Last Updated on June 7, 2022, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 93
Céline, Louis-Ferdinand (Pseudonym of Louis-Ferdinand Destouches) 1894–1961
A French physician, essayist, and novelist, Céline was notorious for the extreme pessimism of his misanthropic view of human nature. His masterful use of argot, popular expressions, obscenities, and fractured syntax illuminated his perception of the madness and chaos that was modern Europe. Madness became Céline's pervasive metaphor for the nature of human existence, and his forceful use of language and disregard for traditional literary style and structure helped place him at the forefront of the literature of anarchistic revolt. (See also CLC, Vols. 1, 3, 4, 7, 9.)
Last Updated on June 7, 2022, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 1210
[Eleven] years after his death, [Céline's] reputation stands high in France and perhaps even higher in the English-speaking countries. (p. 58)
Céline, according to [Nigel] Dennis, was not only that rara avis, a seminal writer, but a seminal writer whose example inspired other talented writers at the same time as his own successful creations have not been surpassed by any of those who have followed in his footsteps as a writer of fiction. When we consider that the latter group, according to some critics, may include men like Sartre …, Burroughs and Mailer, not to speak of lesser writers like Joseph Heller …, we are obviously confronted with an aesthetic phenomenon of a superior order of magnitude….
Even the cautious academic world, despite the explosiveness of his antiacademic temperament, is beginning to take note of his stature. A very interesting article [by] … Colin Nettelbeck is entitled "Journey to the End of Art: The Evolution of the Novels of Louis-Ferdinand Céline" [see CLC, Vol. 3]….
Professor Nettelbeck's article is notable as the most exhaustive account of the whole of Céline's fictional oeuvre…. (p. 59)
Neither Professor Nettelbeck nor Mr. Dennis suggests any defense of Céline's antisemitism. Quite the contrary. But they suggest that this element in his writing be put into proper perspective with regard to his work as a whole. (p. 60)
My own attention has been attracted, in the last works of Céline, to certain details which have not been commented on by others but which seem to me as interesting as those they have singled out for notice. Towards the end of North, he conceded that his own great sufferings in the Second World War (as a refugee fleeing France because, as he admits, he feared the vengeance of the Resistance upon himself as a notorious fellow-traveller of the Nazis, a "collabo") were not so great as the sufferings of those who experienced Buchenwald. (This realization apparently existed side by side with his … envy of the publicity accorded to Anne Frank and her family.) Also, in a vein reminiscent of one revealed in his conversations as recorded in The Crippled Giant, he calls down a plague on all sides of the conflict indiscriminately, curses Nazis and resisters, and consigns them to destruction in "the same cauldron." (pp. 61-2)
The optimistic forecast of regeneration which Professor Nettelbeck thinks he discerns at the end of Rigodon seems to me little better than a nightmare vision of France and the free West succumbing at last to "the yellow peril" in biological, diplomatic and military terms. He dreams of their being overrun by Mongol hordes who will loot and vandalize all their heaped up goods and luxuries until, sated with blood and conquest, the conquerors themselves pass out into a state of drunken stupor in the wine-cellars of Champagne. The last word of Céline resembles his first one: humanity itself consists overwhelmingly of rotten Yahoos, and it makes precious little difference to the earth therefore in the long run which dog comes out on top. It is what I have called an end-of-the-world vision, which explains why people who feel that their world (or someone else's world) is about to end may find it irresistibly persuasive.
For this reason he has long seemed to me one of the masters of the novel in the twentieth century…. His picaresque tales of various underworlds bare the scabrous backside of our civilization in the way that Petronius exposed that of ancient Rome, and in each case it is done in language which engraves itself in the susceptible memory with the permanence of initials carved in newly-laid cement. (pp. 62-3)
At the worst, Céline's cynicism sounds high-pitched, sensational and melodramatic…. But the exaggeration to which he is prone springs from that "dog's-eye" view of the universe which he self-consciously takes …, and the expression of this view acts as a kind of safety-valve for those whom contemporary experience occasionally inspires with boiling rage. His stream of witticisms, maxims, thoughts and aphorisms makes him, mutatis mutandis, a kind of twentieth century successor to LaRochefoucauld. (pp. 63-4)
It is Céline's gift (intermittently displayed and less present in his later than in his earlier works) for this kind of intellectual compression and concentration that puts him in a class above the Henry Millers, Allen Ginsbergs, and Kerouacs, who admire him without being able to mount into the same altitudes of generalization and abstraction. It has become a generally accepted idea that style (a kind of literary equivalent of haute couture) is redemptive of the most obnoxious content….
