! A bunch of moralizers and skirt chasers! Every one of 'em! Stoney faced when faced with the sorrows of others, and weepers for themselves in the night. With an unquenchable thirst! Anchored like pubic crabs to their privileges! None sharper or more ruthless. None more anemic either! Totally attached to riches signifying nothing-in sum, total shits!
Long live Peter the Great! Long life to Louis XIV! Up with Fouquet! Genghis Khan, ten thousand years! Up with Bonnot-and all his gang! And anybody else for that matter! But weep ye no tears for Landru! Because every bourgeois has got some Landru in him. It's sad, isn't it? And there's nothing to be done about it either! The revolution of '93, in my opinion, was the work of the lackies! Lackies who took everything word for word, lackies who vociferated, lackies of the pen, who, one fine night, took over the castle, all of them crazed by jealousy, raving, riddled by envy, they pillage, slaughter, and then settled in to count up the sugar, the sheets, the cutlery... they inventory everything... they were never able to stop. The guillotine was an accounting office... on they go counting up the sugar lumps till they die... mesmerized by the lumps! You wouldn't even have to hunt them down to kill them-you'll always find them in the same place-down there in the kitchen, counting. They're still there. What can they lose by it! You can't take this pack of windy, intellectual, impressionist, confusionist, leftist, unreconstructed, conservative hair-splitting arguers-all of them up to the gills in ulterior motives-seriously! One look is enough. They'll go where you tell them to go. After the smell of lucre! Onto the soap-box! Don't count on them to redeem the titanic stupidity, the chrome-covered filth of the herd these thoroughbred whores are dripping all over the place. Throw the miserable wretches down the sewers... let's hear no more of them! And the other ones over the road, the "righters of wrongs," earning 75,000 francs a year. They're no better! To be seen shoulder to shoulder with the People at the moment is already a piece of insurance... if you possess a Jewish turn of mind you can convert it into life-insurance. It's perfectly understandable.
What difference, I ask you, is there, say, between Cultural Centers and the Acad»mie Fran¡aise? They share the same narcissism, narrowness of mind, they're equally impotent and just as vacuous, both of them, they both babble on. The only thing they'll differ in will be their choice of clich»s. Every one of them is a conformist, likes being buttered up, and churns out the same old things-a perfect example of "as above, so below!"
As for the great Spring Cleaning, count on it happening any month now! It won't be long! Rejoice! Prepare the fireworks!
Chopping off heads is an easy solution! To knock off an entire class! Anyway, we only break down open doors and worm-ridden ones at that! It's easier than hitting targets at a shooting gallery! A bit of natural well-earned glory! The "little man" justly getting his revenge! Justly rewarded a thousand fold, and why not? The starvelings of the earth need a bit of a rest, right!?
But shit! Couldn't it have happened earlier? The blood bath seemed as logical as mother's milk trickling from your lips!

If you're rich we'll blow you away!
tra tra tra alay (sic)
We'll stuff your asses hey hey!
The cannon-fire will say

That's the heart of the matter! Who can do better than that? Now that Johnny Lunchbox has shucked off his shackles, how can he go wrong? The whole band is going to be playing along as he marches forward-fifes, drums and all! The mines belong to him! Along with the factories and the vineyard and the vine! You can throw in the prisons too while you're at it. Open your mouth, close your eyes and, gloop! Down it goes! Along with the banks, that's the cake with icing on top! We're on our own now! Let's put our backs into it! Johnny Lunchbox is now totally in charge of the flock's happiness! Miners! The mines are yours! Down you go! No more need to strike, mind you. No more moans and complaints. You might only be making fifteen francs a day but at least they're yours!
You can't deny it... straightaway they start baring their teeth... the lackey smelling no sweeter than the master, alas! The man at the bottom has an innate taste for gossip. He has to be excused-there's nothing that can't be put right! ... but fifty centuries of slavery have engendered some unpleasant instincts... and oh how they come bubbling to the surface!... in even better shape than before. Watch out now! Having been History's prime victim doesn't mean that you're an angel. That would be too much to expect! Nonetheless that's what everyone imagines-they're unshakable on the subject-"If I lie I hope to die!" "You are what you eat!"-clever old Engels came up with that one!... Lying through his teeth, naturally. Man is greater than the sum of his murky, gobbling self. Look further than just at his entrails, look at his lovely little brain. The discoveries to be made are unending... and if you want to change what's inside he'll need some training! But can he be trained? What system can train him? He'll always find a way around the checks and controls! He'll find a way to slink off-he's pretty good at that. You'll have to be on your toes to catch him in the act. And in the end who cares? Life's too short! Spouting morality doesn't actually mean you have to do anything concrete. It makes them look up to you. Hides who your are. There's never been an asshole in love with preaching! The more cunning they are, the more they'll spout off! And when it comes down to flattery... It's every man for himself! They can go on denying it 'till they're black in the face, but the Communist program is completely materialistic! The demands of a brute for the use of brutes. Grub! And don't take your eyes off Marx's fat portrait! It wouldn't be so hard if they actually got to eat something... but what's happened is precisely the opposite. The people are now King! And the King skips meals! The King has everything! And goes shirtless! I'm referring to Russia. In Leningrad, they line up around the hotels to buy anything from your shirt to your hat, if you're a tourist. A deep seated individualism leads the hoax, undermining everything, all-corrupting... An embittered, blind, grumbling, perceptive egotism corrupting this atrocious misery, suppurating, stinking, ever and ever ranker. You can tie these individuals together, but they'll never mix.
If Communist existence is existence set to music-even more infuriating, more run down, sadder, and more bastardly than here-then everyone has to join in the dance-even the lame.

