The Will of King Krogold Followed by The Legend of King René
by Louis-Ferdinand Celine
Edition established and presented by Véronique Chovin
Gallimard, 320 p., 22 €
Affair of the unpublished Celine, third act. The Will of King Krogold takes the line of publications of manuscripts whose existence was revealed in 2021 in Le Monde. It was during the Liberation that the collaborationist writer, who had already committed his anti-Semitic pamphlets, abandoned his papers in his Montmartre apartment, fleeing to Germany in the company of his wife Lucette Destouches. That is nearly 6,000 long-unsuspected sheets: a complete version of Casse-pipe, a manuscript of Death on Credit, several unknown novels – War, London, The Will of King Krogold –, a short story, La Vieille disgoutée, which also comes from appear (1)…
The mysteries around the conditions of their conservation and their publication were almost all lifted, the wars which opposed the rights holders to the journalist Jean-Pierre Thibaudat caused a lot of ink to flow and found a form of resolution in these publications by Gallimard – Céline’s work will fall into the public domain in 2031. Remains today a formidable literary adventure which continues through the debates it raises on the place of posthumous works, and the invaluable work of publishing around the manuscripts found .
In May 2022 War appeared, soon followed by London the following October. They came to form following Death on credit, we learned it then, an ambitious triptych wanted by Céline – childhood, the First World War and the London experience. By the two fragmentary accounts revealed today the romantic ambitions of the author take shape even more precisely.
Variations of the same story, The Legend of King René (1933) and especially The Will of King Krogold (1939-1940) characterize his “Gaelic legend” and establish a central line of work in the “elephant” ensemble that Mort on account. Céline had been refused in 1933 the publication of the first version of her legend by her publisher Robert Denoël: he will integrate elements of it in Mort à Crédit (published in 1936), then in Guerre et Londres.
Like a red thread, an articulation, the medieval-Nordic tale with accents of Old French thus continues the dark Céline exploration of human nature. If he frees himself there from the realistic requirement of his novels, devoting his narration to the “bardic manner”, he still places love, war and above all death at the heart of his subject.
From her fertile imagination nourished by the medieval legends of her childhood, halfway between Scandinavia and Brittany, Céline recounts the war waged by King Krogold against Prince Gwendor and the passion for the beautiful Wanda… very personal, “a Middle Ages opera!” “, he launched to his secretary Marie Canavaggia, in 1940. However, writes in his afterword the archivist Alban Cerisier, it is about “his Middle Ages, black and flamboyant, and it is also a little ours »
(1) La Nouvelle Revue française number 655, Céline file, including the unpublished short story La Vieille disgusting, Gallimard, 144 p., €18.
On May 11, the two revised and reorganized volumes of the Pléiade devoted to the work of Louis-Ferdinand Céline will appear: Romans 1932-1934 and Romans 1936-1947, edition established by Henri Godard, Pléiade Gallimard, 1,552 and 1,952 p. , 75 and 84 €.