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Louis-Ferdinand Celine, Casse-pipe

June 20th, 2012 · No Comments

Louis-Ferdinand Celine
reviewed by Gary Levinson
Editions Gallimard 1952

Casse-pipe is the story of a volunteer who joins the French army in the years  just before the first world war.  Although a novel, it is based on Celine’s own story: He too joined the army as a volunteer, and undoubtedly experienced the very things we read in this story.

A well-written novel, written with Celine’s usual superior command of  words, Casse-pipe presents us with a chaotic, unprepared, mal-equipped, hierarchical army.  In order to escape the horrible weather and to generally avoid being found by their commanders, the regiment in question takes refuge in a malodorous barn.

This is not a story that the reading of which makes you feel better; rather, the smell of equine urine and feces will linger long after you’ve forgotten the details of the plot.

This story is mostly interesting for its insight into the French army at the beginning of the 20th century, and for
its biographical information about Celine.

The novel is followed by entries from Celine’s own diary during his service.  These diary entries are found under the name of the Carnet du cuirassier Destouches, reflecting Celine’s civil name.

reviewed by Gary Levinson
review © copyright Levinson 2012