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Charles Krance's book studies the evolution of the interplay between narrative "Eye" (an extradiegetical narrator) and narrative "I" (an intradiegetical narrator that is an actor in the narrative) in Ceéline's successive writings, a process he identifies with the author's style. Increasingly, such an interplay takes on a performative aspect that subversively engages readers in the very writing of the text as it unfolds before their eyes and leads them into the unsayable depths of the text. Thus, Célinian écriture transforms the reader into an intermediary between Eye and I.
An inherently political writer, Céline is first investigated, in Krance's study, as an already strongly biased witness of history in his war diary: the march of history, observed by the bilious Eye, goes one way, the hapless I another. Such a pro- and introjective process, present even in the Semmelweis thesis, becomes an integral part of Voyage au bout de la nuit, although Krance notes that the style whose full development he is studying is only at an early stage. Still, the angoisse of the I gives a unique momentum and energy to the narration of events. Turning to Mort à crédit, Krance uses the complete lack of connection between the beginning and end of the novel (its lack of closure) to open his discussion to the relationship between writing, autobiography, and fiction as alibi. Ferdinand's identity as persona becomes lodged in the writing itself as it represents what Krance calls its "inscribability." In actual practice, writing here becomes a denunciative act, as narration and experience, highly infused with rage, produce a sense of presence in the text. The novels written after the infamous pamphlets use the Eye/I division for self-exoneration through a process of self-denigration (Ceéline's survival as a writer is at stake). In practice, this boils down to a convulsive and expostulatory "telegraphic" style. Krance studies this phenomenon chiefly in Guignol's Band. Now the performative aspect of Ceéline's style becomes dominant and hence is the most realized instance of the process Krance is studying. In great part, this is because the reader must be won over by the text and conveniently forget whatever unpleasant things he or she may know about the author. What brings this about is the strong sense of intimacy produced by the style. And the reader quickly learns to read this écriture. Krance's concluding chapter discusses the trilogy and how the Eye/I interplay inflects this chonicle of the fall of the Third Reich. Now, because of the skilled style, the reader is totally implicated in the rush of events. The culmination of Céline's literary oeuvre, Rigodon, completes this tendency by its fusion of the (printed) word with pure emotion.
Probably a stricter narratological treatment of the Eye- and I-narrators would have prevented a certain inconsistency and confusion in Krance's discussion of them. Moreover, his topic cries out for inclusion of the pamphlets. And it is unfortunate that the completed form of the style Krance [End Page 193] is studying is to be found in just those works of Céline's that people tend not to read—the later novels. Still, Krance's study, which is addressed to those familiar with the whole corpus of Céline's works, has great theoretical strength and offers a highly sophisticated analysis of his style.