If you can't dance
then you've murmured your confession
To some vile disgrace...

It's the end of all shame, of silence, of cruddy bad tempers, a dance where everybody-absolutely everybody-joins in. There'll be no more socially handicapped, no one earning less than anybody else. Let everybody join the dance!
Russia has mechanics to nourish the spirit, to express its joy. What a timely discovery! It's the promised land! Salvation at last! You'd have to be an intellectual lost among the Fine Arts! Wrapped in the most beautiful paper, protected by cotton, hidden away for centuries, a tiny, fragile but ripened grape hanging upon the trellis of the civil service, a tender fruit, ripened by the sun, and the taxpayers' money-raving mad due to an overdose of unreality-to come up with this phoney line of sales talk. The truth of the matter is that machines dirty, condemn, and kill anybody who gets near them! But Machines are in fashion! They have the ring of the working class, they smack of progress, of work. And the rank and file. They dazzle the masses. Make you look like a sure-fire sympathizer, an educated connoisseur. Raving with enthusiasm... words can't express... valves practically exploding... recommend machines to everyone! I, we, all follow the party line. Onward with the great change! All bolts at the ready! From the depths of Offices springs forth the message: All machines, full speed ahead! All the necessary lies are standing by! While the masses are getting on with it, they won't have time to think!
Talk about a First Class Resurrection! Machines are disease incarnate! A supreme defeat! Completely phoney! Machines have never saved anybody! They just make man more stupid in a crueller way. I should know, I used to be a doctor at Ford Motor Company. Soviet or American, all Fords look alike. Putting your faith in machines is just one more reason to go on. It's just a way to avoid asking the ultimate question! The intimate question! The only question-the major question that lies within us all, in our heads and nowhere else-the one unknown element in all possible or impossible societies... the one that nobody ever mentions... it's not political... It's mega-taboo... it's the last forbidden question! Be he standing up, on all fours, lying down, upside-down, be he on the ground or in the air, Man will never encounter a greater tyrant than himself. There'll never be one. Which is more the pity! That might have licked him into shape, rendered him more sociable.
For centuries now we've been buffing him up, avoiding his main problem, just to get him to vote. Since the end of religions we've been singing his praises... getting him drunk on our lies. He has become the very Church itself! Naturally he can see no further than the end of his nose. Gone totally loopy! Butter him up and he'll swallow anything! So are there two separate breeds? bosses and workers? Completely artificial! It all comes down to luck and inheritance. Get rid of that and then you'll find out they were exactly the same... I insist on this... and you will realize why.
Politics have corrupted Man more these last three centuries than in all centuries of prehistory put together. Even during the Middle Ages we were closer to unity than we are today... there was the budding of some kind of common spirit... lies were better assembled, more poetic, more intimate. All has returned to dust now.
Material Communism puts Matter before everything. And where Matter is involved, the righteous never prevail. The most brutal cunning and cynical always win the day. Just witness how money has reestablished its tyrannical role in the USSR. It's cubed! Dough has got its health back. Keep on flattering Johnny Lunchbox and he'll swallow anything. He'll accept anything. Over there he has become hideous with pretension and self-importance, the deeper he's lowered into the shit-pit and cut off from everything. That's the horrifying phenomenon! The unhappier he becomes, the more he shows off. Now there are no more religious beliefs ... party bosses exalt all his vices, praise his sadistic impulses, hold sway over him through his vices... which are vanity, ambition, war, ... in sum, Death. It's been beautifully worked out. They changed into top gear to carry it out... Kill him off through poverty, but use the sin of self-love too! Bring on vanity! Pretension will kill like any other poison! Better, more efficiently, than any other!
The major Christian religions didn't try to gild the lily. They didn't attempt to dull your senses. They didn't run after voters. They displayed no desire to please. Nor to wiggle their asses at you. Man, barely out of the cradle, had it laid on the line. He was immediately brought up to date: "Now hear this you putrid little monster! You'll never be anything other than a total shit... you were born a shit... Are we getting through? We'd have thought it was obvious, right... However... perhaps, if you're lucky... really lucky... but it's unlikely... there's a minuscule chance you'll be forgiven for being such a revolting, excremental, unbelievable shit... and you'll earn that by smiling at all the sorrows, travails, tests, diverse miseries, and assorted tortures that will come your way during your existence-be it short or long. Show perfect humility. You're a slave! Life, you slob, is but a bitter cup. Don't tire yourself out or look for answers in the wrong place! Save your soul! We're already offering you a bargain. And when your calvary is finally gone-if you've been completely, totally honest, never bitched once in your life... you'll shrug off this earthly coil... no one is making book though... a little less putrid than when you were born... perhaps you'll go off into the night smelling sweeter than when you arrived at dawn. But don't get too worked up about it! That's the most a turd like you can hope for... Don't even begin to think about greater things to come!"
Now that's what I call talking! Real Church Father spiel! They really knew how to use their tools and didn't offer any illusions!
The great claim to happiness, the most enormous scam ever! And that's what's been complicating everyone's lives... that's what's turned people into venomous, unbearable crooks! Happiness doesn't exist in this life... there are only major or minor misfortunes! Some take their time arriving, others creep up behind you, or explode, others wait just around the corner... "Verily nobody is more merrily and easily damned than a happy man." The Devil's adage still holds true... point Man at Matter and away he'll go... and it's only taken two centuries to do it... crazed with pride-ballooned up with all things mechanical, he's now completely unbearable. Just see how he is today! Haggard, saturated, drunk on both alcohol and gasoline, defiant, pretentious, he's the universe wielding power measured in seconds! He's flabbergasted, unreasonable, irredeemable, a cross between a sheep and a bull plus a bit of hyena thrown in. A charming picture, isn't it? Now the dumbest asshole can look at himself in the mirror and see Jupiter looking back. That's the miracle of the modern age... it's produced gigantic fatuity of cosmic proportions. The entire planet is seething with envy, tetanized by it, superfusioned. The exact opposite of what everyone wanted to happen obviously happens. Anyone creative, as soon as they say a word, is crushed by hatred, smashed into pulp, vaporized. The entire world has become a critic, and therefore it's frighteningly mediocre. They're collective critics-menacing, boot-licking, obtuse, total slaves.
