– Notes and Quotes –
Louis-Ferdinand Céline (1894-1961)
Journey to the End of Night (1932)
Soutane – Cassock
Vigor and brio
“The Aztecs, so the story goes, routinely disemboweled eight thousand faithful a week in their temples of the sun, a sacrifice to the god of the clouds to make him send them rain.” (29).
“My heart, a rabbit, warm in its little rib cage, fearful, cowering, bewildered . . .” (30).
“It’s not every day you can tell the captain what you think.” (34)
“I caught on that being older is good for the mind. It puts sense into you.” (35)
“. . . the flaming graveyards of no man’s land.” (40).
“. . . phobically allergic to heroism . . .” (41).
“. . . tormented by the implacable clock and the lust for life.” (46).
“Musyne was a musician, she played the violin, a very shrewd little angel, as I would soon learn. Implacable in her determination to succeed here on earth and not in heaven . . .” (63)
“. . . rubbish for rainbows . . .” (64).
“Sooner or later people are bound to classify you as something.” (65).
“War stories, like dirty stories, appeal to the military of all countries.” (104).
“‘Splendid! Why, that deserves to go down in History!’” (104).
“. . . since drinks at the pagoda were on the expensive side, they tried to get their money’s worth by pinching her ass something terrible before leaving. That was what wore her out mostly.” (123).
“. . . butterflies in their youth, maggots at the end.” (125).
“The poetry of the tropics turned my stomach.” (147).
“. . . now, fifteen years later . . .” (149)
“Anarchy all over the ark, and I a doddering Noah.” (151).
“Nothing brings memories to the surface like smells and flames.” (151).
“I still had to cross the lobby, to pass more rows of ravishing enigmas with legs so tempting, faces so delicate and severe. Goddesses, in short, hustling goddesses.” (173).
“Philosophizing is simply one way of being afraid, a cowardly pretense that doesn’t get you anywhere.” (177).
“I had broken the foreordained order if things.” (179).
“. . . if you’ve lived this long, it’s because you’ve squashed any poetry you had in you.” (181).
“There always seems to be a certain magic about getting rich quickly . . . . a poor woman’s ass is her goldmine.” (182).
“To counter the abomination of being poor . . . . get drunk on anything we can, cheap wine, masturbation, movies.” (182).
“. . . all happy people . . . . ought to be put to sleep for real . . .” (183).
“Where there’s a luxurious body there’s always a possibility of rape, of a direct, violent breaking and entering into the heat of wealth and luxury, with no fear of having to return the loot.” (183).
“. . . it takes more cowardice than courage to start all over again.” (184).
“It’s no joke being poor.” (187).
“It must be at the end of the night, and that’s why they’re so dead set against going to the end of the night.” (189).
Coué method: “Every day in every way I’m getting better.” (191).
“. . . the desire to see people came back to me.” . . . . “I wanted to touch a real body, a pink body made of soft, quiet life.” (195).
“The movies were no longer enough, that mild antidote was powerless to fight the physical horror of the factory.” (195).
“. . . I, likewise in high spirits, would sit alone I the kitchen, writing my short stories.” (196).
“Beauty is like drink or comfort, once you get used to it, you stop paying attention.” (196).
“. . . I soon developed an uncommon feeling of trust, which in frightened people takes the place of love.” (196).
“. . . the mark of true aristocracy in humankind is the legs.” (196).
“Americans do it like birds.” (196).
“You’ve got to be cheerful with women, in the beginning at least.” (196).
“She understood the industrial blues, she was used to factory workers.” (196).
“A new suit always throws you off.” (197).
“If only I had met Molly sooner . . . .” (197).
“In fatigue and solitude all men emanate the divine.” (200).
“Unquestionably, my soul was as obscene as an open fly.” (200).
“I was always leaving people.” (203).
“. . . the dream that Molly gave me during my few months in America.” (203).
“Flowing water makes men meditative. They urinate with a sense of eternity like sailors. Women never meditate.” (205).
“Study changes a man, puts pride into him. You need it to get to the bottom of life. Without it you just skim the surface. You think you’re in the know, but trifles throw you off. You dream too much. You content yourself with words instead of going deeper. That’s not what you wanted. Intentions, appearances, no more. A man of character can’t content himself with that.” (207).
“There’s no tyrant like the brain.” (207).
Bézin: “‘I can see what the future will be like . . . An endless sex orgy . . . With movies in between . . . You can see how it is already . . .’” (207).
