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Culture

Publisher suspends plans to reissue anti-Semitic tracts by French author Céline

media Louis-Ferdinand Céline in 1932. Public domain/Bibliothèque nationale de France

French publisher Gallimard has suspended a plan to publish a collection of anti-Semitic writings by French author Louis-Ferdinand Céline after protests by campaigners and literary figures.

The "methodological and memorial conditions" necessary to allow the three pamphlets to be published "dispassionately" do not exist at the moment, Gallimard boss Antoine Gallimard said in a statement Thursday.

The author of Journey to the End of the Night, whose real name was Louis Ferdinand Destouches, wrote them in the 1930s and 1940s in the run-up to World War II and under the Nazi occupation of France.

At the end of the war he fled to Denmark.

A French court sentenced him to a year in prison, which he served in a Danish jail, for collaboration with the Germans.

The pamphlets have not been republished in France since, although they are available online and in an edition published in Canada in 2012.

Summoned by government

In December, after Gallimard announced its plan to publish a similar edition in France, Frédéric Potier, the head of the government's committee against anti-Semitism and racism, summoned Gallimard to his office.

He reportedly to express his concern that the edition should be supervised and annotated by a group of experts, including historians, especially since it was to be published at a time of rising anti-Semitism.

Gallimard replied that he planned to work only with Régis Tettamanzi, an academic who published the Canadian edition.

The project sparked protests from historians, literary critics and campaigners, among them Serge Klarsfeld, the president of a group representing the children of deportees, and Pierre-André Targuieff, the author of a book on Céline and anti-Semitism.

"Céline's pamphlets belong the history of the most despicable French anti-Semitism," Gallimard said in his statement on Thursday. "But to condemn them to censorship impedes the full clarification of their roots and their ideological impact and creates an unhealthy curiosity where we should exercise our faculty of judgement."

But he added, "I understand and share the feelings of readers shocked or concerned by the prospect of publication for obvious human and ethical reasons."

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