The unspoken law now being enforced is to drag Man down to the level of mere Matter. You blend two blood types-one from the rich, one from the poor-the poor one will never get any richer, the rich one will become impoverished... In fact anything that helps to lead the masses astray is grist to the mill... lies! compliments! praise! But as soon as sheer cunning no longer works, then out come the truncheons! The day it blows up in your face, bring out the machine-guns... and out with the grenades while you're at it! When the evil hour chimes they empty the arsenals! With that joyful Optimism which is the hallmark of last Resolutions! Massacres in their myriad... every war since the last Deluge has marched to the music of Optimism. There's never been an assassin who hasn't looked at the future through rose-tinted glasses... it's part of the job. So be it.
It's easy enough to understand all these prostrated people being fed up with misery and poverty for once and for all. But poverty and misery go hand in hand with modern History! Base negative pride, vacuous fatuity, envy, obsession and the rage for power have fenced all these cunning scoundrels in, placed them inside an enormous leper colony of tomorrow... placed them in Socialist quarantine.
"Come on Lunchbox! Step back and take a good look at yourself! You rule supreme! No one has ever been freer than you... freer than those serfs across the road, the ones stuck in the other prison! Come on, have a little drink... it'll make you think clearer! Come on guys, vote for us... Johnny, you know you've been a victim of the system! And we're the guys who are gonna reform the Universe. Don't worry at all... you guys are solid gold through and through! Come on, no second thoughts now! Listen, all I want is your happiness! Maybe we'll get you elected! How does that sound? We can also make you Pope and God the Father! That's it, you've got it, now for the photo! Booom!"
From Finland to Baku, the miracle has occurred! Nobody can deny it. Johnny L. is sick from this emptiness which has suddenly sprung up around him. He's not used to it yet. All of Paradise for him and him alone! That's a lot of space! It's time they got a move on and discovered the 4th dimension. The real dimension! The dimension of fraternal feelings for other peoples' identities. He's got no one left to criticize, no one left to knock off.
"All thy dolor shall be mine"... and the more Man withdraws into himself, the more complicated he becomes. The further he removes himself from nature, the more sorrow there will be. His nervous system can only deteriorate. You can bet that under Communism more sorrows than riches are going to be shared out... there'll be no shortages!... It's biological law, and Progress can change none of it... in fact it will be in inverse proportion... with more and more pain to share out. And even more and more of it. But his heart's not in it, it's hard to get him to make up his mind... he balks... slinks off... invents excuses... feels it coming... it automatically becomes a madhouse! But anyone who calls out "Truce!" gets hanged.
So bring on all the balderdash! Call up reinforcements of imaginary cataclysms! Roll on the enemies, each one more bizarre than the one before! Let's keep the platforms full! Let's not shake the foundations... Achtung! Wild coalitions on the horizon!... Mega-carrion conspirators sighted! Start the apocalyptic trials-it's time to reinvent the Demon! When things go bad that's where you'll find him! He's the scapegoat for all our ills. Lay a trail of red herrings to hide the indigestible truth that the "New Man" just doesn't work. He's still the same scoundrel he ever was!
Of course, on our side of the border, we're still having fun! We still haven't been forced to pretend! We remain "oppressed!" All the evils that Destiny produced lie squarely on the shoulders of the bloodsuckers-that cancer we call "the Exploiter." Thus we can happily continue to be the sons of bitches that we are in reality. Who'll ever know!? But when we have nothing left to destroy-and we can't even bitch and bite-that's when life starts really becoming unbearable!
Jules Renard wrote: "You being happy isn't enough, other's mustn't be also." Ah, it's an evil hour when you're forced to take other peoples' sorrows on your shoulders-those of total strangers-people totally unknown to you, spending all your time at work for them... especially when Johnny L. had been promised, been sworn blind, that it was precisely the "others" who were the clot in the bloodstream, the taste of bile, the root of all his problems! Oh the swine! What a sham, the "others" don't exist. However, the newly elected of the new society are kept carefully locked up. Even in the old days, never were the most seditious kept as carefully locked in the famous Fortress of Peter and Paul. They could think what they liked. That's all behind us now! No more writing-nobody else has been protected as much as Lunchboxovitch, behind a hundred thousand barbed wire fences-protected, the darling of the new system, against the impure souls lurking outside, against the stench of the decrepid world! Boxovitch coughs up for the police that police his own sorrows. Never has there been a police force so thick on the ground, more swinish, and suspicious! He's never by himself-under a constant surveillance which has been totally perfected. No one will ever be able to steal him from you. Ah, but he does get bored! You can't help but notice. Dying to get out! He'd love to go on an "Ex-Tourist" trip-just for a change! Just for a change. Of course he'd never come back. You can throw down the gauntlet on this one, no way the Soviets will pick it up! They know that if they put it to the test, the country would be emptied out!
In our neck of the woods, Boxo could have fun! There are still a few things to do, mischief to get into, secret fun! Even here where we're exploited 600%, people know how to have fun! They rush out from work in a rented tuxedo, pretending to be millionaires! They enjoy movies! Bourgeois to the bone! He loves all false values! He's a corrupt monkey! Basically lazy, attracted by all that's expensive-or at least its imitation, if he can't do better. He's enamored of brute strength while despising the weak. He shows off, he's vain, loves conmen, and is attracted above all by anything visual! It all has to be seen for it to have any existence. Neon attracts him like flies. He's uncontrollable! Rather tawdry. With a gift for being late for anything that could make him happy, that might sweeten his life. He suffers, indulges in self-mutilation, then bleeds, then dies-having learnt nothing. He has no sense of organization, fears it, and flees it like the plague. He becomes increasingly bitter... hurries to his death, sped on by huge quantities of "matter"-matter he can never get enough of. The most cunning of them, the cruelest only arms himself to the teeth to kill himself more ... and to kill others more. It's a gambling table and there are no limits, ladies and gentlemen, all bets are down! You've gambled-you've won!
