When Céline’s first novel, Journey to the End of the Night was first published in 1932 it created an instant scandal, being extravagantly praised by its supporters and savagely attacked by its horrified opponents. Four years later came the sequel, Death on Credit. Both were a new kind of novel, frank about the author’s thoughts and actions in a ways that readers had never encountered, ultra-realistic, and full of incidents that could not possibly be true to life, characters that stretched the imagination in spite of their having obviously been drawn from life.
In Death on Credit, Ferdinand Bardamu - Céline’s alter ego - is a doctor in Paris, treating the poor who seldom pay him but who take advantage of his availability. The action goes back in time to earlier memories and often moves into fantasy, and the style becomes deliberately rougher and sentences disintegrate to catch the flavour of the teeming world of everyday Parisian tragedies: the struggle to make a living, illness, venereal disease, the sordid stories of families whose destiny is governed by their own stupidity, malice, lust and greed.
'The most blackly humorous and disenchanted voice in all of French literature...' London Review of Books
'If the French demand bad behaviour from their novelists, they got more than they bargained for with the antisemitic Céline. But they were also getting the prose stylist of the century.' Tibor Fischer, The Guardian
Read an excerpt from Death on Credit
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