Except for buffs of the history of the disintegration of the Third Reich or for those interested in tracing the development of the literary school of "black humor," I do not think that Céline's final trilogy (which I suggest calling The Farcical Tragedy of Louis-Ferdinand Céline) will compete successfully with the fascination of his earlier works. He is still very largely a man of one book (the two halves of which are entitled Journey to the End of the Night and Death on the Installment Plan). His reputation has survived for two generations now on the basis of this accomplishment, which has been recognized as a classic of its kind. In some ways he may be regarded as belonging with the literary posterity of Jean Jacques Rousseau. The ideas of social reform propounded in his pamphlets are, aside from the antisemitic flavor with which he garnishes them, romantic in substance, and his roguish, satirical, creative confessions are an example of romanticism gone haywire. In his earlier works, romanticism reached a dead end; it could go no further, and the effort to make it go further despite its exhaustion is what accounts for the artificialities, the woodenness, and intermittent meretriciousness of his later inventions. His harping on one note brings increasingly diminishing returns. (p. 64)
I should perhaps amend my description of him (which has apparently gained currency among some of the aficionadoes of his imaginative works) as "a crippled giant." Crippled he was, certainly. But a giant? Perhaps. I had once thought of him as resembling Homer's one-eyed giant Polyphemus in the Odyssey…. (pp. 64-5)
He is indeed spiritually blind on one side and suffers a consequent loss of human perspective, which results in a lack of feeling for the depth of his fellow-men, whom he is too often content to regard as lacking in a third dimension, as flat as the faces on playing-cards. (p. 65)
On the basis of everything that has happened and been published in the more than twenty years since my Crippled Giant was published, I see no reason to change the conclusion which I stated in the last pages of my epilogue to that book: "My account will stand as part of the permanent record. Antisemitism may be revived (I'm sure it will be many times, much as I hate and fear to think so) but the moral stature of this particular antisemite will not so easily be resurrected, I think." (p. 66)
Milton Hindus, "The Recent Revival of Céline: A Consideration," in MOSAIC: A Journal for the Comparative Study of Literature and Ideas (copyright © 1973 by the University of Manitoba Press; acknowledgment of previous publication is here-with made), Vol. VI, No. 3 (Spring, 1973), pp. 57-66.
Last Updated on June 7, 2022, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 1920
Alcohol is singled out by Céline as the weapon chosen by the Jews in order to impose their will on the French—and, of course, to attack the drinking of wine is to undermine one of the foundations of the French nation. Literature and alcohol do not mix. Céline decries the "standardization" of literature in his wine-drenched homeland. Literature has lost, according to Céline, its "authentique émotion, spontanée, rhythmée" …, and thus Céline's own oral style … has been rejected for more "literary" styles, derived from such half-Jewish writers as Montaigne and Proust.
Although Céline portrays himself as one of the victims of this imaginary [Jewish] conspiracy, he has not, as a confirmed teetotaler, succumbed to the temptations of alcohol. And throughout his novels, Céline through his various narrative personnae remains the nondrinker. But although he refuses the intoxication of alcohol, he participates in another form of intoxication, one that is lucid and consonant with the style he has chosen. This form of intoxication is délire (delirium). Céline's use of the substantive délire and the verb délirer is pervasive in his works. Cognitively it signifies the expression of ideas contrary to reality, a state of excitement or agitation. To these two meanings—both indicating essentially a mode of verbal expression—Céline adds a third, archaic meaning—poetic frenzy or inspiration. Contextually, as we shall see, délire will have certain spatial connotations and will be opposed to both drunkenness and insanity.
