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Céline’s Rehabilitation, from Nazi Collaborator to Distinguished Novelist

Louis-Ferdinand Destouches, writing under the pen name Céline, published his novel Journey to the End of the Night in 1932; it was praised by his contemporaries as a work of genius, and still retains its place as a seminal work of French modernism. A few years later, he began expressing his admiration for Hitler and hope for a Franco-German alliance, writing a series of viciously anti-Semitic pamphlets. In Céline’s eyes, the fall of France in 1940 was a proud moment. Reviewing a recent, meticulous study of the novelist’s views on Jews and race, Frederic Raphael explores how he returned to polite society after the war:

After France’s capitulation in 1940, . . . Céline was one of a band—Robert Brasillach, Drieu la Rochelle, and Lucien Rebatet at its head—whose gloating collaboration with France’s overlords ensured that their articles and books were printed in unprecedentedly large numbers. . . .

Céline’s post-war affectations of never having meant what he said, or even of never having said it, leave him without the cover of honest monstrosity. Annick Duraffour and Pierre André Taguieff [the new book’s authors] unpick the selective quotations and outright lies that allowed Céline and his bande to pervert the truth about his wriggles and wangles. As early as 1950, he had his supporters. . . .

The factitious category of “genius” spared Ezra Pound, as it has Céline, the consequences of “mere words.” Tactfully confined for a few years, Pound returned to sanity and celebrity status in 1949 by being awarded the first Bollingen prize by a jury of T.S. Eliot and friends. Only the poet Karl Shapiro dissented, to his cost. A veteran of the war in the Pacific, he made the bad career move of taking it seriously that, at the [zenith] of the Holocaust, Pound—while a guest of Mussolini—wrote that Jewish profiteers were transporting Europe’s best men to their deaths in—yes, he actually specified—cattle trucks.

After the war, Pound, like Céline, resorted to self-pity and dissimulation: anti-Semitism was declared a “suburban prejudice.” His seemingly mortified lines “Take down thy vanity, I say, take down” were in no way addressed by “ole Ez” to himself but to those who judged him a scoundrel. Oddly enough, Jews of one kind and another came to make pilgrimages to see, if not quite honor, Pound and Céline. Whatever the motive—perhaps the hope the great man might say it ain’t so—the pseudo-paradox of the artist who is also a [loathsome person] has abiding, morbid interest.

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More about: Anti-Semitism, Arts & Culture, Literature, Vichy France, World War II

Germany’s Bid to Keep Israel off the UN Security Council

March 21 2018

The Jewish state has never held a temporary seat on the United Nations Security Council. For the first 50 years of its existence, it was denied membership in any of the UN’s regional groups, which control candidacies for these rotating seats. Then it was finally admitted to the Western European and Others Group, which promptly agreed to wait another twenty years before approving Jerusalem for a Security Council candidacy. Now, Benny Avni notes, Germany is poised to block action:

As a good-faith gesture, the Western European and Others Group promised Israel that it and Belgium would run uncontested for the two open 2019-20 [Security Council] seats. Then, in 2016, Germany announced it would also run—even though it already served as a council member [multiple times, including] as recently as 2011-12. . . . [U]nless Belgium yields, Israel’s hopes for UN respect seem doomed for now—and maybe for the foreseeable future.

Why? Diplomats have been telling me Israel violates too many Security Council resolutions to be a member—as in the one passed during the last weeks of Barack Obama’s presidency, which marked Jewish holy sites as occupied Palestinian territory. But is building a porch in [the West Bank town of] Ma’ale Adumim really such a huge threat to world peace?

How about, then, a report released last week by UN experts on the Security Council’s North Korea sanctions? It found Germany violated a council ban on sparkling wines, exporting $151,840 worth of bubbly and other luxury goods to Kim Jong Un’s cronies. Or how about, as the Jerusalem Post’s Benjamin Weinthal reports, German companies exporting to Iran banned materials that were later used in chemical attacks in Syria?

Never mind. Germany (and Belgium) will surely benefit from the UN’s habit of magnifying Israel’s violations beyond all proportion. Thus, Israel’s petition to join the most prestigious UN club will likely be rejected, thanks to a late entry by a shameless [and] cynical German power play against the Jewish state.

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More about: Germany, Israel & Zionism, Israeli-German relations, United Nations