“Ideological Mistakes of Louis Ferdinand Céline and Emil Cioran” – Mara Magda MAFTEI

Journal of Romanian Literary Studies, no. 5/2014

Abstract: 2011 was a year of reference for both Emil Cioran and Louis Ferdinand Céline. We celebrated the centenary of the Romanian philosopher who chose to exile himself in Paris and also the 50-year anniversary of Céline’s death. In fact, we witnessed controversial issues in France linked to the question of whether we should include the 50th anniversary of the death of Céline among the official commemorations of 2011. While Cioran has been forgiven for having supported the Romanian far right (the Iron Guard), some French intellectuals cannot forgive Céline for his collaboration with Nazi Germany during the Second World War. In fact, the anti-Semitic rage of both Cioran and Céline cannot be ignored. Cioran and Céline gave up defending their political ideas after the defeat of Germany. But, while Cioran produced a new text on Jews in 1956, this time extremely laudatory, the extermination of Jews left Céline cold, and it is perhaps this aspect that makes him rather unique among the writers of the interwar period who were influenced by Nazi philosophy.

Keywords: Louis-Ferdinand Céline, Emil Cioran, Fascism, anti-Semitism, Iron Guard

1. Philosophers in Support of The Fascist Doctrine

The period between the two world wars was marked in Europe by writers’ hesitation to choose between the nationalist revolt of Germany and the philosophy of Hitler on one side and Stalinist brutality and the ideological thirst of the Russian nation on the other. Awareness of murders committed by adherents of Nazism was a process that took time. People realized very late that there was a relation of immediate causality between the economic crisis of the 1930s and the expansion of the national socialists. The genocide against Jews contributed to the awakening of the collective consciousness concerning the atrocities generated by the Second World War and engendered collective hate against writers supportive of Nazism.

The economic crisis of the 1930s accentuated unemployment, which then affected a quarter of Germans. Georges Bensoussan, a French historian of Moroccan origin known for writings such as Histoire de la Shoah, thinks that almost all German philosophy of the nineteenth century was influenced by pessimism and anti-Semitism. The fight against “the foreign element”, the Jew, may be tracked back to 1517 with Thèses de Wittenberg (The Ninety-Five Theses), when Martin Luther opposed the Pope and the Germans began to believe themselves an elected people who must fulfil a mission on earth. From that moment, German philosophers started to accompany politicians in their elitist psychosis. The death of God professed by Nietzsche fuelled later racism and the ideology of the new man. This philosophy animated the Bolsheviks, the fascists, and the legionaries (and the three ideologies behind these groups which were supported by a large number of young people). The ideology of the new man finds itself at the heart of any totalitarian program because it feeds the belief of the individual in the key role played by him in history3. Anti-Semitism was fuelled by the identity crisis of Germany, a country with a fairly old anti-Semitic tradition, but France and Romania were also considerably anti-Semitic. Regarding anti-Judaism, which feeds anti-Semitism, this stance was also defended by a large number of well-known philosophers… [PDF]