Over there, Man gets to eat pickles. He's been completely defeated. The "Commissar" drives past in a used Packard... while Man slaves away as if he were in the regiment... but a regiment for life. And it's better not to hang out too much on the street. We know what he'll get there-so chase him off with rifle butts! It's his future that's ahead of him! Just like here, in fact... Tomorrow it's a free lunch and everything that goes with it. Why doesn't What's-his-Face have a grin on his face? It's because he didn't have the right instincts. It simple! If you think about it, there was no need to share out the wealth-it could already have been done way back in the agricultural age... when humanity first began. Why make such a fuss over it? Ants did it and they didn't have factories-all for all-that's their motto!
We want Capital! Give us Capital! Don't scream for it anymore Lunchbox, because you're it! Your ancestors sat on the rump of the good Knight Roland's horse and now you're all alone. On your own! There's nobody to grind you down-so why is all the nastiness starting again? Why? Because it's all bubbling up to the surface of your infernal nature, that's why! Spontaneously, sponte-sua, have no illusions, don't even worry about it... it's starting all over again.
Why does the handsome engineer earn 7000 rubles and the charwoman just 50 per month? It's magic! magic! We're talking about Russia obviously. It's marvelous how they're as shitty over there as we are over here! With a nice pair of shoes that cost 900 francs and a dodgy re-soling (I've seen this for myself) at 80? And as for the hospitals, apart from the one in the Kremlin or the special "In-Tourist Wards," the others are nothing less than sordid! All of Russia runs on a tenth of a normal budget-starting with the hospitals. Of course this doesn't include the Police, the Army, or the Ministry of Propaganda.
This is injustice served up, but under a new name-even more horrific than the one that preceded it. And even more anonymous: more water-proofed, more perfected, more rigid, with myriads of cops, armed with degrees in torture. Dialectics ready to explain the theft of huge quantities of riches they've stolen and fenced! When it comes to smooth-talking, and the national production of hot air, nobody surpasses Russia. But what they won't confess to, and what they're unable to make you believe, is that Man is his own worst enemy-the worst of all his enemies! Given whatever condition, he'll create the conditions for his own torture, in the same way that the pox creates its own destructive environment. That's how the system functions! That's how deep it goes! So flatterers should be shot-for they're the opium of the people.
Man has as much humanity as a chicken is able to fly. When a chicken gets sent waltzing by a car, she can make it up to a roof, but then she immediately zooms back down to the mud to pick away at her own shit. It's in her character. Part of her ambitions. Just like in our society. Only total catastrophe prevents us from being complete shits! The catastrophe done, we go back to being our old selves. That's why it's always better to judge a Revolution twenty years later.
"I am! You are! Despoilers, hypocrites, bastards!" Nobody will ever come out and say these things! Yet a real Revolution would be to admit all this-to purify ourselves by saying it!
But the Soviets are in love with vice, with cooking the books. They know which levers to pull. But then they lose themselves in the maze of their own propaganda. They try to flavor turds, dip them in caramel. That's the disease infecting the system.
Oh! We've replaced the bosses alright. We've abducted his platitudes, his aggressiveness, his wily plots, his silly advertising-we know how to rip things off alright! We didn't waste anytime! The new pimps have just walked on stage. Let's give a big hand to the new apostles! You have to admit that they've got fat bellies and fine voices. But the Great Revolt, the Great Battle! All that for such tiny bounty! They swapped Scrooge for Envy! So is that what the battle was about? In the wings of the theater, costumes have been changed... now they're dressed up as Neo-Topaz, Neo-Kremlin, Neo-Swine, Neo-Lenins, Neo-Jesuses! At the beginning they were sincere, but by now they've understood (those who fail to understand are shot). No one is ever wrong-all of them are submissive. They didn't do it, the others did. They've learned from hard experience... They've never kept their heads down so much. Now the "soul" is replaced by the red party card. And it's a lost soul! Nothing left of it! Every one of Lunchbox's habits, his vices, they're all down on file ... Let's wear him down, wear him out with marches, suffering, showing off! Let's encourage him to denounce everyone ... that's the nature of the beast! It's not his fault!... Lunchbox has been put away! He's told, "Read my paper! Read my rumors! ... just my rumors!" ... but no others, mind you! Bite on the brawn of my speeches ... but above all, never look any further or I'll cut your head off! That's all he deserves ... into the cage with him! Of course when the cops arrive you know just what to expect. And it's only just beginning! Anything goes to show that they're not the ones responsible! Cut off all the ways out... Become "totalitarian!" Helped by the Jews or not! It doesn't matter... The Main Thing is killing!
Just how many stubborn little Christians finished up at the stake back in the Middle Ages... or between the lion's jaws... or manacled to an oar on a slave galley? Or being inquisitioned right down to the marrow... all over whether Mary's conception was immaculate or not? Or over the interpretation of three verses from the testaments? We've lost count! And what's motivated all this? Take your choice... the reasons have no reason to exist... times haven't changed, have they? We're certainly no more choosy today... We could all kick the bucket for something that doesn't exist! Grimacing Communism! What the hell, given the point we've reached!? If that isn't dying for an ideal, then I don't know what is! We've been purified and we didn't even know it! When it comes down to it, perhaps you can call it hope. And perhaps the aesthetic future while you're at it! We'll never know why we have wars... bigger and bigger ones... that will leave no one in peace... which everyone will die in... we'll all become instant heroes... and dust as part of the deal! We'll get rid of everyone on Earth! We've never been worth anything anyhow! The great cleansing through Ideas!


