LONDON BRIDGE by Louis-Ferdinand Céline


Email this review


 The first English translation of a major novel by the French writer (18941961): a characteristically nightmarish whirl through the dark places of the soul and society in prose of equally feverish velocity. A sequel to Guignol's Band (1954)--a synopsis is provided--the novel continues the story of a young French soldier, Ferdinand, who, badly wounded in battle, moves to London in the middle of World War I. The London CÇline evokes is as demonic and corrupt as the battlefields of France. It is a place of pimps and perverts, hookers and con men, a place where ``the conditions had turned the whole world topsy-turvy...morals were out the window.'' CÇline, noted for his pessimism as well as his innovative prose--slangy, colloquial, and punctuated by ellipses--does not spare the grotesque and seamy details. But as an anguished moralist who paints the darkest picture so that the light and the good can be appreciated, he lets narrator Ferdinand offer some hope. The former soldier, whose war injuries have left him subject to migraines and seizures, realizes that ``once you start flying in the face of decent behavior, right away your life's in the greatest danger!..You lose your nerve...your footing...ker-plop! over your head.'' Though it's not easy, Ferdinand never really gives up as he helps an eccentric French con man and a wealthy British colonel make a gas mask to enter in a competition and falls in love with the colonel's sexually mature teenage niece, Virginia. She accompanies Ferdinand on errands around London's less salubrious neighborhoods, where they survive bombings, sexual orgies, encounters with predatory pimps, and an evening with the mysterious Frenchman Centipede, now back from the grave. A raw, searing assault on the sensibilities, infused with anguished concern for human foolishness and folly. The translation is an especially faithful rendition of CÇline's unique style.

Pub Date: March 23rd, 1995
ISBN: 1-56478-071-6
Page count: 449pp
Publisher: Dalkey Archive
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1st, 1994