Lot n° 26
300000 - 400000
CÉLINE Louis-Ferdinand (1894-1961).
MANUSCRIT autograph " LF Céline ", Nord, ; 1,565 pages in-4 (27 x 20.5 cm), bound in 4 volumes, green jansenist morocco, the covers of each volume reading, when assembled, the following sentence inscribed in gilt letters imitating a handwriting: " Docteur Destouches, 4 rue Girardon, ne nous a semblé atteint d'aucune affection transmissible ", long spine, folder and case (Mercher, 1970).
Monumental complete manuscript, very corrected, of the novel Nord.
Second novel of the German trilogy, transposing in novel form the peregrinations in Germany, at the end of the war, of Céline, his wife Lucette and their cat Bébert, in company of the actor Le Vigan, Nord follows D'un château l'autre (1957). It was written over a period of two and a half years, from the spring of 1957 to the end of 1959; the novel was published by Gallimard in May 1960.
Let's quote Roger Nimier's excellent blurb: "Céline in the middle of Germany in flames, such is the subject of Nord. Actor, reciter and seer at the same time, the author finds himself in Baden-Baden, in the months preceding the collapse of the Reich. A strange palace where caviar, bouillabaisse and champagne count more than the bombings. The astonishing Baroness von Seckt, a survivor from another world [...] Then it's Berlin, with its gutted houses, the display of a stubborn organization amidst the ruins. Céline and her companions in misfortune (his wife Lili, the actor Le Vigan, the cat Bébert) are sent one hundred kilometers from the capital, to Zornhof, to a huge estate run by a madman. [...] And around the four Frenchmen (because Bébert counts as a Frenchman) lives a Shakespearean family in a country inhabited by Poles, Berlin prostitutes and conscientious objectors, all fat and robust, to whom the Reich has coffins made. Céline wants to be a chronicler; but he describes the Germany of the debacle as Dante visited the circles of his Inferno" ....
Nimier described Nord as "the most beautiful book by Céline since Journey to the End of the Night".
The manuscript is written in blue ballpoint pen on blue, white or yellow paper. It is paginated continuously, from 1 to 1565. The text is divided into 44 sequences, the number of which is written in red pencil at the beginning of each one. The manuscript has been bound in four volumes. I : title " NORD Roman ", sequences 1 to 12, pag. 1-356 ; II : sequences 13 to 18, pag. 357-761 ; III : sequences 19 to 33, pag. 762-1141 : IV : sequences 34 to 44, pag. 1142-1565. This manuscript corresponds to the final version, finalized after months of hard work, and entrusted to Marie Canavaggia for typing (which will be given to Gallimard on December 23, 1959); some words are written in a different hand, probably Marie Canavaggia's, transcribing Céline's hardly legible writing. The manuscript, however, contains about 5,000 words or passages that have been crossed out, corrected or added.
Each page bears the marks of Celine's painstaking proofreading and meticulous improvements to his sentence. The corrections he makes to the last pages are in a handwriting distorted by haste or anguish, even more tormented than that of the first pages. Underneath the erasures, we see, for example, Céline hesitating about the kinship relations of the members of the von Leiden family; we see him struggling to perfect his sentence by successive erasures, for example: "the last of the [pissoir dodgers] [carambouilles] parricides"; or "the two [survivors] [poor wounded] [debris] [capilotades] [bribes] zigotos"; the end of a passage about Anne Frank, named "Esther Loyola," was heavily corrected: "we also experienced certainly! but that it did not [me] us anything! [... nor Sainte Chapelle, nor [Hollywoad] golden contracts (my brothers of race are [unbridled] [as unbridled lackeys] householders, Esther [she was born, that's it!] is one of those who give the orders..."
At the bottom of the last page, one can read this autographed note: "Hommage à Renée Cosima Bolloré maman d'Anne LF Céline Meudon 6 juin 60".
Gwen-Aël Bolloré recounted, in her Mémoires parallèles (1996, p. 83-87), the story of the acquisition in 1960 of the Nord manuscript, first proposed by Céline to his brother Michel, who offered a derisory sum. Outraged, Céline declared to Renée Bolloré, who attended Lucette Almanzor's dance class: "I will never sell this manuscript to your bourgeois brother-in-law, even if he offered me ten times more. But tell your husband that at this price it is his. And this veteran of the Free French adds: "This is how I acquired, with a somewhat forced hand, this important piece [...] I had it bound in four large books, full morocco decorated by Mercher, which cost me at least the purchase price. I offered it to my wife for I
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