THE CRAZY OIKLET 20
The Oiklet stirs out of a comatose
interlude to bring Crazy Oik readers up to date on a few developments.
Those lousy Kikes and Hymies
My friend Alexis Lykiard, the
distinguished poet and novelist, drew my attention to a translation of LF
Céline’s crazy anti-Semitic rant Bagatelles for a Massacre. This odd rag
bag of pamphlets amounting to 130,000 words was put together in 1937. Jews were
at that time considered a threat and at one point LFC imagines a future where
Aryans are herded into concentration camps run by Jews. He later criticised the
German occupiers for not being anti-Semitic enough even hypothesised that things
had got so lax Hitler must have died and been replaced by a Jewish imposter.
Yes, quite mad but perhaps explained partly by his head wound in World War I and
more by the doom-laden atmosphere of that low dishonest decade as France in the
1930s headed towards disaster. The Third Republic in 1936 was headed by Leon
Blum (a Jew) which probably got Céline’s goat. Personally I think there’s much
to admire about Blum’s Popular Front under which oik living standards were quite
transformed but Céline’s passionate rant against “arse-reaming Kikes, Hymies and
Niggers” is a literary curiosity worth reading for its verve and style if not
The book was an instant success but was
never translated. Céline, and later his widow, saw to that. The first (and only)
English translation appeared anonymously in 2006. It wasn’t printed but made
available on-line. No one in their right mind would read 130,000 words on a
computer monitor and the site address I was given no longer seems to work but I
did manage to download the text and have printed it as a 380 page book. It
needed a few minor tweaks since I’m pretty sure the translator’s first language
isn’t English. He uses odd words like “coronate” “disbark” “embugger” and
“empoison”. American slang also jars – when we see “ass” we think donkey. These
have been adjusted. His footnotes, however, are accurate and illuminating. This
book will not be offered for sale to the general public and Nick Griffin need
not apply, but Oik readers, being sophisticated lovers of great lit and beyond
corruption, can get one at cost price (around a tenner inc postage)
Céline made his name with two great
novels of an earlier period Voyage au Bout de la Nuit (Journey to the
End of the Night) (1932) and Mort à Credit (Death on the
Instalment Plan)(1936). Look out for the Ralph Manheim translations. I
insert a chunk of Death on the Instalment Plan to give you a flavour of
Edouard offered once more to take us
out one Sunday, all the way to Fontainebleau. Papa finally gave in. He got
our clothes ready and the provisions.
Edouard's first three-wheeler was a
one-cylinder job, as massive as a field howitzer, with half a coachman's
seat in front.
We got up that Sunday much earlier
than usual. My arse was given a thorough wiping. We waited a whole hour at
the meeting place on the rue Gaillon before the contraption got there. Our
departure was something. It had taken at least six men to push the thing
from the Pont Bineau. The tanks were filled. The carburettor spewed in all
directions, the steering wheel quaked . . . There was a series of terrible
explosions. They tried it with the crank, they tried it with a strap . . .
They harnessed themselves to it by three and sixes . . . Finally a
tremendous explosion ... the engine began to turn. Twice fire broke out . .
. and was quickly extinguished. My uncle said: "Pile in, ladies and
gentlemen, I think she's warm now. Now we can get started . . ." It took
nerve to stay put. The crowd pressed in on us. Caroline, my mother, and I
wedged ourselves in. We were tied so tightly to the seat, so squeezed in
among the clothes and gear that only my tongue protruded. But I came in for
a good little whack before we moved off, just to keep me from getting any
The three-wheeler bucked and settled
back ... It gave two, three big jolts ... A terrible crashing and belching
were heard . . . The crowd shrank back in terror . . . They thought we were
goners . . . But the monster was climbing the rue Reaumur in frantic fits
and starts . . . My father had rented a bike . . . Since he couldn't pedal
up the hill, he pushed us from behind . . . The slightest stop would have
been the end ... he had to push with all his might ... At the Square du
Temple we stopped a while. We started off again with a crash. In full flight
my uncle poured grease, straight out of the bottle, into the connecting
rods, the chain, and the whole works. It always had to be swimming in
grease, like the engine of an ocean liner. There's trouble in the front
seat. My mother has a bellyache. If she takes time out, if we stop, the
engine is perfectly capable of conking out . . . if it stalls, our goose is
cooked . . . My mother bears up heroically. My uncle, perched on his
infernal machine, looking like a shaggy deep-sea diver surrounded by a
thousand tongues of flame, adjures us over the handlebars to hold tight . .
. My father is tagging after us. He pedals to the rescue. He picks up the
parts as they fall off, pieces of levers and pedals, nuts, cotter pins—and
some bigger things. We hear him cursing and swearing louder than the clatter
of the machine.
The cobblestones were the cause of
our disaster ... At Clignancourt they snapped all three chains ... At the
Vanves tollgate they demolished the front springs . . . We lost all our
lamps and the big horn shaped like a dragon's maw in the rills where the.
road was being repaired at La Villette . . . Near Picpus and on the
highway we lost so much stuff that my father missed some of it ...
