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Tuesday, 1 September 2009

Céline in the Baltic II: Sails / Fanehuset (Summer)


File:Gespensterwald 1.JPG

The less he had to do with men the more he liked surrounding himself with other creatures.

At Fanehuset, he and Lucette had quickly established contact with their nonhuman neighbors. She'd begun feeding crumbs to the birds around the cottage. Before long they came in flocks every morning, noisily anticipating her appearance. She talked to them. "You'll soon have these Danish birds chattering in French," Céline joked.

Bébert took the birds' daily visit as an opportunity to practice his hunting. But it was strictly practice. At best, ten minutes of careful stalking earned him only a glimpse of fleeting wings. One morning when he returned with Lucette from their respective conferences with the birds, it was to find his milk dish surrounded by strange felines. A half-wild stray mother cat had taken advantage of his absence to scavenge a meal for herself and her brood of recently weaned kittens. Well fed himself, Bébert regally disdained the interlopers as they lapped up his breakfast. When they'd finished, the other cat hurried her kittens away. She brought them back the next day, this time a little more relaxed about her pilfering. Lucette was soon feeding a half-dozen cats.

Céline had adopted Bessy, an Alsatian wolfhound abandoned on the property by a retreating German soldier. Bessy was half wild. The caretaker, who'd kept her chained as a result of her fatal attacks on his chickens, called her "a killer" and told Céline that to train her he'd have to use brute force. Céline had seen enough of force. He devised a gentler training method. Tying one end of a rope around his waist, he fastened the other to Bessy's collar. As he sat working at his table in Fanehuset, the big dog was free to circulate in the same area occupied by Bébert and the other cats. Bessy learned in time to tolerate the cats. On cool evenings, they curled up on her back as she lay before the stove.


It was a particularly mild afternoon. Céline sat at a table outside the cabin, writing letters. While he worked, Lucette jumped rope outside Fanehuset, then ran down to the sea for a swim in the always cold waters of the Grand Belt.

After he'd finished his letters, Céline took Bessy along the low rolling cliffs. The tall yellow grass was no impediment to the dog, but it slowed Céline down. He swished the grass blades aside with his walking stick, cleaving a path for himself. Soon he was too tired to walk any farther. He stopped and leaned on the stick, watching the sea. A flock of wild swans glided past. The surface of the Grand Belt glittered with sun reflections. On the deepest waters the sails of fishing boats stood out: rough gray triangles. Céline turned to Bessy. "Look at those sails!" The dog raised her head toward him, alert. "Winding sheets! What else would they fly, navigating past the devil's house!" Bessy let out a howl and loped away, heading down the cliff toward the restless water.

File:Steilküste bei Elmenhorst.JPG

from The Exile of Céline: TC, 1986
Gespensterwald bei Nienhagen
: photo by Ch. Pagenkopf, 2007
Iriska: Saarloos wolfdog: photo by Elzbieta Wojtko, 2008
Steilküste bei Elmenhorst: photo by Ch. Pagenkopf, 2007

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