North, 1960

(Great Characters in Literature)

Louis-Ferdinand Céline

Louis-Ferdinand Céline (lwee-fehr-dee-NAH[N] say-LEEN), the narrator in all three novels; in this one, he focuses on his first adventures as he flees France, threatened with prosecution for collaborating with the Germans. His training as a medical doctor serves as a passport to hoped-for safety. Embittered by misfortune, he relentlessly attacks his perceived persecutors, seeing himself as a martyr, hated because he dares to tell the truth—that humankind is depraved and doomed.


Lili (lee-LEE), Céline’s wife and constant companion, carrying their cat, safe and fed, in a small case. Brave and generous, she possesses a mysterious female strength that sustains him in their journey.

Le Vigan

Le Vigan (vee-GAH[N]), a popular French actor who accompanies Céline through Germany, acting the clown to divert hostile crowds and serving as Céline’s confidant until almost the end of the journey.


Harras, a physician in the German army and Céline’s friend. He gives the three exiles refuge in the town of Zornhof. Harras’ jolly spirit masks a shrewd, practical intelligence, and his guidance and generosity are invaluable to Céline. Although he helps his friend get to Denmark, he himself comes to a bad end....

(The entire section is 504 words.)

Castle to Castle, 1957

(Great Characters in Literature)

Louis-Ferdinand Céline

Louis-Ferdinand Céline, the precariousness of whose existence is intensified by conditions in Siegmaringen, where more than a thousand other collaborators seek refuge. The voice of the sufferer and seer is ever present, and his frenzied pronouncements mingle with graphic details of bizarre situations.

Madame Niçois

Madame Niçois, an elderly woman in Meudon suffering from cancer whom Céline patiently and faithfully treats. She is a focal point in the beginning of the book and reappears, dying, after Céline finishes his account of life in Siegmaringen.

Major Hermann von Raumnitz

Major Hermann von Raumnitz, the chief of police, whom Céline treats for an inflammation, thereby acquiring a degree of protection. Raumnitz’s wife, Aisha, keeps order in the town with the use of fierce dogs and a whip.

Frau Frucht

Frau Frucht, who runs the hotel where Céline’s group resides. She also carries a whip, using it on maids, cooks, society women, and prisoners. In a final scene, she begs Céline to bring Lili to sleep with her, but he, wary and uninterested, lets the offer slip.

Rigadoon (1969)

(Great Characters in Literature)

Louis-Ferdinand Céline

Louis-Ferdinand Céline, who encounters increased danger and chaos under Allied bombing. The narrative shifts constantly between dispassionate objectivity and frenzy. In a group of demented children, Céline sees a spirit of adventure and indifference to the war. Although his misanthropic spirit continues unabated, he confesses that his weakness is optimism. Behind the voice that rails is an indomitable spirit that stands, in the end, as a testament of the human strength to endure.

Le Vigan

Le Vigan, who is worn out by danger and hardship; he longs for sunshine and peace. He finally receives permission to travel to Rome and takes leave of Céline and Lili.


Felipe (feh-LEE-peh), an Italian bricklayer working in Germany. When a flying brick leaves Céline bleeding and delirious, Felipe helps find food and makes him new canes before catching a train back to the brickyard.

Odile Pomaré

Odile Pomaré, a consumptive nun and teacher who is taking a group of children to safety. When she becomes too ill to travel any longer, Céline takes charge of the children and eventually turns them over to the Red Cross. Her hu-manity links her to Céline, and her sacrifice shows evidence of his.


(Great Characters in Literature)

Knapp, Bettina. Céline: Man of Hate, 1974.

Lottman, Herbert. The Left Bank: Writers, Artists, and Politics from the Popular Front to the Cold War, 1982.

McCarthy, Patrick. Céline: A Critical Biography, 1975.

Matthews, J.H. The Inner Dream: Céline as Novelist, 1974.

Noble, Ian. Language and Narration in Céline’s Writings, 1987.