Literary London Reading Group

16 April 2013, 18:00 - 19:30

Event Type:
Room 234 (Senate House)
Venue Details:

Senate House 
Malet Street 
London WC1E 7HU


Claire Lozier (University of Leeds): '1915-16, London through the eyes of a Frenchman: Louis-Ferdinand Céline’s Guignol’s Band I and II'.  CLICK HERE FOR EXTRACTS

One of the greatest French writers of the twentieth century, Céline is also one of the most controversial, mostly due to the anti-Semitic pamphlets he published before and during the Occupation. Written between 1940 and 1945, Céline’s third novel, Guignol’s Band I and II, bears no marks of such hatred. Rather, slipping away from occupied Paris, the book evokes early World War One London where Céline spent 12 carefree months in 1915 and 1916, working as a clerical clerk at the French Consulate after having been injured on the front. Close to the London-based French underworld, his semi auto-fictional protagonist Ferdinand roams the streets of London, where he encounters numerous burlesque characters and tries to escape both from the police and members of the ‘milieu’. Vivid accounts of his seemingly incessant movements combine highly realistic, (geographically) accurate descriptions and incorrect, fantastic representations. Céline knew the London he describes: he worked with maps, made several trips to the city at the time of writing, and received information about the city from a friend who lived there. Several questions arise: Why are Céline’s descriptions of London so inconsistent? How are we to understand his numerous inaccuracies and inventions of Céline’s work? What is the significance of its distortions and inconsistencies? What is the relationship between Ferdinand’s London-based wandering and Céline’s writing?

Dr. Claire Lozier is Lecturer in French at the University of Leeds. She is the author of De l’abject et du sublime. Georges Bataille, Jean Genet, Samuel Beckett (Peter Lang, 2012), and of several articles on various aspects of the work of these authors (from their debts to baroque art to their links with contemporary French philosophy). Her new research project focuses on the role played by England and English in the work of French writer Louis Ferdinand Céline.