16 July 2012

Simenon: Maigret and More

The biggest news in European ebooks last month, as I see it, was the release in France of the first 41 ebooks by Georges Simenon (1903 - 1989), the best-selling French-language author of the 20th century, and by some ways of reckoning the most prolific novelist of any era. Now and through 25 July 2012 the price of these French-language ebooks has been cut in half: individual ebooks now sell for less than four euros, three-packs for less than eight.

I've read, and mostly admired, several dozens of Simenon's books. There are so many of them, and the experience of them is so inseparable from French or European life, that his readers (and especially those of us with a few decades of reading under our belts) find they can't keep track of the numbers. (Simenon himself couldn't say how many he'd written.)

If you read French, you're likely to know a great deal about Simenon already. To you I'll just mention two of my favorite Simenons, one featuring Inspector Maigret and one non-series novel. L'affaire Saint-Fiacre brings the seasoned, adult Maigret back to his childhood home to investigate a crime involving a noblewoman whom he once idealized. Le chat (which was memorably filmed with Simone Signoret and Jean Gabin) is a powerful study of a claustrophobic marriage. (The links provided are to Amazon.fr. Kindle users may want to check their usual Amazon store, and users of other e-readers can get more information at the 'Simenon en numérique' website.)

And if you don't read French? There's an excellent selection of Simenon ebooks in translation--except that the US ebook prices for all the Maigrets available in English exceed the ceiling I've set for most linking from this blog. (See here for an earlier discussion of ebook prices, especially of the 'gouge zone'.) But consider, among the non-series Simenons available in e-format, the very early Tropic Moon (which will remind you of Heart of Darkness, in a good way), Act of Passion (which takes the form of a letter from a man convicted of murder to the examining magistrate who handled his case) or The President (Simenon's most overtly political novel).

And, since we're stressing the non-series novels (now referred to more and more as romans durs), let me mention the best recent piece I've found on them, by John McIntyre.

I'll close with a link to Simenon's 1955 Paris Review interview, which includes among its extensive riches a documentation of Simenon's work schedule and output that is if anything more amazing almost 60 years later. Among other things, Simenon wrote faster than many of us read. But in the process he created a world of indelible atmosphere and unforgettable relationships. As readers and as writers, we're still struggling to catch up.

No comments: