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When the World Changes Its Soul I Will Change My Style
by Louis-Ferdinand Céline, translation by Nathalie Potier

Dear Ma”tre,

The critics (in general) are showing proof of a disgusting partiality against my new book. They intend to make me pay dearly for the success of Voyage (achieved largely thanks to you). They will try anything to pass me off for a schemer, a joker, a raving lunatic, and last but not least, and much more seriously, for a bore!... Nothing is missing! They don't even read me. The assault is complete! The intention is to deliberately insult me and as much as possible. Without any basic moral or artistic integrity. Of course all of this is typical. No matter what form of art, the rate of failure forms a proportion of 999 to 1000, the successes that remain provoke a revolution, a deluge of hate. Very well. However, it would sadden me greatly if this bilious tidal wave should prevent you from at least reading me. I have sincerely applied myself to this work, a great deal as a matter of fact. I have spent the last four years on it, day and night in addition to my wretched work at the clinic (1500 francs a month). I am not rich, I have a daughter and a mother to care for. Voyage brought me a monthly income of 1200 francs. I mention these sums because they explain how things are at present. For Mort á credit I literally worked myself to death. I did my best. If those who permit themselves in such a cowardly way, with such impunity to shame me, possessed a tenth of my integrity and application, the world would immediately become an edenic abode and I admit then that my literature would become unjustifiable. However, this is not the case. There is also resentment, proudly felt, I believe, against my breaking with the sacred traditional academic styles. I write in a sort of spoken, transposed prose. I find this style has its rules and laws, equally appalling, as you well know. Let others try. They will see. I have erased my work after me, but it exists. Another thing, I am also reproached for not being Latin, classical, meridional (well-defined features... elegance... temperance... grace... etc.). I am very capable of appreciating the diverse beauties of genre, however I'm quite incapable of submitting to them... I am not meridional. I'm Parisian, a Breton, and of Flemish descent. I write how I feel. I am reproached for being foul, of speaking crudely. If this is the case, then Rabelais, Villon, Brughel and many others should be accused. Not everything comes from the Renaissance. I am reproached for being systematically cruel. Only when the world changes its soul will I change my style. Where do these purists come from all of a sudden? I don't see them protesting against gangster films! Against Detective Magazine! Against so much pornography which is, in itself, inexcusable. These purists are also cowards! They risk nothing, especially remaining anonymous, in spitting their venom upon a solitary writer, they risk much more against the formidable interests of the cinema or of Hachette. They're either boot-lickers or fierce defenders of morals, depending on the size of the task. Certainly, I have never been to high school. I studied for my Baccalaureate and my medical degree while working to make a living. One learns much this way. It seems I will not be easily pardoned for it. After all I am a doctor. Doctors are despised, along with their experience. In writing these kinds of books, in this style you are familiar with, I strongly risk being ruled out everywhere, and losing work. I don't produce sedate literature.
     Finally, I am reproached for what is called confusion... I find it unlikely otherwise. I write in the waking dream formula... Ah! how happy it would make me if you reserved an article for me, but not to praise me (this request would not be worthy of either you or me) but to clearly define, as only you can, what there is and is not in my book.
     I will remain forever in your debt dear friend. Sincerely and amiably yours,

Louis Destouches
(L.-F. C»line)


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