Journey to the End of the Night
This was a long, strange trip. I read it because Bukowski seemed to enjoy it. I think he called it his favorite book, or at least one of.
I don't know that I completely "got it". It might be the kind of thing I'll have to re-read to fully appreciate. As a writer, I was fascinated by Céline's use of dialogue. Especially the ellipses (…). I still can't bring myself to use them; for some reason they always feel like a cheap out. Anyway, the whole story felt like a long ramble, and by the time I got to Ferdinand's final vocation, everything seemed appropriate.
I don't know what to make of the ending. It was as though Céline just decided to stop, rather than conclude. In a way, the whole thing spins out like a long, drunken yarn that I forced myself to sit through. It was redeemed by the very strong, cynical observational passages. I've highlighted the ones that rung the truest for me.
The afterword in the edition I read was weirder than the book itself. I wish Chuck (Bukowski) was still around so I could sit down and have a nice long talk with him about the story. Instead, I'm left to form my own conclusions. While I think I'm better for having read this, my life experience perhaps hasn't been dark enough to fully appreciate what Céline was going for. And maybe the recognition of that fact is enough.
- Most people don’t die until the last moment; others start twenty years in advance, sometimes more. Those are the unfortunates.
- 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.
- There’s something sad about people going to bed. You can see they don’t give a damn whether they’re getting what they want out of life or not, you can see they don’t even try to understand what we’re here for. They just don’t care.
- I’d picked up and dropped so many dreams, my mind was cracked and fissured, full of drafts and disgustingly out of order.
- When, grown older, we look back on the selfishness of the people who’ve been mixed up with our lives, we see it undeniably for what it was, as hard as steel or platinum and a lot more durable than time itself.
- [F]ire tortures you or comforts you, depending on whether you’re in it or in front of it. You’ve got to work the angles, that’s all.
- Beauty is like drink or comfort, once you get used to it, you stop paying attention.
- In fatigue and solitude men emanate the divine.
- Maybe that’s what we look for all our lives, the worst possible grief, to make us truly ourselves before we die.
- [A] boss, the man who saves you from starvation. The cowards, they’re scared to death of losing him, though he makes them sweat for their pittance. For ten years you stink of it, for twenty years and more. It’s no bargain.
- In the whole of your absurd past you discover so much that’s absurd, so much deceit and credulity, that it might be a good idea to stop being young this minute, to wait for youth to break away from you and pass you by, to watch it going away, receding in the distance, to see all its vanity, run your hand through the empty space it has left behind, take a last look at it, and then start moving, make sure your youth has really gone, and then calmly, all by yourself, cross to the other side of Time to see what people and things really look like.
- People cling to their rotten memories, to all their misfortunes, and you can’t pry them loose. These things keep them busy. They avenge themselves for the injustice of the present by smearing the future inside them with shit. They’re cowards deep down, and just. That’s their nature.
- Death to cuties who stir up calamity!
- Love thwarted by poverty and distance is like a sailor’s love; no two ways, it’s irrefutable and sure fire. In the first place, when you’re unable to meet too often, you can’t fight, which is that much gained. Since life consists of madness spiked with lies, the farther you are from each other the more lies you can put into it and the happier you’ll be.
- When you start hiding from people, it’s a sign that you’re afraid to play with them.
- Maybe what makes life so terribly fatiguing is nothing other than the enormous effort we make for twenty years, forty years, and more, to be reasonable, to avoid being simply, profoundly ourselves, that is, vile, ghastly, absurd.
- If someone tells you he’s unhappy, don’t take it on faith. Just ask him if he can sleep … If he can, then all’s well. That’s good enough.
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