Journey To The End Of The Night by L.F Celine

I have always suspected myself of being almost purposeless, of not really having any single serious reason for existing. Now I was convinced, in the face of the facts themselves, of my personal emptiness. In surroundings so much too different from those in which I had previously had my meagre being, it was as if I had at once fallen too pieces. 

When we are born, from the very moment of our first heartbeat, we start existing, living and dying all at the same time, and yet each are different. Have you ever really thought of it that way? Wait, now I don’t want you to think I am about to go all philosophical in this review.But I just want you to assume (for the time being) that life in its entirety, has absolutely no purpose at all.

That I could die right this very moment without ever getting to know why I lived. So with this fear in mind, you could either go in search for some superficial enlightenment or you could give up and read Journey to the End of the Night and face a harsh possible reality.

Reading this book was like watching a pessimist die a very slow death. Published in 1932, it is a WWI novel that is a semi-autobiography by French writer, Louis-Ferdinand Céline. He writes of his experience in the war, his travels in North Africa, his job at the Ford factory in America and his cashless pursuit in medicine in France. And very early in the book, you feel that you reading what looks to be, the works of a mad man. What made him mad? Was it the war paranoia? the survivors guilt? Was it the malaria he contracted in Africa? Or was it always there but fueled by his traumatic life? I could never really figure it out.

“The plain truth, I may as well admit it, is that I’ve never been really right in the head.” 

The writing is quite poetic, but largely ambiguous. Layered with endless hyperbole which may or may not lead to a general truth. If one could familiarise with his ellipsis, you’d be able to peel through it and find some beautiful writing underneath:

“You can lose your way groping among the shadows of the past. It’s frightening how many people and things there are in a man’s past that have stopped moving. The living people we’ve lost in the crypts of time sleep so soundly side by side with the dead that the same darkness envelops them all. As we grow older, we no longer know whom to awaken, the living or the dead.” 

Like Kafka’s Trial, this book is also devoid of hope and any positivism. There is a treacle of a story, but not much to keep the grip constant. It was honestly too overwhelming.

What kind of a world would it be if we were all pessimists? Not a good one. We all know at some point that all life will eventually end, but should I stop living and start dying? What good will that do for me? Is there wisdom in pessimism? Maybe there is, but without optimism, there would be no hope or willpower. And I can’t live without hope.

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