Widow of French Novelist Celine Dies Aged 107

French writer Louis-Ferdinand Céline (1886-1958) was photographed here in 1932, the year he won the Renaudot prize for his novel “Journey to the End of the Night.” (Image courtesy of Bibliothèque nationale de France via Wikipedia.)

PARIS (AFP) — The widow of the highly regarded but hugely controversial French novelist Louis-Ferdinand Celine has died aged 107, over half a century after her husband, whose work she always defended, a family friend told AFP on Friday.

Lucette Destouches died overnight peacefully in her sleep, said David Alliot, a specialist on Celine and author of the biography “Madame Celine,” who was close to Destouches.

Celine is revered by many in France and beyond for an innovative style which incorporated street language into literature, notably in his most famous work, “Journey to the End of the Night” in 1932.

But his reputation was sullied by his collaboration with the Nazis during the occupation of France in World War II, during which he wrote virulently anti-Semitic pamphlets.

Celine and Destouches fled France after the D-Day landings in Normandy in 1944 and he was later convicted in absence of collaborating with the Nazis. The couple returned to France in 1951.

He died in 1961 but Destouches never tired of seeking to revive his reputation in hope that posterity would be kinder to him.

French publisher Gallimard sparked controversy last year by announcing plans to reissue a collection of the violently anti-Semitic pamphlets but then shelved the idea in the face of public outrage.

Celine himself had said he did not want the pamphlets to be reissued, but a lawyer for Destouches gave consent for a reprint after she gave her permission after years of opposition.

A former dancer, Destouches refused to have her picture taken from the late 1960s onwards. “It is Celine who matters, me I am nothing!” she once said.

In August 2018, Destouches sold their home in Meudon, southwest of Paris, reportedly to pay her debts. She and Celine had moved there in 1951.

Born Lucie Almansor, she met Celine, whose real name was Louis Ferdinand Auguste Destouches and 20 years her senior, at a dance studio in 1936. They married in 1943.

© Agence France-Presse

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