Ballets Without Music, Without Dancers, Without Anything

Céline's fascination with the ballet spans his literary career: three of the pieces in this volume were written around the same time that he published his great novel, Voyage au bout de la nuit, which he dedicated to the dancer Elisabeth Craig. At the time of his death, according to his wife—also a dancer—he was planning a book devoted to dance. "A man who doesn't dance confesses some disgraceful weakness," he wrote Milton Hindus. "I put dancing into everything."

In 1936, after finishing his monumental second novel, Mort à crédit, Céline visited Russia, where he hoped to have some of his ballets performed at the Theater Marinski in Leningrad. He failed to get any of them performed. But through this period he continued writing ballets. In 1959 five ballets were collected by Éditions Gallimard with illustrations by Éliane Bonabel.

The result is this edition, never before published in English, that reveals a central concern of Céline's writing while simultaneously displaying his comic structures and the struggle between idyllic beauty and inescapable deterioration, death, and the grotesque of his great fictions.