Fable for Another Time

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Fable for Another Time
Fable for another time celine.jpg
Too 20th Century For You??
Author Louis-Ferdinand Céline
Original title Féerie pour une autre fois
Translator Mary Hudson
Country France
Language French
Publication date
27 June 1952
Published in English
2003
Pages 327

Fable for Another Time (Féerie pour une autre fois) is a 1952 novel by the French writer Louis-Ferdinand Céline. The sordid tale recounts Céline's experiences during what seems to be a hypothetical bombing of an area of Montmartre by the allies on the days preceding D-day. The action of this long narrative lasts no more than twelve hours from the beginning of an evening to the morning after. It was followed by a sequel, Normance, published in 1954.

Writing process

Céline started work on the novel in 1945, while he was living in exile in Denmark. At the time he was working on London Bridge: Guignol's Band II, and had plans for a third book in the Guignol's Band series.

Those plans were scrapped when Céline was imprisoned, which made him nostalgic about his time in Montmartre. He had also become more concerned about his literary reputation in Franc]; after supporting the Vichy regime during World War II, Céline was almost forgotten as a writer of any relevance. He therefore decided that he had to write a new original work which would make a serious impact.

Fable for Another Time was at various times, as is known through Céline's letters, known as La Bataille du Styx ("The battle of Styx"), Du côte des maudits ("The coast of the damned"), Au vents des maudits ("At the winds of the damned"), and Au vents des maudits pour une autre fois ("At the winds of the damned for another time"), before the writer settled on the final title.

The book was meant as a fictionalised memoir as much as a defence speech.[1]

Thoughts on This Book

Two young men, Jacques Darribehaude and Jean Guenot set off for Meudon in 1960, with the aim of recording the words of Louis-Ferdinand Céline and talking him into making a film, that they would devote to him — but Celine, it is said, began by showing them the door.

‘I do not converse!’ he told them, before setting an appointment for later. During the interviews, however, which turned out to be the most concise and revealing he ever gave, he spoke of his influence, citing La Fontaine, Villon, Racine, Proust and Stendhal, and also described his childhood and the years of his apprenticeship, in detail that had been hitherto unknown — outside of his works of course.

Louis-Ferdinand Céline had been forgotten by then and today remains largely so, possiby due to dubious wartime associations that academics are still picking through. It makes Celine an uncomfortable proposition for any reader, not to mention publisher, but it does not make him any less a writer. We recall with horror upon the release of Irvine Welsh’s Trainspotting, one Guardian critic said that Irvine Welsh was the Scottish Céline, but there seems to be little to link them. Right wing sympathies? No, not likely. The violation of literary convention? I think this applies to Céline, whose prose was rhythmic, broken up and to an extent, and difficult to read. Celine was one of the few writers in the twentieth century letters who developed style far beyond the calls of literary norm, and who made up something all of their own, and formed a brand new and never to be repeated voice.

The Céline style, although highly evolved even by his second novel, did change considerably over the years, and at times, such as in Féerie pour une autre fois (Fable for Another Time — 1952) did become obscure to the point of inaccessible. What is amusing about Fable for Another Time for fans of Céline however, is that it marks the only attempt I can think of that Céline made to court popularity.

That Fable for Another Time portrays Céline is obvious — it tells of a man imprisoned and reviled by his own countrymen, and quickly descends into utter hatred, madness and a violent frustration with the hypocrisy and banality of his fellows. One of Céline’s longstanding hobbies had been reviling his publishers and not being reprinted after the War made this much worse — for everybody. One of his bête noirs was Francois Mauriac.

The French intellectuals pressed on against Céline, who stood for a populist pre-War literature that had faltered into barbarism and racism, and Céline’s rage itself did not help matters. Reading his letters, on this front, is staggering. Without doubt, Celine was ignored, and he hated everybody for it, with no exceptions, and so every writer who achieved anything in the 1940s and 1950s was game, and is readily attacked in the letters, if not the books themselves.

In Denmark, and being far from his homeland, it was worse for Céline. He blamed politicians, judges, journalists and his fellow writers for the atmosphere of victimisation he felt. As a man of the people, Céline was most foully upset about his books being unavailable, and thus cut off from his readership. As I've said, he held Francois Mauriac in the most vile reagrd of all. Mauriac had been prominent in the resistance, and to his credit, had also argued for leniency for collabos after the War. Céline wrote Mauriac a few personal letters, detailing his wrath.

Ah Mauriac, they say you are a novelist, thus a little imaginative all the same, so you may be able to imagine the effect on me of your article Rossinante! The dumb jerk, took him 15 years and what a disaster… ah please stop, Mauriac! stop vatinicating, stop mellifluating… You’re bringing down thunderbolts, floods!

(Letter of 1949, Textes et documents 2, op. cit 114)

References

Notes
  1. http://books.google.com/books?id=msHxkNVZO1MC&pg=PA260%7Ctitle=The life of Céline: a critical biography|location=Oxford|publisher=Blackwell Publishers|pages=260–261|ISBN=0631176152|ref=Hewitt
Bibliography