VOYEUR VOYANT: A Portrait of Louis-Ferdinand Celine by Erika Ostrovsky

VOYEUR VOYANT: A Portrait of Louis-Ferdinand Celine

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KIRKUS REVIEW

In Voyeur Voyant, Celine, and his biographer, Erika Ostrovsky, are oddly matched. They appear to be ocean liners which continually pass each other in the dead of night. She sings her hymn of love, he responds with his hymn of hate. It is an impressive contretemps: Professor Ostrovsky's lyrical metaphor-ridden commentary (""the result,"" as the blurb says, ""of nearly a decade of research""), juxtaposed against foaming extracts from the author's numerous autobiographical novels, pamphlets, letters, diatribes, and assorted musings. There are chronological leaps and dramatic devices (the youthful Celine mocked by the later Celine), cadenzas of ""fact"" and ""fiction,"" imagistic arias and weighty epigraphs, and always the professor's emphatic style: ""Montage of faces, hands, thighs -- composed and decomposed at will like the visions in a kaleidoscope, which by their variety might serve to fill his changeable needs."" It is empathic scholarship, new to academia, yet it has a passe air, as if one were reading one of those impressionistic stream of consciousness novels New Directions used to publish years ago. Of course it is ambitious and the sheer amount of information is staggering. Professor Ostrovsky dispels many legends, including the persistent one of Celine's trepanation during World War l, a legend sponsored by Celine himself. But the maddening Celine is a great mystery. Ostrovsky loves the contradictions of his nature. Celine ""was adopted by Nazi circles as spokesman for their cause (as he had been the foster son of the French Left and Right, before), while delighting in predicting their downfall."" But these go on and on and confusion grows. Her previous study, Celine and His Vision, a sober, standard work, seems, in the end, both more illuminating and aesthetically fulfilling than the floridly dumbfounding portraiture present here.

Pub Date: Jan. 7th, 1971
Publisher: Random House