Portrait dated October 12, 1951 in Paris of the writer Louis-Ferdinand Céline
Should we reissue the anti-Semitic pamphlets of Louis-Ferdinand Céline? The French Prime Minister Édouard Philippe is not hostile on the condition of „carefully accompany“ their publication, Serge Klarsfeld is categorically opposed and at the heart of this controversy, the publisher Antoine Gallimard defends himself.
„The book for now does not exist, so why this controversy? It should exist only when I announce: + behold, it will come out and here is the edition +,“ said Antoine Gallimard, interviewed Tuesday by a journalist from AFP on the sidelines of the International Book Fair in New Delhi (India).
The publisher denounced „a trial of intent“. „We do not have to push the publishers to self-censor,“ he insisted.
Since the magazine L’Incorrect said in early December that the pamphlets of Celine („Bagatelles for a massacre“, „The School of corpses“ and „The beautiful sheets“) were going to be republished by Gallimard „current 2018“, supporters of this reissue and those who oppose it do not stop fighting each other.
However, no date has been set for a possible reissue of Celine’s violently antisemitic pamphlets, a collection of texts published between 1937 and 1941.
In a statement sent to AFP on December 20th, the Parisian publisher explained that it wanted to draw inspiration from the „critical edition“ of the Céline pamphlets published in Quebec in 2012 by the Canadian publisher Éditions 8.
– ‚Antisemitic Hate‘ –
„The intention is to frame and put into context the writings of great violence, marked in particular by the anti-Semitic hatred of the author,“ said Gallimard. The editor specified that the critical apparatus and the warning will be established by Régis Tettamanzi, a specialist of the Celinian work, professor at the University of Nantes, the writer Pierre Assouline signing the preface.
Celine’s writings will be released in the public domain in 2031 (70 years after the writer’s death in 1961) and will be free of rights.
For associations like SOS Racisme, Gallimard thinks of an editorial blow. „How can this publishing house fall into a mercantile use of texts explicitly calling for the extermination of Jews?“, Denounced SOS Racism Tuesday in a statement.
Celine’s pamphlets are not banned in France, but have not been reissued since the end of the Second World War. The writer himself and his widow, Lucette Destouches, aged 105, opposed it. However, they can easily be viewed on the internet or purchased from second-hand booksellers.
„There is no reason not to publish these books, there is much worse, the worse books are the insidious books, in which there is rampant anti-Semitism, which does not say its name“, argued Antoine Gallimard in New Delhi.
„I think the debate is a little hysterical, a bit crazy,“ he said. „This debate may have to be, but in any case I will propose that we have the day when the edition that I will do – if I do this edition – will be ready“.
– The Rebatet example –
Celine’s antisemitic texts „fall foul of the law“, warned Serge Klarsfeld, president of the association Fils et filles de deportees juifs de France.
The historian Laurent Joly, a specialist in anti-Semitism in France before and during the occupation, recalled that „Bagatelles for a massacre“ was „the breviary of the anti-Semites“.
In October 2015, Editions Robert Laffont published in a critical edition the antisemitic text of Lucien Rebatet „The rubble“ without causing a stir.
This book had been an incredible success. The first 5,000 copies had passed since the day of the publication of the book. Sales today exceed 10,000 copies.
Fayard is also expected to publish a new French version of Adolf Hitler’s „Mein Kampf“, but „there is no fixed release date,“ the publisher told AFP.
In Germany, where this manifesto was reissued (in a critical edition) in January 2016, it has become a bestseller with some 100,000 copies sold.
„One should never underestimate the attraction of this kind of texts,“ warned the historian Tal Bruttmann, interviewed by the daily La Croix on Tuesday. For him, „it’s a gift that right-wing activists will be delighted to make …“.