Louis-Ferdinand Céline was born Louis-Ferdinand Destouches May 27, 1894 in Courbevoie (near Paris), France. Céline spent his formative years Paris, where his mother had a shop in the Passage Choiseul. His parents sent him abroad to study languages (to aid their life plan of him becoming a business man) where he studied in Lower Saxony, and later at an English boarding school. In 1912, at 18, Céline joined the 12th regiment of the Cuirassiers- a French cavalry unit. He was seriously wounded in WWI and was discharged with a 75% disability pension, a permanently damaged arm and tinnitus.
In 1915 he married Suzanne Nebout but their marriage was never recorded with the French consulate.
In 1919 he married (officially) to Edith Follet. Her father was a doctor and this may have helped in Céline descision to study medicine. He recieved his medical degree from the University of Paris in 1924 and practiced thoughout his life, often working in low-income areas of Paris or specifically tending to poorer patients.
Céline first novel,Voyage au Bout de la Nuit (Journey to the End of the Night) was published in 1932 under the pseudonym 'Louis-Ferdinand Céline' (the Christian name of his maternal Grandmother). 'Journey' was well recieved in France. The story follows the mid-years of Dr. Ferdinand Bardamu, a character very similar in temprment and action to Céline. The story begins in the early part of WWI when the young Bardamu joins the French army, to his time in Africa at a jungle trading post, to an American Ford factory and his medical practice.
Céline's second book, Mort a Credit (Death on the Installment Plan) came out in 1936 and was, also, quite successful. Written as the memorandum of Bardamu's childhood, 'Mort' focuses on his mother who worked in sales to support the family (although she was crippled by polio) and his abusive father. Céline was was working on a third novel but interrupted himself to begin a series of politial writings.
Critics of Céline's work often cite his self-centered nihilism as a literary turn-off and quote his more Sarte-ish lines as proof. But more damning to his career was not his cynical writings but his fasict leanings. At the beginning of WWII he belived in an international Jewish conspiracy of war and was fairly loud about it. He wrote Bagatelles Pour un Massacre(Trifles for a Massacre) 1937, L'ecole des Cadavres (School of Corpses)1938, Les Beaux Drapes (The Fine Mess) 1941 among others. These pamphlets were anti-Semitic and pacifistic. Even though his far right-wing views were unsettling close the that of the Nazi party he also claimed that Hitler was Jewish and was quoted as interrupting a lecture on the "Judeo-Marxist tyranny" with the question, "Why don't you talk about Aryan stupidity?"
Wether or not Céline was a Nazi sympathizer or only an opininated author wrapped up in consipracy theory is still debated. Regardless, upon the Allied liberation of France his seen affiliation with powerful Germans, Party collaborationists, and a BBC declaration of his political treachery led to his move to Berlin, where he was promptly arrested. Céline spent a short time in a German prision and once released he traveled with his young (third) wife and their cat through the destruction of post-war Germany to Denmark where he was arrested (on the claims of the Resistance) again. Céline was convicted in absentia by a French civil court. He was eventually released due to his failing health and exiled to Korsor on the Baltic Sea.
In 1951 the courts reversed their ruling and Céline was allowed to return to France. His later works were never as well recieved as his first two as his writing became more and more introverted (Castle to Castle). Louis-Ferdinand Céline died on July 1, 1961. His style was darker than most of his day and is seen as the precurser to popular black humor. Céline was, also, one of the first authors to write in colloquial slang. Modern authors such as Kurt Vonnegut Jr., William S. Burroughs (and The Beats at large) and Henry Miller often cited Céline as a source of inspiration for their own stories.
Further reading of Louis-Ferdinand Céline:
Voyage au Bout de la Nuit (Journey to the End of the Night) 1932
Mort a Credit (Death on the Installment Plan) 1936
Bagatelles pour un Massacre (Trifles for a Massacre) 1937
L'ecole des Cadavres (School of Corpses) 1938
Les Beaux Drapes (The Fine Mess) 1941
Casse Pipe (Shooting Gallery) 1949
D'un Chateau l' Autre(From Castle to Castle) 1957
Ballets Sans Musique, Sans Personne, Sans Rien (Ballets w/o Music, w/o Dancers, w/o Anything) 1959
Nord (North) 1960
Rigodon (Rigadoon) 1961