I could hear him cursing behind us:
that it was the end of the world and night would catch us on the road.
Tom ambled along ahead of our
expedition, we took our bearings by his asshole. He had time to piss
wherever he pleased. Uncle Edouard was more than clever, he had real genius
for repairs of all sorts. Toward the end of our outings he had everything in
his hands, his fingers were doing all the work, between jolts he juggled
with splinters and wrist pins, he played the leaks and pistons like a
trumpet. His acrobatics were marvellous to watch. But at a certain moment
everything came tumbling out on the road all the same . . . We'd go into a
drift, the steering gear would founder, we'd run plunk into the ditch.
Crashing, gushing, snorting, the thing would run us all into the mud.
My father came up bellowing . . .
The tin can let out one last BWAAH . . . And that was all. The bastard
passed out on us.
We stank up the countryside with
crankcase oil. We disentangled ourselves from the catafalque . . . and then
we pushed the whole thing back to Asnieres. That's where the garage was. My
father was magnificent in action, his calves bulged in his ribbed woollen
stockings . . . The ladies along the road couldn't take their eyes off him.
My mama was proud of him . . . The engine had to be cooled off, we had a
small collapsible canvas bucket for the purpose. We'd take water from
fountains. Our three-wheeler looked like a factory mounted on a pushcart.
There were so many hooks and pointed gadgets sticking out on all sides that
we ripped our clothes to tatters pushing . . .
At the tollgate my uncle and Papa
went into a bar for a beer. The ladies and myself collapsed wheezing and
panting on a bench outside and waited for our pop. Everybody was in a foul
temper. In the end I was the victim. Storm-clouds hung over the family.
Auguste was aching for a tantrum. He was just looking for a pretext. He was
pooped, he was sniffing like a bulldog. No one but me would do, the others
would have told him where to get off ... He took a stiff drink of Pernod. He
wasn't used to it, it was a dumb thing to do ... On the grounds that I'd
torn my pants he gave me a royal thrashing. My uncle stuck up for me, kind
of. That only added to his fury.
It was on the way back from the
country that I got my worst lickings. There are always crowds of people at
the city gates. I screeched as loud as I could just to get his goat. I
stirred up mob sentiment, I rolled under the café tables. I heaped mountains
of shame on him. He blushed from head to foot. He hated attracting
attention. I hoped it would make him bust. We started off again with our
tails between our legs, our backs bent over the infernal machine.
There were always such scenes on the
way back from our trips that my uncle gave up the whole idea.
"Of course the air is good for the
little fellow," they said, "but the automobile gets him upset ..."
LF Céline Death on the Instalment
Plan p 71 – trans Ralph Manheim – John Calder 1989
Before we leave Ferdinand for good I insert another snippet
from Death on Credit. This account of a cross channel voyage should be
part of Eurotunnel's advertising. It's hilarious. But don't read it if you're
about to eat, have just eaten, or even merely thinking of eating. In fact don't
read it unless you are ten days into a hunger strike. I see now why Oik
contributor Tanner was so taken with this writer.
We went on board ahead
of time . . . We had the cheapest seats, in the bow . . . they were fine . .
. We had a wonderful view of the whole horizon ... It was agreed that I'd be
first to point out the foreign shores . . . The weather wasn't bad, but even
so, as soon as we were a little way out and had lost sight of the
lighthouses, it began to be kind of wet . . . The ship started to seesaw;
this was real seafaring . . . My mother took refuge in the shelter where the
life jackets were kept . . . She was the first to vomit across the deck and
down into third class . . . For a moment she had the whole area to herself .
"Watch out for the
child, Auguste," she had barely time to yelp . . . That was the surest way
to infuriate him ...
Some of the others began
straining their guts over the side ... In the rolling and pitching, people
were throwing up any old place, without formality . . . There was only one
toilet ... in one corner of the deck ... It was already occupied by four
vomiters in a state of collapse, wedged in tight . . . The sea was getting
steadily rougher ... At every rising wave, oops ... In the trough a dozen
oopses, more copious, more compact . . . The gale blew my mother's veil away
... it landed wringing wet on the mouth of a lady at the other end . . . who
was retching desperately ... All resistance had been abandoned. The horizon
was littered with jam . . . salad . . . chicken . . . coffee . . . the whole
slobgullion ... it all came up ...
My mother was down on
her knees on the deck . . .she smiled with a sublime effort, she was
drooling at the mouth . . .
"You see," she says to
me in the middle of the terrible plummeting . . . "You see, Ferdinand, you
still have some of that tuna fish on your stomach too . . ." We try again in
unison. Bouah! and another bouah! . . . She was mistaken, it was the
pancakes . . . With a little more effort I think I could bring up French
fries ... if I emptied all my guts out on deck ... I try ... I struggle ...
