Journey to the End of the Night (2002, Yapı Kredi Publications) is a post-war novel. Although, the novel does not give a clue about which war it is, we know that it is the World War I because of Louis-Ferdinand Céline’s life. The interesting part is that the protagonist of the novel is also named Ferdinand. Therefore, we can convincingly think of Ferdinand who talks during the length of the novel as the author himself. However, this should not aim us thinking that the book is an autobiography. We are facing with a novel in its entirety. Even though, Céline based the novel on his life, he did not stop there and created an artwork, a novel.
We read the cruelty of war in Ferdinand. Céline can give us the type of damages a world war causes in people with all the details for 555 pages. Céline does not do it by saying ‘this building or that city was destroyed this or that way or this many people were killed’. He goes down to the most basic point in human psychology. It is faith. War has killed the faith in people before anything else. Ferdinand has been attacking everything that humans see as the meaning of life and assign value. He is so angry. He is not able to forgive the world and humanity because of all the suffering he has been through. According to him, a fight between human, society, and governments against each other is meaningless. The source of his anger is this meaninglessness. Céline uses groundlessness to explain the state level meaninglessness at personal level. Ferdinand argues with a friend about the meaninglessness of the war at the beginning of the novel. He joins the army the next day of the argument. He is sent to the fronts immediately regardless of his young age. He witnesses tens of fights; he sees how commanders who storm around confidently a minute ago become torn into pieces by bombshells the next. He realizes that high-rank people put young soldiers’ lives in danger carelessly only to teach them discipline. Therefore, all of his values about nation, citizenship, country, brotherhood, and faith that he had treasured once become destroyed.
Ferdinand goes to Africa and America. He works at different jobs there. However, we cannot learn why he went to those places from the novel, because those actions too were baseless. He is in a constant search; in fact, in an escape before that. So, there is no difference between him going to Africa to try becoming rich in a French colony and going to America as an oarsman. Later, he returns to France and completes his medical degree that he left incomplete to join the army. Despite the positive developments in his life, he cannot yet find happiness. Loss of values, meaninglessness, and groundlessness caused by the war could not be undone just because a few years have passed over it and a few good things happened to him. Damages of war on human psychology are permanent. We can see this not only in Ferdinand but also in his friend Robinson. Robinson, too, has lived all his life in a psychology of escape. He runs away with no reason from his fiancée Madelon, who loves him dearly and has nurtured him during his days of illness.
We can exemplify this further. The best would be to let the readers find out these on their own in Journey to the End of the World. The novel has achieved to shake the world literature a few times. It can still capture the same effect in each reader.
The Library of the Author
– Acile Tek Giden, Zeynep Tuğçe Karadağ, Profil Publications
– Creative Evolution, Henri Bergson, Dergâh Publications
– Pieces from the View, Orhan Pamuk, İletişim Publications
– Mekân Hikâyeleri, Duran Boz-Köksal Alver, İz Publications