Louis-Ferdinand Destouches

(May 27, 1894 – July 1, 1961) was a French writer and physician who wrote under the nom de plume Louis-Ferdinand Céline.He was born Louis-Ferdinand Destouches at Courbevoie in the Seine département (now Hauts-de-Seine). Céline received only a basic education before he joined the French cavalry. He fought in World War I and was decorated for his actions in a battle where he was wounded in the right arm. Discharged from the Army, he worked in Africa. After the war he studied to obtain a medical degree. He then worked for the new League of Nations before taking up a permanent position as a doctor in Paris. He then started to write in his spare time.

His best-known work is: Voyage au bout de la nuit (Journey to the End of the Night) (1932, translated into English most recently and successfully by Ralph Manheim). It broke many literary conventions of the time, using the rhythms and, to a certain extent, the vocabulary of slang and vulgar speech. The book became a public success, but Céline was not awarded the Prix Goncourt, although the voting was controversial enough to become the subject of a book (Goncourt 32 by Eugène Saccomano, 1999).


In 1936 he published Mort à crédit (Death on the Installment Plan), giving innovative, chaotic, and antiheroic visions of human suffering.

Openly anti-semitic before – he wrote very violent pamphlets like Bagatelles pour un massacre (1937), L’École des cadavres (1938) and Les Beaux draps (1941) – and during World War II, he was identified by the public with the Nazi occupation, despite his consistent contempt for their ideology (and all others). He escaped judgment by fleeing to Germany (1944) and later to Denmark (1945). Branded a collaborator, he was condemned by default (1950) in France to one year of imprisonment and declared a national disgrace. Amnestied, he returned to France in 1951. He then published D’un château l’autre, a novel in which he described with brilliant wit the fall of Sigmaringen.

Fame came back to him in later life with a trilogy telling of his exile: D’un château l’autre, Nord and Rigodon. Céline died on July 1, 1961 of a ruptured aneurysm and was interred in a small cemetery at Bas Meudon (part of Meudon in the Hauts-de-Seine département). source