Louis Ferdinand Céline – an unpopular European author in Japan

2. Februar 2016

Dieser Text erscheint leider nur in Englisch. An einer deutsche Version arbeite ich noch.

Céline – the name I remembered; even a title. I know I have a book of Céline at home, I know it is „Journey to the end of the night“ („Reise ans Ende der Nacht“ /„Voyage au bout de la nuit“, 1932) and I know that I started to read it twice and failed.
I remembered Céline beeing a controversial author admired because of his style and attacked for his high raised nationalism and anti-semitism. The life dates of Céline are 1894 to 1961.
Now I was asked to attend a performance of an independent group in Tokyo (mediated by my daughter, who saw a first part of this trilogy about Céline and knows one of the actors).
The stage is up a narrow street close to a station east of Ueno in a two storied house in traditional style. The audiance is waiting outside on the street, the ticketing in front of the door, timeslot 10 to 8.p.m. The public is held to enter in the order of arrival.
Stage and auditorium are one space. Small stools and pads are for the spectators, the rest of the space is black, empty, dark and for the performing.
One of the performers starts to inform about the biography of Céline recognized by dates. He also gave an introduction about Céline’s subjects, his character and reputation I was told later. A monologue of 20 minutes. From time to time the voice of the actor changed to a lightly other tone and rhythm.

I unerstood the words Europe, tabu, massacre, resistance, holocaust, nationality. Later on, Benjamin (mentioned Walter Benjamin?).
Then two ladys entered the room from the right side, a bare chested man entered with a knife letting the audiance feel that he is cutting his arms up the neck. A reference to the biography? Céline got a shot into his right arm during WW 1 which never became well in his lifetime.
I had no idea, where the story of the performing started.I tried to read the body language and to find a story by the scenes.
I did researche during morning before the theater performing and constructed my own line-up characters out of it. The major question was: why is a Japanese group rehersing Céline? I thought about the controversal character of his figures and writings, the black and white coloring of love and hate. I rememered that Henry Miller was strongly affected by Céline and I read about the influence upon Genet, Bukowski, Burroughs and even Raymon Federman.
On stage I saw movements like Butoh, but also movements from a puppet on the string, I saw a womans body crowned by a couliflower like a baby’s head, saw the woman eating the couliflower head and barfing it again performing an abortion and again giving birth to a new body.
Political figures (illustrating France, Italy, Japan) and a cat like out of Avatar on the stage judging Nazi-Germany? Or each other because of heartlessness?

On stage I saw movements like Butoh, but also movements from a puppet on the string, I saw a womans body crowned by a couliflower like a baby’s head, saw the woman eating the couliflower head and barfing it again performing an abortion and again giving birth to a new body.
Political figures (illustrating France, Italy, Japan) and a cat like out of Avatar on the stage judging Nazi-Germany? Or each other because of heartlessness?
Alain Resnais „Last year in Marienbad“ (1961) came into my mind, which impressed me very deeply while beginning my studies in literature and theatre.
The performance turned into swimming in a pond of worldculture, emotions, sentiments and associations. I remembered a performance and meeting with Merce Cunningham in the 1990th (died 2009) – and later on while discussing with the performers a meeting with Allen Ginsberg (died 1997) – both in connection with what I have seen.
At the end I heard several times words close to bon soi, bon soi which I turned into bonsoir and understood it as greeting of the evening and greeting of death.
The impossibility of beeing independently connected to the impossibility of separating love and destruction was my main idea of the performing.

The concentration of this 90 minutes performing was relaxed by a gathering together from performers and audiance afterwords. I learned by talking and listening that the audiance is very close to the performers. They know each other, accept their search for new ways and help each other walking on this road.

The name of the group is Gekidan Kaitaisha – and the last word means deconstruction.

Gathering after the performance

Gathering after the performance

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