Journey to the End of the Night
From The Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia
- "'Nihilism, unrelieved despair and negation, misanthropy, pessimism' - very much the same set of clichés that greeted Louis-Ferdinand Celine's Journey to the End of the Night, which to my mind is a very funny book, in a picaresque tradition stretching back to Petronius and to The Unfortunate Traveller by Thomas Nashe. I have always seen my own work in the light of the picaresque - a series of adventures and misadventures, horrific and comic, encountered by an antihero." --William Burroughs
Journey to the End of the Night (Voyage au bout de la nuit, 1932) is the first novel of Louis-Ferdinand Céline. This semi-autobiographical work follows antihero Ferdinand Bardamu through his involvement in World War I, colonial Africa, and post-WWI America (where he works for the Ford Motor Company), returning in the second half of the work to France, where he becomes a medical doctor and sets up a practice in a poor Paris suburb, the fictional La Garenne-Rancy. The novel also satirizes the medical profession and the vocation of scientific research. The disparate elements of the work are linked together by recurrent encounters with Léon Robinson, a hapless character whose experiences parallel, to some extent, those of Bardamu.
Influence and legacy
Will Self has written that Journey to the End of the Night "is the novel, perhaps more than any other, that inspired me to write fiction".
Charles Bukowski makes reference to Journey in a number of his novels and short stories, and employs prose techniques borrowed from Céline. Bukowski wrote in Notes of a Dirty Old Man that "Céline was the greatest writer of 2000 years."
The Xiu Xiu song "F.T.W." references the book.
The Charlotte Gainsbourg song "Voyage" also references the book's French and English titles.
In Jean-Luc Godard's 1965 dystopian science fiction film Alphaville, protagonist Lemmy Caution dismisses a taxi driver's offer of route options to his destination by stating that he is on "a journey to the end of the night". The film depicts the use of poetry as a weapon against a sentient computer system.
Italian film director Sergio Leone was a fan of the novel and was considering a film adaptation in the 1960s.
The title of noise/punk band Heroine Sheiks' 2008 release Journey to the Edge of the Knife is a reference to the novel.
Brooklyn-based hardcore punk band Swallowed Up included a spoken sample of text from the novel on a track from their 2010 split LP with Black Kites.