(Errata: the year Robert Stromberg travelled to Meudon to interview Celine was early in 1961, not 1962, as written earlier). Celine died later that year), so the interview that he gave to Bob was one of the last ). Also, Bob was born in 1923, so he was 38 when he and Celine met). Apologies for these errors.
Tracking down Louis- Ferdinand Destouches ( aka ‘Celine’) wasn’t easy, but Bob had been an investigative journalist on WWD, and later for Reuter’s news agency in London; during his peripatetic life ,and the introductory letter that he sent Celine must have impressed the writer.
The fact that Bob was American, too, may have been in his favour.
A time and date was arranged, and Bob then travelled to Meudon, ‘on the fringe’ of Paris, as Bob wrote. There, Celine lived with his wife, Lucette Almanzor, who owned the house ( three-storey nineteenth century made of wood and mortar), and about half-a-dozen dogs ‘as near as I could count’.
But before he left for the meeting, Bob read as much by Celine and about the man as he could. He read ‘Death on the Installment Plan’, which he admired almost as much as much as ‘Voyage au bout de la Nuit’, and learned as much as he could about the reputation of the man. None of it good.
Meanwhile, he was in Paris for the first time in his life. Walking the streets taken by Joyce, Dos Passos, E.E. Cummings – and Hemingway, who, conincidentally, was also to die in 1961, He felt an affinity for the bars and haunts that so many fellow Americans writers had visited before him. And, of course, he visited Sylvia Beach’s iconic bookshop ‘Shakespeare and Company’ in the rue de l’Odeon. ‘Mme Shakespeare’, as Hemingway called Sylvia Beach provided a haven/salon//mail drop service for a large coterie of writers here at ‘The Quarter’ – a salon that rivalled, but never surpassed the other great gathering place for writers and painters: Gertude Stein’s magnificent salon-studio in the rue de Fleurus