I push like mad ... A fierce wave beats down on the rail, smacks against the
deck, rises, gushes, rolls back, sweeps the steerage . . . The foam stirs up
the garbage and spins it around between us ... We swallow some of it ... We
spit it up again ... At every plunge the soul flies away ... at every rise
you recapture it in a wave of mucus and stink ... It comes dripping from
your nose, all salty. This is too much! . . . One passenger begs for mercy
... He cries out to high heaven that he's empty ... He strains his guts . .
. And a raspberry comes up after all! ... He examines it, goggle-eyed with
horror . . . Now he really has nothing left! ... He wishes he could vomit
out his two eyes ... He tries, he tries hard ... He braces himself against
the mast . . . he's trying to drive them out of their sockets . . . Mama
collapses against the rail ... She vomits herself up again, all she's got
... A carrot comes up ... a piece of fat . . . and the whole tail of a
mullet . . .
Up top by the captain,
the first and second class passengers were leaning over the side to puke,
and it came tumbling down on us ... At every wave we caught a shower with
whole meals in it ... We were lashed with garbage, with meat fibers . . .
The gale blows the stuff upward ... it clings in the shrouds . . . Around us
the sea is roaring ... the foam of battle . . . Papa in a cap with a chin
strap . . . supervises our misery . . . He's in the pink, lucky man, he's a
born sailor ... he gives us good advice, he wants us to lie even flatter ...
to crawl on the floor ... A woman comes staggering . . . she wedges herself
in beside Mama so as to throw up better . . . There's a sick mutt, too, so
sick he shits on the ladies' skirts ... He rolls over and shows us his belly
. . . piercing screams are heard from the shithouse . . . Those four are
still jammed in, they can't puke anymore, they can't pee, they can't shit .
. . They're leaning over the toilet, pushing . . . They bellow, begging
someone to shoot them . . . And the tub pitches still higher . . . steeper
than ever . . . and plunges into the depths . . . into the dark green . . .
And she rises again, the stinker, she picks you up again, you and the hole
in your stomach . . .
A stocky little
character, a wise guy, is helping his wife to throw up in a little bucket .
. . he's trying to encourage her.
"Go on, Leonie . . .
Don't hold back . . . I'm right here . . . I'm holding you." All of a sudden
she turns her head back into the wind . . . The whole stew that's been
gurgling in her mouth catches me full in the face . . . My teeth are full of
it, beans, tomatoes ... I'd thought I had nothing left to vomit . . . well,
it looks like I have ... I can taste it ... it's coming up again . . . Hey,
down there, get moving! . . . It's coming! ... A whole carload is pushing
against my tongue . . . I'll pay her back, I'll spill my guts in her mouth
... I grope my way over to her . . . The two of us are crawling . . . We
clutch each other . . . We embrace ... we vomit on each other . . . My smart
father and her husband try to separate us ... They tug at us in opposite
directions . . . They'll never understand . . . Why bear grudges? It's
nasty. Bouah! . . . That husband is a stupid brute! . . . Come on, sweetie,
we'll vomit him up together! ... I give his fair lady a complete hank of
noodles . . . with tomato juice ... a drink of cider three days old ... She
returns the compliment with Swiss cheese ... I suck at the strings . . . My
mother's snarled up in the ropes . . . she comes crawling after her vomit .
. . The little dog is caught in her skirts. We're all tangled up with this
brute's wife . . . They tug at me ferociously ... He starts peppering my ass
with his boot to get me away from her ... He was a regular bruiser ... My
father tried to mollify him . . . he hadn't said two words when the other
guy rams him in the breadbasket with his head and sends him sprawling
against the winch . . . And that wasn't the end of it! The strong man jumps
on him and starts hammering at his face... He bends down to finish him off
... Papa was bleeding all over . . . The blood poured down into the vomit
... He was slipping down the mast ... In the end he collapsed . . . But the
husband still wasn't satisfied . . . Taking advantage of a moment when the
roll has sent me spinning he charges me ... I skid ... He flings me at the
shithouse . . . like a battering ram . . . I smash into it ... I bash the
door in ... I fall on the poor sagging bastards ... I turn around . . . I'm
wedged in the middle of them . . . They've all lost their pants ... I pull
the chain. We're half drowned in the flood. We're squashed into the bowl . .
. But they never stop snoring ... I don't even know if I'm dead or alive.
The siren woke everybody
up. We climbed up and stuck our heads out the portholes. The jetties at the
entrance to the harbor were like a lacework of wooden piles . . . We looked
out on England as though disembarking in the other world . . . Here too
there were cliffs and then green . . . But much darker and rougher than on
the other side . . . The sea was perfectly flat now ... It was easy to vomit
. . . but you didn't need to so much anymore.
Talk about shivering . .
. it's a wonder our teeth didn't crack . . . My mother was weeping
spasmodically from having vomited so much ... I had bumps all over . . . A
big silence fell in our ranks . . . everyone felt bashful, worried about
going ashore. Corpses couldn't have been any more bashful.