“three kilometers” (214), “miles” (217).
“You should have seen her, so solidly built with a taste for coitus unusual in females.” (223).
“People live from one play to the next.” (224).
Song: “No More Worries” (227).
“Heaven help the weak! It’s the kid who suffers.” (229).
Wife: “‘Oh, Julien, I love you so much, I could eat your shit, even if you made turds this big . . .’” (230).
“When you’re determined to lose your name, you go among the common people.” (234).
“The lodge . . . . smelled strongly of petticoats and rabbit piss.” (237).
“. . . what can I tell you that you don’t already know?” (245).
“. . . you see the first lights of Rancy beyond the great lake of night that covers the cemetery. To get there you have to go all the way around. It’s a long way. You need so much time and so many steps to get around the cemetery to the fortification, you get the feeling you’re going around the night itself.” (250).
“It was cold and still in my place. Like a little night just for me, in a corner of a big one.” (250).
“I was so tired from walking and finding nothing that I finally fell asleep in my coffin, my private night.” (251).
“I’ll feel a little better when I’m eight feet under!” (255).
“People cling to their rotten memories, to all their misfortunes . . .” “These things keep them busy. They avenge themselves for the injustice of the present by smearing the future inside them with shit. They’re cowards . . .” (255).
“Nobody can really resist music.” (256).
“He had surfaced from his reflection.” (256).
Robinson to Bardamu: “‘You’re nice enough on the surface but what a bastard underneath!’” (257).
“. . . Let nature take her course, the bitch!” (261).
“It seems drinking’s prohibited by [the Arabs’] religion and buggery isn’t . . .” (272).
“. . . the night took them . . .” (274).
“That devil upstairs!” (276).
“I know how [Robinson] makes his living!” (277).
“. . . pink and perfumed flesh . . .” (282).
“His own private darkness.” (283).
“‘Gentlemen first!’” (284).
“. . . all of us drifting deeper and deeper into the night.” (286).
“The rich don’t do evil themselves.” (287).
“Having someone they could slander, despise, and threaten seems to have made them feel better.” (289).
“. . . It’s a good habit to get into . . .” (290).
“That’s what life is, a bit of light that ends in darkness.” (294).
“It’s not every day that you can get the dead to work for you.” (296).
“Everything becomes a pleasure when two people want nothing more than to get on together, because then you finally feel free.” (304).
“. . . Napoleon’s generals had a hell of a time stopping him from going to Warsaw to get himself sucked off just once more by the Polonaise of his heart.” (305).
“These young men gave themselves twenty years . . . of dogged thrift . . . in which to achieve happiness.” (309).
“The young bourgeois student feels that he is punished, and since it’s taken for granted that he can’t start saving yet, he drowns his sorrow in Bohemia and more Bohemia, in coffee-house despair.” (310).
Good coituses with English chorus girls: “I rejected the easy way . . .” (310).
“Where the ass is concerned, there’s always a residue of curiosity. You say to yourself that the ass nothing more to tell you, that you haven’t one more minute to waste on it, and then you start in again just to make absolutely sure that the subject is exhausted, you learn something new about it after all, and that suffices to launch you on a wave of optimism.” (310).
“So to hell with people who sing love songs!” (314).
“It was bound to end badly.” (314).
“I didn’t interfere, but don’t worry, I saw the catastrophe coming.” (314).
“Death to cuties who stir up calamity!” (314).
“For months, she had been loading Destiny with temptations, like a cannon” (315).
“Did Jesus Christ go to the toilet in front of everybody? It seems to me his racket wouldn’t have lasted very long if he’d taken a shit in public.” (315).
“We had reached the end of the world, that was becoming obvious.” (316).
“There’s no life left for the flames.” (318).
Two classes of chick: broad-minded, and good Catholic upbringings (319).
(shrinking violet type, and the girl about town)
“When you start hiding from people, it’s a sign that you’re afraid to play with them. That in itself is a disease. We should try to find out why we refuse to get cured of loneliness.” (325).
“All I see is crusty old stupidities fermenting in more or less recent bodies, and the more these sordid absurdities ferment the more they stimulate the young and the more they boast how fantastically young they are!” (327).
“You amuse yourself as best you can when you’re short of friends and don’t often get a chance to go out, much less to emerge from yourself and fuck.” (328).
“When it comes to tempting you, the Devil has a million tricks.” (328).
“An unfamiliar city is a fine thing.” (329).