Cover from Billy Childish edition of Mea Culpa:

mercoledì 23 gennaio 2008

Intervista a Lucette Almansor

Intervista a Lucette Almansor

Un siécle de ecrivains, 1998

Intervistatore: Quando avete conosciuto Céline?

Lucette Almansor: Tempo fa. Molto tempo fa. Ritornavo dall’America, avevo lasciato l’Opera Comica e mi allenavo con un grande istruttore dell’epoca, d’Alessandrie, e tutti i giorni dovevo fare quattro - cinque ore di esercizi. Lui era interessato alla danza, ed assisteva alle lezioni di d’Alessandrie. È lì che ha cominciato a parlarmi a poco a poco. Era alquanto “selvaggio”, ed allora, sono stata parecchio prima di accettare di parlargli. Ma alla fine mi è sembrato piuttosto naturale.

I: Siete stata sedotta dal suo carattere?

LA: Oh, era straordinario.

I: Come era?

LA: A prima vista era assente, era molto distante. Aveva qualcosa di misterioso.

I: A quell’epoca, era già conosciuto come scrittore?

LA: Aveva appena finito Morte a credito. Era molto stanco, molto del… Ogni volta che scriveva un libro, era spossato. Ci mise, credo, dieci anni per fare Morte a credito. Ci mise molto, molto, e ne sentiva la fatica. Allora per lui la danza era uno svago, era attratto soprattutto dal lavoro della danza classica, che è molto duro, ed aveva un’attrazione per i movimenti agili. I suoi passi erano aggraziati. Ed io… io ero molto impressionata dai movimenti e dall’espressione dei suoi occhi. Era triste, sognante.

I: E avete vissuto con lui per molto tempo?

LA: Dal momento che sono stata con lui, non l’avrei potuto lasciare. È stato senza dubbio nel 35, no 36, 35. Non l’avrei mai più lasciato.

domenica 20 gennaio 2008

Ricordo di Céline

Le donne non hanno niente da dire su Cèline

di Arletty

Le donne non hanno niente da dire su Cèline. Dovrei quindi tacere… Fu l’articolo di Lèon Daudet che mi fece scoprire il Voyage, il solo colpo di fulmine letterario della mia vita, intendo tra i contemporanei. Non so spiegarlo, non sapendo scrivere. Ho tenuto dentro di me questa ammirazione. Sono stata ricompensata di questa discrezione facendo la conoscenza di Céline a casa di comuni amici, e, anche senza complimenti, lui fu felice di trovare una “paesana”, poiché ambedue siamo nativi di Courbevoie. Ma chiedete a sua moglie, un essere eccezionale − egli ebbe la donna che meritava, un altro dono di Dio − a quelli che lui amava, prima della sua morte. Sì, la sua morte, la sua sepoltura! Mi ricordo di sua moglie, di un dottore, di un gatto che girava intorno alla sua tomba. Egli desiderava un agrifoglio, un agrifoglio fiorito; un bambino con un grembiule a quadretti uscito da un catalogo del 1912, innaffiava i fiori della tomba vicina. Il bambino, l’animale, il fiore che amava per finire il suo viaggio. Lasciamo agli uomini l’onore di parlare di lui.

19 febbraio 1962

Da L'Herne - Céline (trad. Andrea Lombardi)

mercoledì 16 gennaio 2008

Céline a Sigmaringen

Céline a Sigmaringen

di Abel Bonnard

da L'Herne - Céline (traduzione Andrea Lombardi)

