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with a side of Celine

A few days ago, I finished Charlotte Mandell's French-to-English translation of Mathias Enard's Zone, which has several wonderful references to and anecdotes about Celine, and then, this evening I began Kurt Vonnegut's Slaughterhouse Five, and it takes me only to page 19 to find Celine once more:

My other book was Erika Ostrovsky's Celine and His Vision. Celine was a brave French soldier in the First World War--until his skull was cracked. After that he couldn't sleep, and there were noises in his head. He became a doctor, and he treated poor people in the daytime, and he wrote grotesque novels all night. No art is possible without a dance with death, he wrote.

The truth is death, he wrote. I've fought nicely against it as long as I could. . . danced with it, waltzed it around. . . decorated it with streamers, titillated it. . . 

Time obsessed him. Miss Ostrovsky reminded me of the amazing scene in Death on the Installment Plan where Celine wants to stop the bustling of a street crowd. He screams on paper, Make them stop. . . don't let them move anymore at all. . . There, make them freeze. . . once and for all! . . . So that they won't disappear anymore!




*Note: On Monday, between Enard and Vonnegut, I read and enjoyed Jean-Philippe Toussaint's Self-Portrait Abroad.

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