Places Discussed

(Critical Guide to Settings and Places in Literature)


*Flanders. World War I battlefield overlapping France and Belgium where the narrator, Ferdinand Bardamu, discovers the absurdity of war and its meaningless slaughter. The war symbolizes the disease that has infected Europeans, perhaps all humans, and its victims are not only the wounded and killed but the mentally injured—who include Bardamu. The battlefield literalizes the irrational spirit that has taken over the world.


*Paris. Capital of France. To Ferdinand, this beautiful and historic city is seen from a hospital for mental patients. In his new abode, sexual promiscuity and superficial affairs run rampant. Although he escapes the slaughter of the battlefield by being sent to this hospital, it, too, is a place where stupidity and self-interest reign and is an apt symbol of the unstable mentality that has devastated Europe.

Ferdinand’s search for understanding, truth, and fulfillment eventually brings him back to Paris for a second time, and finally to a mental hospital in a Paris suburb. As he advances geographically, spiritually, and materially, he descends further into nihilism and despair. Paris represents the nadir of his fortunes and his emotional development. In extreme poverty himself, he treats the sick in a neighborhood that is an extension of their moral and emotional illness.

In the City of Light, dark streets, buildings perpetually in shadows, and night scenes are all part of a place that reeks of death, disease, and decay. The mental institution where Ferdinand finds lasting...

(The entire section is 651 words.)


(Great Characters in Literature)

Knapp, Bettina. Céline, Man of Hate. Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama Press, 1974. Discusses hate in Céline’s works. Presents a fuller and more complex Céline than one might guess from the title.

Ostrovaky, Erika. Céline and His Vision. New York: New York University Press, 1967. Uses Céline’s pronouncements and speculations on the art of the novel to elucidate his work. Attempts to pull his various books together into a unified reading. Explores Céline’s treatment of death in Journey to the End of the Night, noting how death is disparaged, but also that the author distinguishes among kinds of dying.

Richard, Jean-Paul. La Nausée de Céline. Paris: Scolies Fata Morgana, 1973. Concentrates on Journey to the End of the Night.

Thiher, A. Céline: The Novel as Delirium. New Brunswick, N.J.: Rutgers University Press, 1972. Points out how often people suffer from fevers in Céline’s works, and the feverish nature of the prose. Discusses the sense of matter disintegrating that pervades Journey to the End of the Night.

Thomas, Merlin. Louis-Ferdinand Céline. New York: New Directions, 1980. Places Céline in his historical period and discusses his books in relation to his life. Speaks of Journey to the End of the Night as concerning not only death but also survival.