I would like to examine three modes of delirium in Céline's second novel …, Mort à crédit [Death on the Installment Plan], a novel that Michel Beaujour has called a "constellation of deliriums." My choice of this particular novel has been dictated as well by the nature of its narrator and its particular configuration of narrative voices. Ferdinand is the first of Céline's homonymic protagonists and, analogous to the author, he is both doctor and writer—claiming authorship of Céline's first novel, Voyage au bout de la nuit. Mort à crédit employs the "ulterior narrative" pattern that will become typical of Céline's novels. The first part of the novel (the narrative instance) takes the form of a prologue in which Ferdinand situates himself in the present—here as a doctor in the "zone" (the seemy industrial suburb surrounding Paris). The second part of the novel (the story) chronicles Ferdinand's childhood and early adolescence: his growing up in the enclosed, stifling Passage des Bérésinas in a struggling petit bourgeois family, his schooling, his attempts to find and hold a job, and finally his acknowledgement of failure, culminating in his intention to join the army. (pp. 191-93)
For Ferdinand, "la vie" is represented by his patients' poverty and despair. Their fragile protection against life lies in the fleeting pleasure of alcohol or sex. There are more than 14,000 alcoholics and more than 6,000 cases of gonnorhea in the doctor's district. The doctors at the clinic are only slightly less impoverished than their patients. Even Ferdinand's colleague Gustin drinks to escape, though he is intimate with the ravages of alcohol and is himself dying of cirrhosis of the liver.
Ferdinand is differentiated from his medical double by his inability to drink and by the fact that he is a writer. The two are linked to the noises he suffers in his head, his internal, cacaphonous "Opéra du déluge" … which prevents him from drinking and keeps him awake at night…. Ferdinand dates the beginning of his torment back to World War I, thus identifying it with Céline's celebrated head wound…. This head wound will appear in a variety of guises in Céline's novels. But here in Mort à crédit it appears for the first time in a mythical role in the creative process and as a rhetorical device designating that process. The head wound gives rise not to sleepless nights but to a moment of délire, characterized by spatial and temporal disorientation and by hallucinations, which leads to a rupture with the doctor's constituted reality, the social frame of the novel. This break with one mode of existence, with one spatio-temporal frame, combined with Ferdinand's identification as a writer leaves no doubt that this moment of délire functions as a "narrative metalepsis." (pp. 193-94)
Ferdinand's delirium begins in the Bois de Boulogne, where he has taken a young woman, La Mireille, in order to persuade her to cease spreading malicious rumours about him. After a series of hallucinatory visions, he is brought back to his room, where he is attended by his prostitute-secretary (the one responsible for typing his manuscripts) and his mother. (p. 194)
The shift toward Ferdinand's childhood is adumbrated, of course, by the presence of his crippled mother, who begins to describe her life with Auguste her husband and the upbringing of their son. Ferdinand alternately rales against his mother's words and vomits. Yet before relating the story of his childhood, another type of literature tempts him, one that Ferdinand had thought would succeed a novel such as Voyage au bout de la nuit. The fiction in question is the Légende du Roi Krogold, a kind of medieval romance…. For Ferdinand (and for Céline as well), the Légende … represents an escapist literature, intoxication (in the alcoholic sense) rather than délire. That this kind of literature represents a permanent attraction in Céline's writing is attested to not only by the frequent references to the Légende but also by the ballets that Céline wrote.
Escapist literature of this type is a literature without risks. This concept of risk is announced in Ferdinand's prophetic statement (prophetic as it applies to Céline himself): "J'en reconterai de telles [des histoires] qu'ils reviendront exprès pour me tuer des quatres coins du monde" [I'll tell such (stories) that they'll return on purpose from the four corners of the earth to kill me]…. It would be a mistake to understand this statement as applying to the prosecution Céline suffered as a result of his antisemitic pamphlets (which Céline, his apologists notwithstanding, did not confuse with literature) and his collaboration with the Germans. Ferdinand is hyperbolizing here the subversive nature of literature in general and, in particular, specific aspects of Céline's novels: the confusion (literally and figuratively) between Céline himself and the narrators of his novels; the use of obscenities, argot, and ellipsis; and, ideologically, a bleak and dispairing vision of humanity.