Bardamu of Robinson: “. . . he’s only a cheap punk . . .” (339).
“I’d always known that Robinson was fond of French fries. So am I. It’s a Parisian taste.” (343).
“Iced drinks, then strawberries and cream, my favorite dessert.” (347).
“. . . lies, the currency of the poor.” (349).
“Keep it for the night, that’s my motto!” (351).
“It had really been a splendid day.” (351).
“The dullest love dialogues are amusing when you know the people.” (351).
“A wise man looks the other way.” (357).
Rasping Bordeaux: “Someone had left [Baryton] a whole vineyard, so he told us. Which was our tough luck. A very inferior vintage, I assure you.” (357).
“. . . I can’t help suspecting that only true manifestations of our innermost being are war and insanity, those two absolute nightmares.” (359).
“Blessed are those who can content themselves with whorehouses!” (367).
“Routine was death to [Baryton’s] ego.” (367).
“Because I was always kind to the inmates, which was my nature, I lived on the dangerous rim of madness, on the brink, so to speak.” (367).
Trust and sleep: “I’d have needed at least an illness, a fever, a specific catastrophe to retrieve some small part of my old indifference, neutralize my anxiety, and recapture the divine stupidity of an easy mind.” (369).
Storytelling: “My stock was exhausted.” (371).
“But peace to the memory of Monsieur Baryton, the bastard.” (371).
“. . . dangerously contaminated by meditation.” (376).
“Believe it or not, I was so unaccustomed to being surprised by good news that a tear or two escaped me . . .” (376).
“My past has ceased to exist!” (377).
“I knew Robinson. He had a lowdown, ungrateful nature. But I distrusted Abbé even more . . .” (382).
“. . . If you’d traveled a little more and known a few more people like I have, you wouldn’t be in such a hurry to give people advice . . .” (391).
“That’s all she knew, her ‘I love you’ jazz. As if that was the answer to everything.” (391).
“. . . the world leaves us long before we leave it . . .for good.” (395).
“One fine day you decide to talk less and less about the things you care most about, and when you have something to say, it costs you an effort . . . you’re good and sick of hearing yourself talk . . . you abridge . . . You give up . . . For thirty years you’ve been talking . . . You don’t care about being right anymore. You even lose your desire to keep hold of the small place you’d reserved yourself among the pleasures of life . . . You’re fed up . . . From that time on you’re content to eat a little something, cadge a little warmth, and sleep as much as possible on the road to nowhere.” (395).
“[Robinson] was looking better and had gained three kilos.” (396).
“. . . There was too much night around me.” (399).
“I had always liked Bézin, he was no crummier than most.” (399).
“Conversation with [Gustave] could be kind of trying, because he had trouble with his words. He could find him alright, but he couldn’t get them out, they’d stay in his mouth making noises.” (400).
“I had a crummy past behind me, and already it was coming back at me like the belching of fate.” (401).
“Homosexuality wasn’t my line, and Robinson didn’t give a damn about sex one way or the other.” (401).
“I had always wanted to slap a face consumed with anger, to see what a face consumed with anger would do under the circumstances.” (405).
“But they couldn’t faze Madelon, she slanged them back with the full force of her Southern accent. She could be heard for miles around. She told them were to get off!” (415).
“Everything’s that’s on the sidewalk belongs to the police.” (416).
“We’re never suspicious enough of words, they look like nothing much, not at all dangerous, just little puffs of air, little sounds the mouth makes, neither hot nor cold and easily absorbed, once they reach the ear, by the vast grey boredom of the brain. We’re not suspicious enough of words, and calamity strikes.” (420).
“. . . Your quarrels are no concern of mine!” (421).
“. . . I know you’re a sweet kid . . . But I don’t want to be loved anymore . . . It disgusts me!” (424).
“. . . All the sentiment you trot out to make me stick with you hits me like an insult, if you want to know . . . And to make it worse, you don’t even realize it, you’re the one that’s rotten because you don’t understand! . . . You’re satisfied repeating the rubbish other people say . . . You think it makes sense . . . People have told you there’s nothing better than love, they’ve told you it’ll go down with everybody, everywhere and always, and that’s good enough for you . . . Well I say fuck their love! . . .” (425).
“I had no great opinion of humanity.” (428).
Police Station Inscription: “Fuck the Fuzz” (432).
“As the night draws to an end, the locks open slowly.” (434).
“But there really wasn’t any more to say, nothing at all.” (434).