Friday, August 26, 2022



It's not just E@L. 

Of the people (bots?) on his blogroll, only 4 have posted in the last six months. Has E@L lost you all? Are you gone. Have you abandoned him, or have you abandoned writing? Or is it just that E@L is not writing anything for you to read and this has shocked you into Bartlbeyism? Something electifying, stunning, overwhelmingly brilliant/funny/pretentious/dull/sad, and you all cracked it? Reacted badly? Cracked the shits and blocked him?  

Was it something he didn't say?


And cheers to those brave souls who stick at it. Those 4 souls slick with perstistence and fortitude. Write, write, write! Pretend E@L is reading. Imagine it. Pretend he is stuck at the computer until 4am like the old days, writing stuff himself, for you Constant Reader. And the Inconstant Many Skimmers. Like E@L himself. 

There he is, in his $5,500 a month garret. Type, type, type. But reading, reading, reading as well. Of course! All you lot in his eyeballs. Every night. He was looking for inspiration in your lives. Yep, 4 am, OK 3am.  The good old days, when E@L should have been in bed. He needed his sleep then, E@L had lives to save. 

But hey, shit happens. Sorry m'am, maybe next time he'll diagnose you properly, if there is a next time, as you know, death. Time's wing'd chariot. The salmon mousse. 

[He had given up his illustrious scanning career many years before he started blogging, so that last bit is merely (merely!?) rhetoric.]


Speaking of patients dying, in 1924, a medical student named Louis-Ferdinand Destouches wrote a thesis for his medical degree on Ignaz Philip Semmelweis. It was his (L-F) first known extended piece of writing.

Semmelweis, you may know, or not, was the guy who said to the other doctors, "Hey, guys, if you just fucking-well wash your hands after dissecting rotting corpses in the autopsy room before you start your accouchier's handing of pregnant ladies in the Lying-In ward, definitely, I mean definitely, fewer, if not zero of the straining, huffing, not-pushing-yet ladies in labour could avoid dying of puerpal fever. You know. Toxic shock. An anaphylactoid reaction to having bits of dead people in their birth canals. How hard is to just - Fucking. Wash. Your. Fucking. Hands? Save a life: scrub out those filthy entrails clogged under your nails. <mumbles> You fucking dickheads." 

Of course, this last bit didn't make him any friends, maybe someone heard or inferred his mumbled oaths, so once Semmelweis left, the other doctors stopped washing their hands and everyone started dying again. And E@L thinks, like Dr Destouches said, "Dickheads. Murderous fucking dickheads."

In his latter years, Dr Destouches worked in the poorer arrondisements of Paris, treating the poor and indigent, often not getting paid, or being paid in kind rather than cash. He was a physician of Semmelweisian self-sacrifce and altruism. 


But Dr Destouches is more well-known as Louis-Ferdinand Céline. But you knew that, or you wouldn't be reading this high-falutin' blog, right? 

In a rather stunning revelation, the likes of Martin Amis and Clive James have said that they have refused to read any of Céline's novels (and this thesis, presumably), because Céline wrote a couple of searingly anti-semitic diatribes in the 1930's. 

Without entering very deeply into the "bad person, great artist" debate, E@L wonders how these Giants Of The World Of Literary Opinion would would even be aware of Céline's Bagatelles Pour Une Massacre, let alone know their content so well as to dismiss the author out of hand. 

Such a severe reaction against one of most innovative writers around, one they might have learned from if they weren't so arrogant... Wow! It is a toxic shock of rejection and cancellation, without having at first experienced the stylistic notoriety of Journey To The End Of The Night or Death On The Installment Plan where any anti-semitism is well disguised, if present at all.  [E@L wasn't looking for it when he read them.] Kurt Vonnegut Jr said he got a headache when he thought about Céline because he admired the amazing, unprecedented, uncopyable, urgency and immediacy of the writing style [E@L's words], but, yeah, those Bagatelles.

So hey, an anti-semite in pre-war France? How exceptional. Not. Who wooda thunk? Everybody. Did someone mention the Dreyfus Affair? Did someone mention Vichy France and its collaboration in the cruel exportation of Jews to Germany and Poland? [c.f. Bad Faith, by Carmen Callil, about her family's particpation in such a despicable policy. And dozens of other books E@L hasn't read.] Yeah, Dr Destouches had unforgiveably bad opinions, but it was the trend at the time, yeah, and so E@L is wondering if Cancel Culture for Céline nearly a century before twitter is appropriate? 

This is not an apology or an excuse, but seriously, Martin, Clive, you are missing out on some unique and wonderful prose.

Moving on. Sigh. 


E@L's plan, most likely to fizzle in uncunning desuetude, as do the best laid of everyone's, is to finish reading all of Céline's novels this year. Approximately.

Over the years decades, he has read JTTEOTN twice (in different translations), DOTIP, Guignol's Band (finally finished it this year), and a fair chunk of Castle To Castle. He has seven to go, plus a short biography. He lost Hélene Cixous's biography, unread of course, in the Garden Shed Tragedy of 2013 - you an see it in the wheelbarrow in the first photo.

Best of luck with that E@L. 

While Amazoning for any "new" and/or unexpected works by Céline, E@L came across a double edition of Mea Culpa, about his trip to communist Russia in the 1930's, and, gold! The Life And Work Of Semmelweis. Shock and delight! A serendipitous treasure! E@L didn't know that a: Mea Culpa existed at all, and that b: the Semmelweis thesis had been translated and published.  

E@L starts at the start. The epigram:

I am still lacking a few hatreds.

I am sure they exist.


Then he reads the translator's introduction from 1937...

Right. To the point of this post, the idea before all these digressions. Forgive him, E@L can't keep on track, keep his mind focussed. It's the 45 second culture, it's old age, retirement, FB, the sound bite, instant messaging, blitz chess, wokeism, sleep-inism, tiktok, buzz alarm.  Where was I? 

In the translator's introduction there is an excerpt from a speech Céline gave in 1933, the year after JTTEOTN was published to outstanding acclaim notoriety, at a meeting about Emile Zola. 

Listen, tell me what this reminds you of...

We are completely surrounded by whole countries of stupified anaphylactics, the least shock precipitating them into murderous convulsions that cannot be stopped.


[Shoddy imitation of Céline's style coming up.]

1933! It's the same as the world today!... No surprise there... People... they ever were and ever will be. Communism, fascism... all over again! It's a polarisation!... a sensitivity... pure tribalism... how easy to take offense... we sharpen our shouting instruments... we listen no more... we're offended... insulted... take that!... punch a Nazi*... I'm all for it!... we're right!... you're misguided!... Propaganda!... it's a tsunami of vitriol...we're drowning in hate... 

We react like another opinion is a poison... a stimulant from a foreign agency... it's an immune allergen, and our immune system explodes!... T-cells!... we swell up... we can't breathe... we clutch at the nearest shibboleth... it's a disaster... the end of the world!  

It's anaphylaxis! Both sides of the argument... we're not safe... quick with the Epi-pen... the pen of truth... not fake news... 


Yep. We are all anaphylactics these days. And E@L is not, um, immune. 

And of course when we hear the utter bullshit from the self-serving Murdochian (new word!) propaganda machine - in the USA, OMG why aren't we storming Fox News instead of the Capitol building and offering a jute necktie to that fucker, Carlson? 


* OK not a great reference when we are trying to speak nicely about someone who was convicted and imprisoned (and later pardoned) for collaboration! 

Yep, here's a punch for a Nazi from


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