It is to this other polarity of his writing, already revealed by Voyage au bout de la nuit, that Ferdinand returns. The voyage of fiction is announced by the image of a ship of the dead, later fragmented into a multiplicity of small boats. The ship is frequently associated with escape in Céline's novels, and indeed the transition from doctor to creator reveals a kind of escape, as might the return to childhood. (pp. 194-96)
Reduced to silent submission to his employers, Auguste revolts against his condition within the confines of his family. And his revolt takes the form of délire—a verbal tyranny over his son. He attempts to educate Ferdinand so that Ferdinand and, by extension, Auguste, can escape from the confines of the Passage. He tries to inculcate in Ferdinand that which will make him a respectable member of society: the necessity of having a trade, proper appearance, absence of debts, submission to authority, etc. Criticism and inculcation take the form of outbursts of rage. (pp. 196-97)
As the victim of his father's délire, Ferdinand inevitably associates the use of language with brutality and repression in the name of society. Silence thus becomes the means by which Ferdinand rejects both father and society. Sent to the Meanwell School in England in order to learn English (to enhance his employment prospects), he seizes the opportunity by not only refusing to learn English but by rejoicing in not having to speak French—thus not speaking at all…. Ferdinand's revolt against language continues after his return to France. In the course of receiving yet another scolding from Auguste, he strikes back, and his objective is to silence his adversary: "Je vais lui écraser la trappe!… Je veux plus qu'il cause!… Je vais lui crever toute la gueule!" [I'm going to smash in his mouth!… I want him to shut up!… I'm going to bash in his whole face!]…. Ferdinand achieves his goal, though indirectly, by knocking Auguste unconscious. The Oedipal aspect of Ferdinand's struggle with his father becomes manifest during this scene. The battle takes place within the parental bedroom, and Auguste pauses at one moment to admonish his wife—lying on the bed—to cover her exposed legs. Having "killed" his father, Ferdinand liberates himself from his father's tyranny—both psychological and ideological—and arrogates to himself his father's verbal energy. However, that energy is provisionally dispelled by a regressive substitute for speech—uncontrolled vomiting and defecation. Lastly, Ferdinand is rescued by his uncle Edouard, the "uncle-mediator" of the Oedipus myth, whose function is one of reconciliation and reintegration. (pp. 198-99)
As for Auguste, his délire, has been blind, destructive, and self-defeating. With Ferdinand absent, his rage deprived of its target turns inward. This involution, were it to become total, would, paradoxically perhaps, permit Auguste to truly escape from the Passage by substituting for it the self-contained enclosure of insanity…. Insanity is the ideal form of délire.
Inventor, schemer, charlatan, prolific author of scientific vulgarizations and do-it-yourself manuals—though incapable himself of the simplest mechanical task—inveterate horse-player, and alleged sexual pervert, Roger-Marin Courtial des Pereires along with his moustached wife (the result of a hysterectomy) will replace Ferdinand's parents. Ferdinand leaves the Passage for another enclosed space—that of the Génitron, the name of the review for inventors that Courtial directs and, by metonymy, the name given to the store-front office from which the review operates.
Génitron while suggesting génie [genius] also suggests géniteur [progenitor] and, by extension, womb. Whereas the space of the Passages was coextensive with the socio-economic situation of Ferdinand's parents, Courtial's "womb" is (ideally) an enclosure that is positively valorized as the theater for Courtial's délire. (p. 199)
Whereas the force of Auguste's délire resided in its emotional charge, Courtial's lies in his massive store of scientific and technological knowledge…. (p. 200)
The respective délires of Auguste and Courtial inform the délire of the narrator, as his informs theirs. Their failure to construct protective "dikes" around themselves, to surround themselves with a reality of their own making, by means of délire, the blindness and destructiveness of their efforts, derives from the intrusion of reality into the monolithic structures they attempt to elaborate. The adolescent Ferdinand is caught up in their drama, whereas Ferdinand the author by virtue of creative delirium, of the elaboration of a nonoperational autonomous language of fiction becomes the "extra-voyant lucide" [lucid super-seer], the creator of these grotesque tragi-comic figures. Yet Ferdinand anticipates that his délire too will be permeable. But he refuses nonetheless the facile escape of alcohol as he refuses the temptation of silence, which he equates with insanity: "Elle a couru derrière moi la folie … mais j'ai déliré plus vite qu'elle" [Madness pursued me … but I raved on ahead of it]…. (pp. 202-03)
Philip H. Solomon, "Céline's 'Death on the Installment Plan': The Intoxications of Delirium," in Yale French Studies (copyright © Yale French Studies 1974), No. 50, 1974, pp. 191-203.
Last Updated on June 7, 2022, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 1924
Survival as a guilt to be exorcised and which must create its own, nonidealistic style; survival as the only possible fixed value in an inhospitable world: into this category [A.] Alvarez attempts to place those writers who have minimised their moral and literary pretensions [in his essay "The Literature of the Holocaust"].
It is a category which appears, initially, to aid comprehension of certain aspects of the work of Céline. At an early point in the narrator's reminiscences of his childhood, in Mort à crédit, he recounts the visit of the family to the Exposition Universelle of 1900. The exhibition-site is swarming with a vast, frightening crowd. At every turn, at every stand, the family, terrified, take to flight…. The emphasis in this scene upon the need for flight in order to ensure personal survival, coupled with the deliberately nonidealistic language, would appear to situate it in Alvarez's category of survival-literature.
