"AN ANARCHICAL, RABELAISIAN, MUCH-TRAVELED DOCTOR… WITH A GIFT OF INVECTIVE AND A COMPASSION FOR THE UNDERDOG": INSCRIBED PRESENTATION FIRST ISSUE OF CÉLINE'S LEGENDARY FIRST NOVEL, VOYAGE AU BOUT DE LA NUIT, IN ORIGINAL WRAPPERS
CELINE, Louis-Ferdinand. Voyage au Bout de la Nuit. Paris: Denoël et Steele, 1932. Octavo, original printed paper wrappers, uncut. Housed in a custom clamshell box. $18,500.
First trade edition, first issue, in original wrappers, presentation-association copy inscribed and signed on the dedication page by Louis-Ferdinand Céline to leading literary figure George Reavey, the owner of the Pan-Europa Press, Samuel Beckett's agent and good friend, and a preeminent Surrealist publisher with close ties to the avant-garde of French literature, "A Mr. George Reavey, bien amicalement, LF Celine."
"Céline (real name Destouches) was wounded and trepanned, afterwards becoming a naval doctor who traveled widely… As a doctor in a Paris suburb, he wrote his long despairing novel about the squalor of petty bourgeois humanity in the industrial age in a picaresque colloquial style which had an immediate influence on Henry Miller (Tropic of Cancer, 1934), George Orwell (Down and Out in Paris and London, 1935), and finally Henry Green… His first novel [the present one] is his most original. The hero, Bardamu, is an anarchical, Rabelaisian, much-traveled doctor like himself, with a gift of invective and a compassion for the underdog" (Connolly). "The story of a man's tortured and hopeless search for meaning, written in a vehement and disjointed style that marked its author as a major innovator of 20th-century French literature" (Encyclopedia of Literature). Winner of the 1932 Prix Renaudot. First trade issue with the printer listed as "Grande Imprimerie de Troyes." A limited edition of only 110 copies—ten on Verge d'Arches, 100 on Alfa—preceded this trade edition. After an unspecified but small number of copies of the unnumbered trade edition were also printed at the Grande Imprimerie de Troyes, the plates were transferred to a Paris printer, with the rue de L'Abbé-de-l'Epée address, for subsequent printings. With publisher's eight-page advertising catalogue tipped in at rear. Connolly, The Modern Movement 74. Sketch of a hand on the final page of text, possibly by Reavey; some ink squiggles on verso of front wrapper.
Interior clean, short split to hinge of front wrapper, still firmly attached, a few minor creases. An extraordinary near-fine copy in the original wrappers, an exceptional and most desirable presentation-association copy.