Georges Simenon: Criminally Underappreciated

Georges Simenon: Criminally Underappreciated

Here’s something I wrote a while back about Georges Simenon. Every time I crack open Monsieur Monde Vanishes or The Widow, I’m reminded again what an amazing writer he is. He has that beautiful, spare quality of Hemingway but taken in the darker, gothic direction I prefer. His dialogue is snap-tight, and while the prose can occasionally steer into flat territory, he nails a sentence every few pages that reminds me why I read in the first place.

This, from The Widow:

“He sometimes spoke like this, half in earnest, when, in his bed, he felt too much like a little child.” (127)

From Red Lights:

“He was trying to foresee the questions that would be put to him and to think of suitable replies, but his mind was still cloudy, and, like the woman near him, he gazed fixedly through the open window at a tree outlined against the blue sky, its immobility, in the still, midday air, giving an impression of eternity.” (97)

From Monsieur Monde Vanishes:

“When he had finished shaving he would look at himself a little longer, complacently yet with a certain pang of regret because he was no longer the chubby, somewhat ingenuous young man he had once been, and could not get used to the idea of being already embarked on the downward slope of his life.” (15)

And from Three Bedrooms in Manhattan:

“He was thinking about himself, her, everything. He was himself and someone watching himself. He loved her and still he judged her without mercy.” (33)

I’m sure he’s not everyone’s taste. He can get pretty chauvinistic, and I’d hate to hear what someone thinks about him from a feminist perspective, but if you’ve ever been interested in crime fiction, or you like tight, short novels, you should give him a read. The man may have thought of every misogynistic way to describe the female body, but if you give him a close read, you’ll find there’s a lot more there.

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