Nihilism and modernity: Louis-Ferdinand Céline's Journey to the end of the night
Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers
Wiley / Institute of British Geographers / Royal Geographical Society
This is the accepted version of the following article: Romanillos, J. L. (2015), Nihilism and modernity: Louis-Ferdinand Céline's Journey to the end of the night. Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers, 40: 128–139. doi: 10.1111/tran.12046, which has been published in final form at http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/tran.12046/abstract
Reason for embargo
This paper explores Louis-Ferdinand Céline's 1932 Journey to the end of the night within the context of growing work on the literary geographies of modernity. The paper argues that Céline's novel can be productively aligned with other texts such as Ulysses or Heart of darkness as a way of thinking about the experiences of modernity in terms of a spatial disorientation that provokes new kinds of writing. At the same time, Céline's novel is distinctive because it presents the experience of modernity as one of nihilism. In particular, the novel diagnoses the ‘creative-destructive’ project of modernity through a narrative of abjection and disenchantment, asking readers to question the dialectical promise, and idealist pretensions, of the term. This paper explores how this nihilistic writing is expressed spatially through the parodic ‘journey’ that structures the narrative, and the different nihilistic landscapes dramatised across the novel. The paper proceeds by examining understandings of modernity within literary geographies, and interpretations of nihilism, before exploring some of the central spatial moments of the novel: the deathscapes of World War I, French Colonial Africa and New York. The paper concludes by reflecting on the ways in which Céline's writing could be said to make manifest the spatial experiences of modernity.
Copyright © 2013 The Author(s). Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers © 2012 Royal Geographical Society (with the Institute of British Geographers)
2015, Vol. 40, Iss. 1, pp. 128–139