Critical Context

(Literary Essentials: World Fiction)

The publication of the trilogy—which appeared in three separate volumes over a period of several years—was greeted with largely negative commentary by critics, though it did succeed, as earlier postwar publications had not, in reestablishing the presence of Céline on the French literary scene. Céline’s notoriety as a Nazi supporter and anti-Semite certainly played a part in the reception (and sales) of the trilogy. Some critics discerned a decline in the author’s creative powers, condemning the work as rambling; they decried its lack of sustained plot development and overall interpretive framework that would convey an analysis of the historical situation in which Ferdinand finds himself as he attempts to seize History by means of Story. The emergence of the New Novel in France during the 1950’s and 1960’s, with its linguistic experimentation and ostensible rejection of traditional novelistic structures, no doubt obscured the more innovative aspects of Céline’s writing, which, in some ways, were not so far removed from the conceptions of such New Novelists as Alain Robbe-Grillet, Nathalie Sarraute, and Claude Simon.

The passage of time has favored Céline, although he and, perforce, his writings remain subjects of controversy. As the events and the pervading attitudes of the World War II era have receded further into the past, there has been less concern with the author’s politics and, concomitantly, a more detached perspective on his...

(The entire section is 537 words.)