On Saturday afternoon I attended the Georges Simenon blogger event at the Groucho Club. We were a small group; there was enough time to talk to everyone and this we did over drinks. John Simenon, son of Georges, told us much about his father from both literary and personal perspectives.
Penguin is republishing all Simenon’s Maigret novels. At 75 books it’s quite the output. Simenon wrote the series between 1931 and 1972; the first 11 were published in one year. There will also be a new television adaptation starring Rowan Atkinson.
The author considered himself a craftsman rather than an artist – a craftsman of words. He would go on walks for two weeks before he put pen to paper, or rather, in his case, fingers to typewriter. He wouldn’t write with a plan but he would have the names, ages, phone numbers of his characters in mind. For characters to be real, they needed to be given a reality.
As someone who hasn’t read Simenon’s work (I have The Late Monsieur Gallet to come) I was intrigued by what I heard. To hear the author’s writing process summed up, it’s hard not to read it immediately. There is much to be had in terms of discussion.
Simenon made his characters biologically and, perhaps more importantly, socially responsible. He liked to get into their heads. As author and blogger Elizabeth Baines said, the novels are whydunnits rather than simply whodunnits. They don’t deal only with the crime. When you consider present day articles on the author he becomes more compelling. John Banville states: “Simenon’s uniqueness is that he created high literature in seemingly low forms’. Andrew Holgate points to a list of admirers, TS Elliot and Colette amongst them.
The afternoon ended with more conversation. It was a pleasure to meet Sakura of Chasing Bawa, Annabel of Annabel’s House Of Books, Sarah of Crime Pieces and the aforementioned Elizabeth of FictionBitch, an author in her own right. My thanks to John and to Maddy, Ellis, Camilla, and everyone at PFD for inviting me.
I ended my time in London at the Peirene salon. In lieu of Raymond Jean, who died in 2012, we listened to Deborah Levy – a perfect match. I’ve rewritten my mental TBR list so her work is higher up.
Have you read Georges Simenon?
- Banville, John: ‘Simenon’s Island of Bad Dreams’, accessed 16th June 2015
- Holdgate, Andrew: ‘Pietr the Latvian by Georges Simenon’, via print out.
June 17, 2015, 9:37 am
How fascinating! I’ve read quite a lot of the Maigret books – though not so many recently. To think he even had his characters’ phone numbers in his mind.
I’m not at all sure I can ‘see’ Rowan Atkinson as Maigret! He’s no Rupert Davies – but maybe that’s the point. I’ll reserve judgement until I see how he plays the part.
June 17, 2015, 5:00 pm
Sadly I hadn’t heard of Georges Simenon or his Maigret series, but I do love crime, adaptations, and Rowan Atkinson so definitely something for me to look out for.
June 18, 2015, 1:10 pm
I nearly attended this even, just other commitments prevented me, I haven’t read Simenon in years, but at one time ploughed through his Maigret books.
June 18, 2015, 1:26 pm
Oh I do love these events. Sadly though I don’t get to go to many.
Though of course I know of this author I can’t say I’ve ever read any of his books. If you had to pick one which one would you recommend to a newcomer to his work?
June 21, 2015, 6:51 pm
This sounds lovely! Especially as you’ve read Simenon before and had this insight into how he saw himself as a writing – and how his son saw him.
I will have to start reading his Maigret novels next!
July 21, 2015, 6:53 pm
Margaret: I know; it’s very detailed! A couple of people thought the same – I can’t say because I’ve not seen the others – but still it’ll be interesting to see.
Jessica: I think you’ll like it :)
Parrish: Next time, perhaps? :) It’d be interesting to see what you think of the new translations.
Tracy: This is one of few for me, so I understand where you’re coming from. I couldn’t recommend any at this point, having only read one, but I’ve heard The Yellow Dog is good and Alice (Of Books) liked The Blue Room :)
Alice: It was interesting indeed :)