Literature We Love: Episode 1

What are we reading during Lockdown? In the first of E: SF’s feature videos on literature we love, Professor Antony Rowland from Manchester Metropolitan University discusses what he calls, ‘the most terrifying novel’; an English translation of French author Louis-Ferdinand Céline’s 1932 nihilistic satire on war, Journey to the End of the Night. He explores Céline’s poetic use of rhythm and reflects on how his main character seems to spend much of the novel waiting for people to die! In this video, Antony also explores James Byrne’s illustrated poetry book A Place to Leave. This soon to be released collection is inspired by the time Byrne spent in Cox’s Bazar the world’s largest refugee settlement and leads Antony to ponder on the effects of the Covid-19 crisis on refugee communities.

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Video: 13m 44s

Literature We Love, ep. 1

‘Cox’s Bazaar’ by James Byrne

Credit: Christopher Routledge

‘Bremen-Hamburg’ by James Byrne

Illustration entitled 'Bremen-Hamburg'

Credit: Christopher Routledge


Poet, editor, and translator James Byrne was born in the UK. He is the author of the poetry collections Everything that is Broken Up Dances (Tupelo Press, 2015), White Coins (Arc, 2015), and Blood/Sugar (Arc, 2009). He earned an MFA in poetry from New York University, where he was awarded a Stein Fellowship. Byrne was the poet in residence at Clare Hall, University of Cambridge, and is a senior lecturer in Creative Writing at Edge Hill University in England. He is the international editor for Arc Publications and the editor of The Wolf, which he cofounded in 2002.

Louis-Ferdinand Céline (1894–1961) was a French author best known for his works Journey to the End of the Night and Death on the Installment Plan. After returning from war with a partially paralysed right arm, Céline worked with the passport office of the French Consulate in London, later moved to Africa to work for a French lumber company, moved back to France, lectured about tuberculosis for the Rockefeller Foundation, and earned a medical degree from the University of Rennes. It was while he worked as a doctor that he turned to writing. He had a successful, albeit controversial, career as a writer until he suffered a stroke in 1961 and passed away.