25 January 2011

Céline and the French Government's U-turn

Frédéric Mitterrand*, the French culture minister - under pressure - backed down last Friday and decided to remove Louis-Ferdinand Céline's name from the list of 'national celebrations' this year. Although undoubtedly a great and influential writer most noted for his novels Voyage au bout de night (Journey to the End of the Night) and Mort à crédit (Death on the Installment Plan), Céline still carries the stigma of the three savagely anti-Semitic pamphlets he wrote.

A number of people - notably the writer Philippe Sollers - have expressed their great disappointment at the French government's U-turn.

*Mitterrand - nephew of the former French president François Mitterrand - is himself no stranger to controversy. In 2005, he published La mauvaise vie (The Bad Life), an autobiographical novel containing revelations of his love of paying young Thai boys for sex. And he has been a strong defender of Roman Polanski, the film director wanted in America since 1977 for, among other charges, the statutory rape of a 13-year-old girl.

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