Completed right before his death in 1961, Rigadoon, the most compassionate of Céline’s novels, explores the ravages of war and its aftermath. Often comic and always angry, the first-person autobiographical narrator, with his wife and their cat in tow, takes the reader with him on his flight from Paris to Denmark after finding himself on the losing side of World War II. The train rides that encompass the novel are filled with madness and mercy, as Céline, a physician, aids refugees while ignoring his own medical needs.
Céline’s inventive style and black humor profoundly influenced many writers who came after him, including Kurt Vonnegut, Jack Kerouac, William Burroughs, Allen Ginsberg and Charles Bukowski. As Kurt Vonnegut states in his introduction to this edition, “[Céline] demonstrated that perhaps half of all experience, the animal half, had been concealed by good manners. No honest writer or speaker will ever want to be polite again.”