VIEWSnCeline and French Reactionary ModernismnReactionary literature in France today—as opposed to earliernvarieties, for example the romantic, two centuriesnago—is distinguished by its despair, its radical style, its explorationnof new worids, its almost science-fiction approach tonlife and letters. Its most powerful motive is unquestionablyndespair: of democratic vulgarity, the machine civilization, thensocial monotony that spreads over the happily consumeristnlandscape. What is unusual with modern literary reactionariesnis that they no longer claim an aristocratic taste, feelings notnshared by the masses, or membership in a Proustian milieu fornrefined intellectual and emotional palates. Spengler and Orteganare not their patron saints. On the contrary, their antimodernnattitude expresses itself in a radical, at times populistnstyle, similar to that of leftist protesters, at times to a Surrealistnprovocation. As a general explanation, I offer a statement bynFrangois Huguenin, young editor of the recently launchednmagazine Reaction: “We are in a paradoxical situation: lifenunder a regime [the liberal-socialist of France] claiming totalnfreedom of thought, yet enforcing an ironclad ideology at allnlevels, schools, media, culture, consumerism. This imposednuniformity is such that we are not even permitted to be curious.”nSuch sentiments were essential to the works of Celine, andnhelp explain why Celine is today number one on the Frenchnliterary horizon, although he died a generation ago and evennthen belonged to the prewar firmament. Celine was all thenthings that the republique des lettres repudiated and detested:nantidemocrat, antibourgeois, antimilitary, antiwar, anti-Semite.nFrom 1932 when he broke into the limelight until his death inn1961, he claimed for himself the status both as whip and whippingnboy, truth-sayer and martyr, and as a writer who was superiornto Proust and Gide, his refined but easily moth-eatennolder contemporaries. Celine’s was the generation of GeorgesnBernanos, the filmmaker Marcel Pagnol, the Provengal JeannGiono, the pagan/Roman Montherlant, and the satirist MarcelnAyme—a mixed bag: Bernanos was militantly Catholic;nMontherlant classically Roman; Giono and Pagnol, comingnThomas Molnar’s latest book is The Church, Pilgrim ofnCenturies (Eerdmans).n16/CHRONICLESnby Thomas Molnarnnnfrom France’s south {le midi), were calmly but relentlessly traditionalist,nenemies of industrial society (there being no consumernsociety yet).nSome of these men, Montherlant and Pagnol, became inndue time members of the Academic Frangaise, the others wonnprestigious literary prizes. In other words, even in the eyes ofnthe progressive establishment, they were by no means outcasts,nand even Celine was an important prizewinner, with novelsnpublished by Callimard. They were the right wing of the literarynestablishment, and their defiance of the left wing may benbest captured with the vitriolic label attached by Celine tonSartre: “A worm wriggling in a test tube.” (In French it isnshorter and more deadly, considering Sartre’s gnome-like appearance:n”I’agite du hocal”).nIn spite of his numerous handicaps—the already mentionednanti-this, anti-that—Celine, the exiled (who for a decade aftern1945 was not allowed to return from a Danish exile), hasnnow: a) a place in Gallimard’s Pleiade collection, next to alltimenclassics; b) been imitated by an entire generation for hisnbitter, mordant style; and c) had his works recognized as bestsellers,nalthough the purity and inventiveness of his language,nqualities rarely seen together, is a monument to the French literarynesprit. Celine’s influence is such that even his violent anti-Semitismnhas not, in the end, harmed him; his spectacularncharacter defects have been forgiven, and he is acknowledgednas the anti-Sartre, the stylistic model for dozens of Young Turksnin French letters, the so-called “hussars” for whom he had anparticular tenderness: Michel Deon, Roger Niniier, AntoinenBlondin, Jacques Laurent, Michel Mohrt, Jean Raspail, andnothers. These names, and that of Celine himself, are practicallynunknown to the American reader who is kept at a safendistance by publishers. Yet this literature exists, and it hasnbeen the only lively and active one because “the other side” offersnonly sex, psychoanalysis, and ideology, and legions of intellectualsnsharing their time among the three. •nWhat is the secret of Celine’s attractiveness? His Journeynto the End of the Night, today a classic of modernity, combinesndesperate pessimism and a loud “yes” to life, iconoclasm, adventure,nthe mocking of the individual as a nonentity, and anstrangled cry over the fate of the little man. The novel (or isn