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This report is taken from PN Review 22, Volume 8 Number 2, November - December 1981.

From Meanwell College to Guignol's Band David Arkell
For a long time it was thought that Céline's excursions to England, in such books as Mort à crédit and Guignol's Band, were merely a product of his feverish imagination. This seemed to be borne out by the crazy topography and fanciful English that went with the mad goings-on. However, the current spate of new biographies is showing ever more clearly that Céline not only knew England well but spoke the language far better than he let on.

He first came here as a schoolboy of 14, when he spent half a term at Mr W. W. Tonkin's University School, 5-6 New Road, Rochester. That was in late February 1909, and the solid brick and stone buildings still stand at the top of Nag's Head Lane. Facing them is the vast sweep of hill, from the summit of which Céline described the fine view he admired of the Medway and the Three Towns. At the moment numbers 5, 6 and 7 are being turned into a luxury hotel and restaurant, where the food will certainly be more plentiful than in Celine's day. This was the main reason he asked to be removed after only one month: he rebelled against the paltry offerings and the basement dining-room in which they were served.

At the end of March he pretended to be recalled to Paris but instead made his way to a better school at Broadstairs: Pierre-mont Hall, where he was entirely happy and stayed till the following November. ...


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