Mi unisco con tutto il cuore all’omaggio che si vuole rendere a Louis-Ferdinand Cèline. Non parlerò della sua opera letteraria, se non per riconoscere la potenza delle sue terribili caricature, e poiché sto scrivendo queste righe dal paese di Goya, dirò che Céline anche nei suoi più cupi capricci, non si è mai discostato dal reale. Parlerò quindi dell’uomo, che incontrai per la prima volta ad un pranzo, all’inizio dell’Occupazione, dopo che ebbi grandemente elogiato, in un articolo, una sua frase sull’alcolismo in Francia, e che mi ebbe spedito uno dei suoi libri, con una dedica spirituale, dove mi chiamava “accademico d’assalto”. Quello che mi colpì subito, fu che parlava come scriveva, con frasi corte, un po’ affannose, senza un reale dialogo con l’interlocutore, come se avesse descritto una visione che gli fosse imposta dal suo spirito. Lo rincontrai a Sigmaringen, dove era il medico della colonia francese là rifugiatasi. Intraprese questo incarico con una coscienziosità ammirevole, sostenuto dalla valente Signora Céline, il coraggio della quale, come nelle migliori tra le donne, prendeva la forma del buonumore. Al principio ricevette i suoi pazienti nella sua stessa camera d’albergo, ma in seguito riuscii a fargli ottenere lo studio di un medico tedesco che era assente. […] Lo rivedo ancora, mentre passeggiava per le vie di quella piccola cittadina, con il suo grosso corpo da vecchio corazziere, la sua canadese, i suoi folti capelli neri. Veniva frequentemente a visitare mia madre, ed egli ha scritto su di lei, in
Da un castello all’altro, qualche riga di una delicatezza squisita, delle quali gli resterò riconoscente sino alla mia morte. Quando aveva terminato con lei, veniva a chiacchierare con me. Parlavamo di tutto, e particolarmente di letteratura, e lui non si esprimeva affatto con quel vocabolario truculento che un profano si sarebbe aspettato da lui, ma, al contrario, con le sfumature più esatte e attente. Incontrai solo un altro esempio di un così raffinato gusto letterario, in uno scrittore a prima vista portato alle espressioni violente, e costui era Léon Daudet. Ma la conversazione di Léon Daudet era tra le più ampollose e magniloquenti che abbia mai ascoltato, mentre Céline procedeva sempre per piccoli tocchi giustapposti, come quelli di un pittore espressionista. Parlavamo talvolta anche degli avvenimenti che si svolgevano, e che svelavano secondo me il loro carattere di catastrofe universale. I nostri propositi erano molto tetri, ma anche molto calmi. Io credo di poter assicurare che il sentimento dominante di Céline, nei confronti del mondo attuale, era la disperazione, a condizione che non si associ a questa parola alcunché di commiserante o convulsivo, e di capire che vi può essere una disperazione nera e serena, che conclude logicamente un pensiero retto, sincero e forte. […] La mia ultima immagine di Céline, l’ho avuta alla fine di un luminoso giorno di primavera, quando andai alla stazione a dirgli addio. Prendeva il treno per il Nord, l’ultimo o il penultimo a passare prima che gli americani interrompessero la ferrovia. Portava con sé, tra i suoi vestiti, il suo gatto, Bébert, celebre tra i francesi di Sigmaringen. Inizialmente, avrebbe voluto lasciarlo a delle brave persone, che se ne sarebbero presi cura con l’affetto che i tedeschi portano agli animali, ma alla fine non era riuscito a separarsene. Intendeva raggiungere la Danimarca, dove credo avesse depositato del denaro. Sperava di trovare lì asilo. Sappiamo l’accoglienza ignominiosa che lo attendeva. Stavo per dimenticare di menzionare, dal momento che è ovvio per chi ha conosciuto la sua natura, come mai, nelle nostre conversazioni, gli ho mai sentito pronunciare qualcosa di basso, vile, rancoroso o odioso. In un mondo sempre più degradato, dove tramontano tutti gli alti valori, Céline è stato degno di essere misconosciuto, perseguitato, vituperato, e di morire infelice, con gli onori della solitudine.

