Real Men Arn’t Pussies
The Author: Celine.
The Title: Journey To The End Of The Night.
It’s not so bad.
Life, that is.
Though, based on the critics of this book, it certainly seems that the general consensus is it is. The guy who wrote the afterward—at least in the edition I have—is quick to let us know that Celine “pisses on everything.” According to this guy, he even pisses on the reader. (“Just when you start to know where you are, Celine pisses you down another rathole, damn it!” (p. 449).) And those little editorial blurbs agree. Some dude on the back of the book named Alfred Kazin (who apparently won something called Truman Capote Lifetime Achievement award for literary criticism in 1966) calls Celine’s writing a “lunging live wire, crackling and wayward, full of danger.”
When I tried to buy this dumb book off Amazon, I accidentally bought a 100 page essay on it instead. (I’m not sure if they don’t plan on doing that with Celine’s book; I wouldn’t be surprised.) Like I’d read 100 pages written by someone else. But the back of that book (which I did manage to read) calls Celine’s work, “of the blackest pessimism in respect to humanity.”
So they agree. The End of the Night is not a great place to live. There’s pissing and live wires and everything’s absurd and love is archaic (it’s appearance is no more than a few pages with the angelic Molly and then just her memory!) and children plot to kill their parents (the unnatural family that is the he Henrouilles) and wars are fought by deserters (Ferdindand, our heroic narrator himself, and his near-best friend Robinson) and everything’s so fucked up it’s funny.
Fuck that, I say. And, more importantly, fuck that, Celine says. Life is good there in that place. Life is good because there are no consequences. No consequences makes life good; not bad.
Think about it.
Brave Ferdinand lives life with immunity. He cheats on his lovers; he slaps a woman just to see what it’d be like and claims he has to do it again because, when the slapped woman cries, he can’t see her reaction and all we can do as readers is smile and say, oh, Ferdinand. And he sleeps with the girlfriend of the closest thing to his best friend, Robinson; and then (close your eyes if haven’t read it) he murders him. Yes, I said it—he murders his best friend. I know, I know, it’s not that clear cut, but he does. His best friend—or at least the only friend he has had throughout the story. He wants him gone; he tells us as much. It is Ferdinand who suggests that they go to the carnival where Robinson is shot; it is he who creates the strange love triangle that causes the riot; it is he who suggests they take a cab where Robinson is shot; it is he who laughs the whole time. Motives. Means. Opportunity. So, in a sense, a very real sense, it was he that orchestrated the murder to get what he wanted.
And what of Ferdinand’s consequences? There are none. In fact, to the contrary, he is rewarded. He begins the book by leaving the war by way of being institutionalized; he ends the book running his own funny farm in Vigny. And so we come full circle. Oh, the irony. And, in between, we traveled with him to America and back and got a medical degree.
No, it’s not that easy, the critics say. Even Ferdinand tells us life sucks. Don’t fall for it. It is a trick. No it’s not, the critics say. Ferdinand tells us, “The only true manifestations of our innermost being are war and insanity, those two absolute nightmares.” (pg. 359). See, the critics say. Ferdinand understands that life sucks. Oh yeah? So our innermost manifestations are nightmares? Well, you critics say that is bad? I say well then wake the fuck up. They are only nightmares. I learned to stop being afraid of those when I was seven. It’s like leaving the Matrix. Except a lot easier. Join us.
Or don’t. What do we care?
So, is his world so bad?
Fuck ‘em. The scholars and the critics can have their pessimism and savagery and they can be afraid of their journey to the end of the night. But Ferdinand and I will take our life without consequences in a heartbeat, thank you very much.
Life is grand, as they say. Yes, life is grand.