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Céline and French Reactionary Modernism

Reactionary literature in France today—as opposed to earlier varieties, for example the romantic, two centuries ago—is distinguished by its despair, its radical style, its exploration of new worlds, its almost science-fiction approach to life and letters. Its most powerful motive is unquestionably despair: of democratic vulgarity, the machine civilization, the social monotony that spreads over the happily consumerist landscape. What is unusual with modern literary reactionaries is that they no longer claim an aristocratic taste, feelings not shared by the masses, or membership in a Proustian milieu for refined intellectual and emotional palates. Spengler and Ortega are not their patron saints. On the contrary, their antimodern attitude expresses itself in a radical, at times populist style, similar to that of leftist protesters, at times to a Surrealist provocation. As a general explanation, I offer a statement by François Huguenin, young editor of the recently launched magazine Réaction: "We are in a paradoxical situation: life under a regime [the liberal-socialist of France] claiming total freedom of thought, yet enforcing an ironclad ideology at all levels, schools, media, culture, consumerism. This imposed uniformity is such that we are not even permitted to be curious."

Such sentiments were essential to the works of Céline, and help explain why Céline is today number...

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