mercoledì 9 gennaio 2008

Céline vivant DVD

Del suo capolavoro Voyage au bout de la nuit («Viaggio al termine della notte»), pubblicato nel 1932, si vendono in media annualmente 42mila copie dal lontano 1972, quando il grande romanzo apparve per la prima volta in formato tascabile. E non cessa,in Francia, la passione per Louis-Ferdinand Celine (1894-1961): nei soli ultimi tre mesi sono stati venduti circa 20mila cofanetti di Céline vivant, due dvd, accompagnati da un opuscolo di trentasei pagine. Un successo inaspettato anche per Vianney Delourme, il responsabile delle Editions Montparnasse che ha pubblicato il cofanetto: «Va al di là di tutte le nostre aspettative. Destinati a restituire la parola di scrittori e pensatori del ventesimo secolo, i documenti proposti nella collezione Regards non hanno mai suscitato un tale entusiamo, salvo L’Abdecedaire di Gilles Deleuze. E presto Céline supererà Deleuze».
Una bella rivincita postuma, per il più maledetto tra gli scrittori non-conformisti del Novecento, uno dei letterati che hanno attraversato la cosiddetta “tentazione fascista”.
Nei due dvd che stanno riscuotendo successo nelle librerie francesi ci sono dei «tesori nascosti» – dice Delourme a Le Figaro Magazine – come tre interviste televise di Céline, un documentario realizzato nel 1969 e varie testimonianze. C’è anche un inedito eccezionale: la registrazione sonora di Céline che rilegge e corregge un passo del suo romanzo Nord. Il successo di questa iniziativa editoriale e l’interesse nei confronti dello scrittore contrastano con le cautele dello Stato e dei palazzi ufficiali della cultura, dovute al personaggio Céline, noto anche per prese di posizione antisemite.
«Non ci si deve stupire – scrisse nel febbraio scorso Pierre Assouline su Le Monde 2, il magazine del quotidiano – nell’apprendere che nel 1994 il centenario della nascita di Céline non figurava nel catalogo delle celebrazioni nazionali. Si dovrebbe supporre che la personalità degli onorati non venga presa in considerazione e che solo l’opera venga considerata. Ora quella di Céline è un pezzo di letteratura, uno e indivisibile. Il libellista antisemita fu spregevole: per quanto tempo ancora – chiedeva Assouline – lo si farà pagare allo scrittore?».
Anche in Italia i libri dello scrittore francese non hanno mai smesso di esser pubblicati e ristampati e, negli ultimi tempi, sono uscite nuove, moderne traduzioni, come quella di Ernesto Ferrero del Viaggio al termine della notte (Edizioni Corbaccio) a sessanta anni di distanza dalla versione edulcorata che lo fece conoscere in Italia con la firma di un misterioso Alex Alexis.
Sono invece di questo fine anno la ristampa di Rigodon (Einaudi) e una nuova edizione di Morte a credito nella versione classica di Giorgio Caproni. Ieri, infine, sul quotidiano la Repubblica è apparso un articolo di Milan Kundera dedicato proprio allo scrittore maledetto: «Céline, la cagna e la commedia umana».
Vale la pena leggerne le conclusioni: «Quello che danneggia l’agonia degli uomini – scriveva l’autore del Viaggio al termine della notte – è il tralalà. Mi dico ancora una volta: grazie ai suoi terribili smarrimenti, il romanziere Céline è stato capace di scoprire nell’esistenza umana quello che nessuno ha potuto vedere prima di lui. Quel tralalà, ad esempio, dell’uomo (di ogni uomo) in agonia». E Kundera annota: «Molti grandi scrittori della sua generazioni si sono confrontati come lui con la morte, con la guerra, con il terrore, con le torture, con l’esilio. Ma hanno vissuto tutto ciò dall’altra parte della frontiera: dalla parte dei giusti, dei futuri vincitori, delle vittime santificate dalle ingiustizie subite, insomma, dall’altra parte della gloria. Il “tralalà (l’autosoddisfazione morale che desidera farsi vedere) era discretamentte, innocentemente, invisibilmente presente in tutti i loro comportamenti, sebbene essi non potessero percepirlo né nominarlo». Ma Céline, come ha osservato Philippe Murray, «si è preso cura di gettarsi immediatamente nell’immondezzaio della Storia». Ha scelto consapevolmente di stare con i “reietti”. Per cui, come scrive Kundera, gli è stato permesso «di vedere la vanità non come un vizio ma come una qualità consustanziale all’uomo, qualcosa che non lo abbandona mai, nemmeno del momento dell’agonia».

da "Il Secolo d'Italia"

Segnaliamo come sia possibile ordinare in Italia il DVD rivolgendosi alla

Libreria Francese

Piazza San Luigi de' Francesi, 23
00186 Roma
Tel. 06 68 30 75 98


lunedì 7 gennaio 2008

A proposito di Céline

A proposito di Céline, di Arno Breker

Nel 1940, all’Istituto Tedesco di Parigi, feci la conoscenza di Louis-Ferdinand Céline. All’epoca era considerato tra i più importanti scrittori di Francia. Io conoscevo la sua opera letteraria; lui, la mia scultura. Céline era uno di quelli che, nonostante le differenze tra Francia e Germania, amavano e comprendevano la mia patria. “La piena riconciliazione e la cooperazione tra le nostre due nazioni – queste sono le cose più importanti”, mi disse nel corso del nostro primo incontro. Il desiderio di fare il suo ritratto s’impadronì subito di me. I connotati del suo volto, fortemente pronunciati e vivaci, mi affascinavano. Fisicamente, aveva una peculiarità; ossia c’era una discrepanza tra il volume della sua testa e il suo esile collo, che era emaciato. Intendevo compensare tale discrepanza per mezzo di una sciarpa, proprio come quelle che portava sempre nei suoi ultimi anni. Prima della guerra, trovai Céline molto elegante. Solo in seguito assunse lo stile di un Bohemienne del 19° secolo. Come è noto, viveva circondato da un gran numero di gatti e cani, a Meudon, in una grande casa che aveva iniziato un po’ a decadere. Lì, lo visitai un’altra volta, poco prima della sua morte nel 1961. L’atmosfera del suo appartamento era tipicamente francese. I mobili e gli oggetti intorno a lui, nella loro permanente apparenza, sembravano essere torpidi e immobili per decenni. La polvere e la patina del tempo avevano iniziato a coprirli con una strana immobilità. In quel pomeriggio, Céline mi guardò a lungo negli occhi, parlò pochissimo, e sembrò veramente avere detto nei suoi libri tutto quello che aveva da dire. Le poche parole che disse, riguardarono l’esistenza umana, la sua permanenza sulla terra, e l’eternità.

Mentre me ne stavo andando, Céline mi disse: “Questo non è un addio! Noi rimarremo”. Stringendogli la mano, gli risposi, molto emozionato: “E così sia, mio caro, grande amico”.

(traduzione A. Lombardi)

sabato 5 gennaio 2008

La chiesa

Louis-Ferdinand Céline

La Chiesa

Irradiazioni, 15x21, pp. 166, 2002.

