Publisher U-turns on anti-Semitic texts

Publisher U-turns on anti-Semitic texts

France’s most famous publishing house has U-turned and suspended a reissue of a collection of stridently anti-Semitic texts by novelist Louis-Ferdinand Céline (pictured).

Last week Gallimard Editions announced it was publishing a 1,000-page compendium of the writer’s pamphlets and essays from the late 1930s.

Frédéric Pottier, the French government’s anti-Semitism czar, wrote a letter last month to Antoine Gallimard, the publisher’s president, expressing “concern” over the plan to publish the pamphlets “in a context where the scourge of anti-Semitism must be fought more forcefully than ever before”.

The French Nazi-hunter Serge Klarsfeld threatened legal action to stop the publication, arguing that Céline had “influenced a whole generation of collaborationists who sent French Jews to their deaths”.

Yesterday (Thursday) Gallimard said it was axing plans to reprint the texts, including the essays A Bagatelle for a Massacre, The School of Corpses and Beautiful Sheets.

“I am suspending the project, having judged that conditions were not right for ensuring a proper job in terms of methodology and history,” Antoine Gallimard said.

Celine, a physician and supporter of Adolf Hitler, published the much-acclaimed Journey to the End of the Night in 1932 about his experiences fighting in the First World War.

Céline left France for Germany and Denmark after the D-Day landings in Normandy in 1944 and after the war was convicted in his absence for collaborating with the German occupation.

He died in 1961 saying he did not want the works to be reissued, but his widow, Lucette Destouches, 105, recently gave consent for a reprint, according to his lawyer.

Celine writes in Beautiful Sheets: “More Jews than ever before on the street, more Jews than ever before in the press, more Jews than ever before on the bar, more Jews than ever before at the Sorbonne, more Jews than ever before in medicine, more Jews than ever before in theatre, in the opera, in industry, the banks. Paris, France more than ever before ceded to the masons and Jews, more insolent than ever before.”

The publisher had previously insisted the works, which have been out of print since 1945, would be put “in their context as writings of great violence and marked by the anti-semitic hatred of the author”.

Gallimard said it wanted to issue a “critical edition” of the essays, which undermined the reputation of the author.


Novelist Louis-Ferdinand Céline. Picture credit: Wikimedia 


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