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The BBC's James Coomerasamy
"The manuscript finally resurfaced in January"
 real 28k

Tuesday, 15 May, 2001, 17:28 GMT 18:28 UK
Celine manuscript sells for 1m
Manuscript of Journey to the End of Night
The manuscript had a pre-sale valuation of 400,000
A handwritten manuscript by the French writer and physician Louis Ferdinand Celine has been auctioned for 11 million French francs (1.03m) - a world record for a literary manuscript.

The French National Library stepped into the auction that was taking place at the Drourot-Montaigne auction house, Paris, ensuring that the 876-page first draft of Journey to the End of Night will remain in France.

The library has the right to match the top offer of a private bidder and applause broke out in the auction house as the library stepped in.


You see the birth of a masterpiece

Thierry Bodin, manuscript expert

The manuscript - of Celine's first and most famous novel - is significantly different from the final version which was published in 1932 and is considered pivotal to understanding the writer's work.

Celine had sold the draft to an art dealer in 1943, for 10,000 French francs (940) and a small Renoir.

Controversial

It was believed missing but resurfaced recently when a French book dealer tracked it down to a British collector.

With taxes and commissions the total cost of the manuscript is 12.1m French francs (1.14m).

As a nihilist and notorious anti-Semite, Celine remains a controversial figure and his reputation as a writer has suffered accordingly.

Celine
Louis-Ferdinand Celine
But he is recognised as a literary innovator and his use of everyday language and slang influenced such writers as Henry Miller, Kurt Vonnegut Jr, and William Burroughs.

In France his departure from the rigid norms of literary writing was considered radical.

Celine was born Louis-Ferdinand Destouches in the Seine department of France and grew up in Paris - Celine was the Christian name of his maternal grandmother.

He worked for a time at the French passport office in London and later studied medicine in Rennes.

Journey to the End of the Night is the story of one Ferdinand Bardamu - an embittered anti-hero.

Bardamu wanders the world after his horrific experiences the trenches of World War I, runs a trading post in Africa, works at a Ford factory in the US and eventually sets up a medical practice in France.

There are remarkable parallels with Celine's own life, something which is true of most of his work.

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See also:

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