Introduzione di Graceva

Non c’è posto ne L’Église per Bardamu

Céline o del lato oscuro dell’emotività. Potrebbe essere un titolo azzeccato per una fiction, non so se cinematografica, teatrale o televisiva; dove il protagonista, Ferdinand Bardamu, con un’ossessività propria soltanto dei grandi attori comici o tragici, alla fine di ogni sua pièce, guardando fissamente gli spettatori, ripeta: “Che non se ne parli più”. Si badi che l’attore in questione è affetto da logolatria e il secco invito al silenzio, vero coup de théâtre, sconcerta lo spettatore. Ma raccogliere l’invito, calando il sipario sulle picaresche avventure di Ferdinand Bardamu, è impossibile, perché questo personaggio ci lega ad una storia ancora non conclusa, fatta di deliri ostinati, sogni irrealizzati, ciclopici progetti politici sgretolatisi con un incomprensibile soffio di vento, tentativi individuali di fuga verso paradisi perduti che soltanto il dio della morte sa irridere per la loro inconsistenza fattuale. L’epopea di un personaggio che nasce con L’Église.

Introduzione completa scaricabile qui:

giovedì 3 gennaio 2008

“Signori, e vostri capitani, che conducete gli uomini alla morte. Perché la guerra è questo…”. Intervista a Céline, 1959

[...] Intervistatore: Qual è stata la gioia più grande della vostra vita?
Céline: Eh beh, Dio mio, devo dirvi che non ne ho avuta molta. Non ho vissuto molte gioie, non sono un privilegiato. Confesso che sarò felice quando morirò, ecco la verità. Desidero morire nella maniera più indolore possibile, soprattutto che non abbisogni di cure, non ci tengo a soffrire.

I: Credete in Dio?
C: No, non ci credo per nulla, no, no, non ci credo per nulla, no, no, no, no, non credo per nulla in Dio. Sono un positivista. Non chiederei niente di meglio che credere in Dio; sono certamente un mistico. Ma il buon Dio, eh beh! Dio non mi sembra che si interessi molto alle stesse cose che mi interessano [ossia agli uomini, NdT]; questo sicuramente no, no, no. Ma sono un mistico, sì, lo sono di certo.

I: Dite di non avere avuto delle grandi gioie nella vostra vita. Avete avuto delle grandi sofferenze?
C: Ah! Sono stato servito, per un bel po’! Di queste, da quella parte, ne ho avute ed in abbondanza. Me ne sono toccate di tutti i tipi, davvero; di quelle, in verità, ne ho avute molte, molte… Non voglio insistere oltre, ma davvero, le ho viste di tutti i colori!

I: Soffrite quando pensate al fatto che molta gente dice, pensa o fa del male?
C: Ah! No, me ne frega altamente. Non mi interesso alle perso-ne, mi interesso alle cose, capito?

I: Ma credete nell’amore?
C: Se si prende la vita come una cosa molto divertente, eh beh, allora, largo all’amore! E a tutta la sua volgarità. Ma, per esempio, io sono… io non amo ciò che è comune, no, ciò che è volgare. Voglio dire che una prigione è una cosa che si distingue perché la persona ci soffre, no, mentre la dolce vita di Neuilly è una cosa molto volgare, perché la persona là si diverte. È questa la condizione umana.

I: Ma voi, per i vostri libri, sembrate una figura profetica. Quale profeta dell’Apocalisse, pensate veramente che il cielo si oscurerà? Credete che la condizione dell’uomo peggiorerà? Diteci, se volete, come vedete il futuro prossimo.
C: Se gli tutti gli uomini volessero non andare in guerra, è molto semplice, dovrebbero dire: “Non ci vado”. Ma hanno il desiderio di morire; è un desiderio, c’è una misantropia nell’uomo. Per esempio, quando vedete gli incidenti appena accaduti, non pensate che siano tutti involontari. C’è dentro di esso, c’è dentro qualcosa di perverso, ci sono persone che vanno davvero contro un albero. Apparentemente un brav'uomo non sale nella propria auto dicendo: “Vado a schiantarmi contro un albero”; ma il desiderio c’è, sì, e l’ho notato io stesso a più riprese, soprattutto tra i chirurghi, tra persone distinte. Li ho visti guidare le auto in una maniera sospetta.
Tutti gli uomini della terra non hanno che da andare al governo e dire: “Sapete? Io non voglio andare in guerra”. Eh beh, allora non ci sarà la guerra. Se invece la mantengono, è perché lo amano, questo desiderio generale, questo desiderio di distruzione. Come diceva Montluc, maresciallo di Enrico IV: “Signori, e vostri capitani, che conducete gli uomini alla morte. Perché la guerra è questo…”.

I: Se voi doveste morire adesso, per volere divino, quale sarebbe il vostro ultimo pensiero?
C: Ah beh: Arrivederci e grazie! Ah! Va bene così. Non vi auguro alcun male, ma Dio mio, occupatevi di voi stessi, così, io me ne sono occupato poco. Manco d’egoismo, è assai raro. Il mondo ne è pieno, no?...

E mentre Louis-Ferdinand Céline ritorna alla sua solitudine piena di furore e di visioni, proprio sopra la sua testa, al primo piano, dove lui non è mai salito, per tutto il giorno le allieve di Lucette Almanzor danzano, danzano, danzano… danzano...

(traduzione Andrea Lombardi)

mercoledì 2 gennaio 2008

Contro Sartre

Louis Ferdinand Céline

Contro Sartre. A' l'agitè du bocal.

Seguito dalle lettere di Céline al "Je suis partout" e dallo scritto Viva l'amnistia, Signore!

Introduzione a cura di Andrea Lombardi.

Edizioni Effepi, Genova.

50 pagine, 14x21, 10,00 euro.