Journey to the End of the Night

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Journey to the End of the Night
Journey to the End of the Night cover.jpg
First English-language edition
(publ. New Directions, 1934)
Cover art by Alvin Lustig & Quigley)
AuthorLouis-Ferdinand Céline
Original titleVoyage au bout de la nuit
TranslatorJohn H. P. Marks (1934), Ralph Manheim (1988)
Publication date

Journey to the End of the Night (Voyage au bout de la nuit, 1932) is the first novel by Louis-Ferdinand Céline. This semi-autobiographical work follows the life of Ferdinand Bardamu.

"Journey to the End of the Night" is an autobiographical novel. It tells the story of Bardamu and his doppelganger Robinson in a grotesque journey through life, through the world and through death. Bardamu survives the First World War, wanders through the jungles of colonial Africa, lives in the unnatural world of Industrial America, heals the poor in a Parisian suburb, all the while constantly encountering Robinson. It was ranked 51st on The Guardian's list of 100 Greatest Novels of All Time.[1]

Literary style[edit]

Céline's first novel is remarkable for its style, making extensive use of ellipsis and hyperbole. His writing has the flow of natural speech patterns and uses the vernacular, while also employing more erudite elements. This has influenced French literature considerably. The novel enjoyed popular success and a fair amount of critical acclaim when it was published in October 1932. Albert Thibaudet, perhaps the greatest of the entre deux guerres critics, said in January 1933 that it was still a common topic of conversation at dinner parties in Paris.[2]

Influence and legacy[edit]

Paolo Sorrentino's 2013 film The Great Beauty (La grande bellezza) opens with a quote from Journey to the End of the Night. The film concludes with a visual of the last paragraph of the book, passing under bridges, arches, and locks along the city's river.[3]

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".[4]

The song "End of the Night" by The Doors references this book.[5]

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.[6]

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".[7]

Céline's literary style greatly influenced Joseph Heller's Catch-22.[8]

Jacques Tardi illustrated the 1988 edition with 130 drawings.[9]

Publication history[edit]

  • Céline, Louis-Ferdinand (1983). Journey to the End of the Night. Manheim, Ralph (trans.). New York: New Directions. ISBN 978-0-8112-0847-5.
  • Céline, Louis-Ferdinand (1988). Journey to the End of the Night. Manheim, Ralph (trans.). London: Calder. ISBN 978-0-7145-4139-6.
  • Sturrock, John (1990). Louis-Ferdinand Céline, Journey to the End of the Night. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-37854-0.
  • Céline, Louis-Ferdinand (2006). Vollman, William T. (afterward) (ed.). Journey to the End of the Night. Translated by Ralph Manheim. New York: New Directions. ISBN 978-0-8112-1654-8.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ McCrum, Robert (12 October 2003). "The 100 greatest novels of all time: The list". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 26 August 2019.
  2. ^ Henri Godard, "Notice", in Céline, Romans, vol. 1 [Paris: Bibliothèque de la Pléiade, 1981], p. 1262.
  3. ^ De Marco, Camillo (21 May 2013). "The Great Beauty: a journey to the end of the night". Cineuropa. Retrieved 6 August 2018.
  4. ^ Will Self (10 September 2006). "Céline's Dark Journey". The New York Times. Retrieved 17 July 2010.
  5. ^ Songfacts. "End Of The Night by The Doors - Songfacts". Retrieved 26 August 2019.
  6. ^ Alan Woolfolk, "Disenchantment and Rebellion in Alphaville", in The Philosophy of Science Fiction Film, University Press of Kentucky, 2007. ISBN 0-813-12472-7, p.200
  7. ^ Notes of a Dirty Old Man, p. 86.
  8. ^ Gussow, Mel (29 April 1998). "Critic's Notebook; Questioning the Provenance of the Iconic 'Catch-22'". The New York Times. Retrieved 6 August 2018.
  9. ^ Mintzer, Jordan. "'April and the Extraordinary World' ('Avril et le monde truque'): Film Review". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 13 July 2018.