The Wartime Trilogy

by Louis-Ferdinand Destouches

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North, 1960

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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.

Count Otto von Simmer

Count Otto von Simmer, an irascible old veteran of World War I, apparently a homosexual. Wearing powder and lipstick, three Iron Crosses, and many rings, he typifies the absurd individuals Céline encounters frequently. Simmer is found bludgeoned, strangled, and tossed into a patch of weeds.

Count von Leiden

Count von Leiden (fon LI-dehn), the octogenarian master of the castle in Zornhof. He lets young Polish girls ride and whip him. When he rides off on a white horse to fight the Russian army, a group of prostitutes who run the northern plains grab him, tie him to a tree, and beat him. He dies of his wounds despite Céline’s medical treatment.

Baron von Leiden

Baron von Leiden, who has only stumps for legs. He is carried around by a Russian prisoner, who eventually murders him and dumps his body in a huge manure pit.

Inge von Leiden

Inge von Leiden, the baron’s wife and the mistress of Harras and Simmer. She attempts to seduce Céline to obtain drugs with which to kill her husband. She eventually succeeds and is carted off to her mother’s castle.

Frau Kretzer

Frau Kretzer (KREHT-zuhr), who runs the hotel where Céline, Lili, and Le Vigan stay. Her fits include cursing Adolf Hitler, rolling and kicking on the floor, accusing the French of murdering her two sons, and wallowing in their blood-soaked tunics. She is carted away with Inge.

Herr Kracht

Herr Kracht, the SS police chief. Stubborn, thickheaded, and hating nearly everyone, including Hitler, he keeps order by firing his pistol in the air. He befriends Céline and has him examine those who die, including an old dog. He helps Harras obtain travel permits for Céline, Lili, and Le Vigan.

Castle to Castle, 1957

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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...

(This entire section contains 187 words.)

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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)

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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.


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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.


Critical Essays