by Louis-Ferdinand Céline
In Guignol’s Band, first published in France in 1943, Céline explores the horror of a disordered world. The hero, the semi-autobiographical Ferdinand, moves through the nightmare of London’s underworld during the years of World War I. In this distressing setting, he meets pimps and prostitutes, pawnbrokers and magicians, policemen and arsonists. He sees social and physiological decomposition as these processes unfold along parallel lines of development. The illusions of existence are nakedly exposed. The narrative erupts in Céline’s characteristic elliptical style. His splintered sentences and scatology reflect his fury at the fragmentation of experience and at his own impotence in the face of it. Out of his rage, he forces the meaninglessness back on itself, and the exuberance of his struggle triumphs in the comic exaggeration of satire. Ultimately, his subject is not death but life, and he responds to it by a strengthened commitment to the sensual and concrete. His hallucinatory world is so vividly realized that it does, indeed, challenge the reality of the reader’s more conventional world.