Journey to the End of the Night

Disillusion and Derangement among the Senses

in Journeys

The journey returns us to shared originary meanings of experience, trial, and travel, wherein ex signifies “out of,” while peira means “attempt, trial, test” and possesses the same root per as the Germanic fahr (“to travel”). The experience of traveling to an unfamiliar place often retains the character of a testing out, and exposes a flux of unfamiliar perceptions and sensations. Accordingly, this article uses Louis-Ferdinand Céline's journey from Europe to Africa to America, as recounted in his novel, Journey to the End of the Night, published in 1932, to explore some of the varying modes of corporeal experience and aesthetic appreciation that arise through travel and movement. It suggests that these constitute their own distinct types of knowledge and understanding. Inevitably, this raises important epistemological questions about how we know and understand the world, in that the initial impressions and provisional misunderstandings of transitory encounters are dismissed once the traveler, or anthropologist, gains a greater in-depth knowledge and understanding of the environment through longer-term dwelling. However, is there something to be gained: different perspectives and modes of knowing that emerge at the beginning, middle, and end of the journey?

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Journeys

The International Journal of Travel and Travel Writing