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Now Reading: Journey to the End of the Night

Journey to the End of the Night (Voyage au bout de la nuit, 1932) is the first novel of Louis-Ferdinand Céline.

This semi-autobiographical work follows antihero Ferdinand Bardamu through his involvement in World War I, colonial Africa, and post-WWI America (where he works for the Ford Motor Company), returning in the second half of the work to France, where he becomes a medical doctor and sets up a practice in a poor Paris suburb, the fictional La Garenne-Rancy. The novel also satirizes the medical profession and the vocation of scientific research. The disparate elements of the work are linked together by recurrent encounters with Léon Robinson, a hapless character whose experiences parallel, to some extent, those of Bardamu.

As its title suggests, Voyage au bout de la nuit is a dark, nihilistic novel of savage, exultant misanthropy, leavened, however, with an ebulliently cynical humour. Céline expresses an almost unrelieved pessimism with regard to human nature, human institutions, society, and life in general. Towards the end of the book, the narrator Bardamu, who is working at an insane asylum, remarks:

…I cannot refrain from doubting that there exist any genuine realizations of our deepest character except war and illness, those two infinities of nightmare,”