Nevertheless, the mechanism of survival in Mort à crédit is more complex than allowed for by Alvarez. In one sense, the family as a group, the collective on is fighting for survival in a world which is becoming increasingly hostile. In the way in which the narrator's family is driven out from the Exposition, Céline is able to present characters from a well-defined social and economic group, the petite-bourgeoisie, in a losing conflict with a rising technocracy. On one level, therefore, the novel depicts the decline of the old Parisian artisanal class. Yet the family itself is by no means united in its struggle for survival. The mother and father, the ironically-named Clémence and Auguste, are pathetic and half-acquiescent victims of a social system whose ethic they embrace. Their son, however, stands in an increasingly independent position, both in relation to his parents and to his society, and it is in this process of desolidarisation, a process contained within the narrative mode itself, that the true ambiguity of Céline's theme of survival may be seen.
Ferdinand's family no longer possess financial or social credit in the society in which they live. They seek to offset this by establishing the only possible credit which seems open to them, which is both moral and a projection into the future. They are despised and poor, but can at least seek comfort in their untainted and long-lived reputation for honesty, a reputation which is linked strongly to their unwavering loyalty to the work-ethic…. What distinguishes them from the proletariat is not merely an economic function, but a pretension to culture and knowledge embodied in the ideal of education…. [The] importance of education indicates the ultimate ambition of the family: to justify their own degradation by ensuring the social mobility of the child, an ambition already undermined by the fact that the family possesses no surname.
Within such a family structure, enormous pressure and responsibility are inevitably placed upon the child. In this, Céline's novel conforms to one of the major patterns of the French family-novel of the late nineteenth century which tends, like Vallès' Jacques Vingtras trilogy, to depict the way in which the family trinity of Father, Mother and Son projects itself into the future, away from an uncertain present, in its ambitions for the child. Ferdinand has a dual responsibility: to maintain the fragile and flagging family honour, and to win some kind of social success to justify his parents' sacrifices. Such success, however, is to be kept within modest limits. (pp. 60-2)
Mort à crédit, however, charts Ferdinand's progress from unconscious and inadvertent to conscious and deliberate rejection of the responsibility placed upon him by his family. His dealings with education, that prized jewel in the petit-bourgeois crown, are less than auspicious….
Nor are Ferdinand's skirmishes with the work-ethic any happier…. His failure in the employment of Gorloge who, by his name, with the sound or and by his profession of gold-salesman, is at the heart of the operation of crédit, is more serious for the family. Ferdinand is destroyed by the lies of Gorloge's wife and of his head employee, Antoine. The resultant accusation of theft and his dismissal affect the family in all its deepest beliefs: its aspirations to social mobility through the child are thwarted; its faith in the work-ethic is stunted; its reputation for honesty is irremediably tainted. Not only that, but in hard financial terms, Ferdinand's dismissal hurts the family badly…. (p. 62)
The problem lies in the fact that, economically, Ferdinand is on a different level from that of his parents, a difference indicated by his name. The fer component in the first syllable conflicts sharply with the steady amassing of or sounds in names of other characters, and may be seen to indicate a standard which is different from and below the gold-standard which regulates the lives of the parents. For, whilst the parents exist on a highly complex and sophisticated level of credit—in that they are subject to the laws of the modern economy and acquiescent to them—Ferdinand operates on a primitive economic level, indicated by the way in which he is emphatically never paid for his work: he exchanges his work for knowledge, experience and position…. Ferdinand, therefore, may be said to operate according to a pre-capitalist barter-system which, in its turn, contradicts the economic system by which his family live….
Ferdinand's distrust of language is not merely abstract, it is connected to a deep suspicion of exchange at all levels. To talk implies a willingness to enter, at least temporarily, into a reciprocal relationship, and the experience of the protagonist shows invariably how such relationships can render the individual vulnerable. It is for this reason, in the general context of exchange, that correspondence plays such a large part in Mort à crédit; yet it is always correspondence which comes in one direction only, from the outside world to a central figure who desires no contact with that world. (p. 63)
This general distrust of correspondence is underlined dramatically by the sinister role of the facteur [mail carrier] in the novel. (p. 64)
In the broader context of the novel, this rejection of correspondence is illuminating…. In terms of the parents' situation in Mort à crédit, Céline is dealing, not with a rising bourgeoisie, but with a declining petite bourgeoisie; yet that class, having lost the economic security of the Parisian artisanat of the nineteenth century, is nevertheless anxious to acquire significance on an individual basis in a claustrophobic setting which they would wish to believe is isolated from the mainstream of economic forces…. Yet the novel is precisely an epistolary novel which consistently and resolutely refuses to be one…. Ferdinand-the-actor and Ferdinand-the-narrator, by their failure to respond to the parents' claim for self-importance, by their failure to make of Mort à crédit the epistolary novel which its characters and its logistical dispositions demand, drive a firm nail into the coffin of the petit-bourgeois ethic.
