Books: Black Angel

CELINE by PATRICK MCCARTHY 352 pages. Viking. $10.

One morning in 1932, Robert Denoël, partner in a small Paris publishing house, found on his desk an anonymously delivered brown paper parcel. The 500-plus-page manuscript it contained proved to be quite possibly the most vital —and certainly the most controversial —French novel since Proust's Remembrance of Things Past.

Voyage au Bout de la Nuit (translated as Journey to the End of Night) is as un-Proustian as a novel can be. Its scenes are the battlefields of World War I, hospital wards, lunatic asylums. The mysterious author's...

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