Henri’s Journey to the End of the Night

I like to think that I am an adventurous eater, I will try most things, but that is not to say that I am not fussy and that there is nothing that can put me off.  When offered a delicacy I feel I am often a little nervous, after all many so called delicacies can be hard to stomach.  Caviar, chicken’s feet and snails just to name a few.  But I always feel the need to try them, surely there is a reason these foods are so highly revered?

Journey to the End of the Night is one such delicacy.  As you crunch through it you go through periods when you feel like maybe you can see why it gets so much praise, it’s witty, clever, entertaining, and yet the aftertaste leaves something to be desired.  The anti-hero is a racist, misogynist, and all round unpleasant bastard.  There are certain times when you think he might be redeemable, but he always manages to dash your hopes.  Unlike other anti-heroes who somehow remain loveable, Ferdinand fails to do so, except perhaps that there is a little bit of him in all of us.  After all the novel is called Journey to the End of the Night, and so it is a journey further and further into immorality.

The pure un-distilled nihilism of this dish leaves a sour and unpleasant taste in your mouth.  And yet don’t let me put you off, it is still worth a taste.  Perhaps it is like culinary machoism, like extremely hot chilli, we feel proud that we survived, exhilarated.  But I am afraid that I prefer this novel nibbled a little at a time so as not to become overwhelmed with it’s pungent bitterness, and so that the tart and biting humour can shine through.

Louis-Ferdinand Celine, Journey to the End of the Night, 1932.


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