And this attack is continued within the language of the novel itself…. The language from which [Ferdinand] consciously departs is that acquired, curiously formal language of the letter from the father, indistinguishable from a business letter, and, to a certain extent, the language of his own Krogold legend. In the first place, the style which the narrator composes and, subsequently, subverts has strong affinities with that of the roman populiste of Francis Carco, Pierre MacOrlan and Céline's friend, Eugène Dabit: the style meant to convey the situation of the mean streets and the poor people. In this sense, a descent into this style is a descent from petit-bourgeois pretension, with its emphasis on the distinction between the lower middle-class and the proletariat, into linguistic bad company, more damaging than Ferdinand's frequentation of André or Popaul, of whom his mother so deeply disapproves.
More specifically, one of the more common features of Céline's style: the devaluation, on occasions, of the verb, and the tendency to replace its effect by an exclamation-mark, coupled with the use of the points de suspension instead of conjunctions, indicate a refusal of exchange, reciprocity and dynamism. The series of stark lapidary exclamations, separated rather than linked by the three points, which mirror in their own turn the series of triangular relationships in the novel … constitute as important a refutation of the family's social and economic ethic as does the refusal of the epistolary novel. (pp. 64-5)
It is this which introduces the significance of the theme of narration itself, a theme intimately connected to the relationship between Ferdinand and his father. If the novel is a "drame de la mauvaise conscience" ["a drama of bad conscience," as Céline himself characterized it], it is so because the two characters are deeply similar and thus the betrayal is all the more intimate and self-directed. (p. 66)
Ferdinand cannot subscribe to the father's last acceptance of a myth, that of a triumphantly transcendental art. For this reason, not only is the father brought down by the symbol of his own mistaken faith in words, where words are all that he has left, but the novel itself may be seen to be calqued, in a highly detailed and subversive manner, on to the model of Proust's A la Recherche du temps perdu. The message from such a calque seems clear: the world view of the grande bourgeoisie may permit the possibility of an unacceptable reality being transcended by art; that of the petite bourgeoisie simply cannot afford it. It is a myth borrowed from another world and which is unreal.
The significance of this décalage is seen in the role of the Krogold legend, which, on one level, fulfills the role in the novel fulfilled by the Golo legend in A la Recherche du temps perdu. (pp. 66-7)
The scene in which the young Ferdinand comes across André reading a legend which, in the introductory section of the novel, has been closely identified with Ferdinand's own literary production, may be seen as a mise en abyme, concentrating the true literary preoccupations of the novel. As such, it serves to indicate the minimal faith in art possessed by Ferdinand-the-narrator. André reads the work and then vanishes into the past: literature cannot conquer time. Hence, when Ferdinand includes the Krogold legend into the introduction to his narrative, he departs from the naïve faith of his younger protagonist. The purpose now is different, more self-enclosed, more pessimistic. In spite of the fact that it is narrated to Gustin, there is no desire to charm: the narration takes place so that Ferdinand may merely verify the success of his own creation. And the legend itself, in the way that it depicts the betrayal by Gwendor of Krogold, the Gold King, and the betrayal of the betrayer, looks in upon the novel itself, reflecting the sad journey of Ferdinand: it encapsulates its own reality and abandons pretensions to influence the outside world.
For Ferdinand has betrayed: his society, his class, his family; and the story which he relates has the purpose, not of neutralising reality, as in the aspirations of his father, but of conjuring a hostile reality into the very centre of the novel, into the heart of the Krogold myth, so that both story and story-teller may die and finally acquire peace. (p. 67)
The guarded optimism of Proust is replaced by a literature of survival whose aim is self-destruction.
It is this survival which constitutes the major preoccupation of the novel. (p. 68)
Nicholas Hewitt, "Narration and Desolidarisation in Céline's 'Mort à crédit'," in Essays in French Literature, No. 12, November, 1975, pp. 59-69.