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Simenon: A Biography

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Numbering more than four hundred in all, including the beloved Inspector Maigret stories, Georges Simenon's novels have been translated into some fifty languages, with sales exceeding 500 million copies worldwide. Now, drawing on unprecedented access to Simenon's papers, family, and friends, Pierre Assouline gives us the utterly absorbing story of this tormented and egoman Numbering more than four hundred in all, including the beloved Inspector Maigret stories, Georges Simenon's novels have been translated into some fifty languages, with sales exceeding 500 million copies worldwide. Now, drawing on unprecedented access to Simenon's papers, family, and friends, Pierre Assouline gives us the utterly absorbing story of this tormented and egomaniacal genius of literary mass production. The narrative begins with a troubled youth in France during the 1920s: Simenon's early involvement with crime and prostitutes inspired the guilt that would haunt his adulthood and the subjects he would obsessively probe in his fiction. Assouline vividly re-creates Simenon's complex and painful family relationships, as well as his controversial political activities, occasionally as a partisan of the extreme Right. As we witness Simenon's evolution into a self-fashioned literary prodigy (at the height of powers he could produce eighty pages a day), we also watch the growth - and satisfaction - of his notoriously outsize appetites for fame, wealth, and women. And we see him in the company of some of the great cultural icons of his time, including his lover Josephine Baker as well as Henry Miller, Colette, Jean Renoir, and Andre Gide, who called Simenon the greatest novelist of the century.


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Numbering more than four hundred in all, including the beloved Inspector Maigret stories, Georges Simenon's novels have been translated into some fifty languages, with sales exceeding 500 million copies worldwide. Now, drawing on unprecedented access to Simenon's papers, family, and friends, Pierre Assouline gives us the utterly absorbing story of this tormented and egoman Numbering more than four hundred in all, including the beloved Inspector Maigret stories, Georges Simenon's novels have been translated into some fifty languages, with sales exceeding 500 million copies worldwide. Now, drawing on unprecedented access to Simenon's papers, family, and friends, Pierre Assouline gives us the utterly absorbing story of this tormented and egomaniacal genius of literary mass production. The narrative begins with a troubled youth in France during the 1920s: Simenon's early involvement with crime and prostitutes inspired the guilt that would haunt his adulthood and the subjects he would obsessively probe in his fiction. Assouline vividly re-creates Simenon's complex and painful family relationships, as well as his controversial political activities, occasionally as a partisan of the extreme Right. As we witness Simenon's evolution into a self-fashioned literary prodigy (at the height of powers he could produce eighty pages a day), we also watch the growth - and satisfaction - of his notoriously outsize appetites for fame, wealth, and women. And we see him in the company of some of the great cultural icons of his time, including his lover Josephine Baker as well as Henry Miller, Colette, Jean Renoir, and Andre Gide, who called Simenon the greatest novelist of the century.

30 review for Simenon: A Biography

  1. 4 out of 5

    Jeffrey Keeten

    “I would like to carve my novel in a piece of wood. My characters—I would like to have them heavier, more three-dimensional ... My characters have a profession, have characteristics; you know their age, their family situation, and everything. But I try to make each one of those characters heavy, like a statue, and to be the brother of everybody in the world.” ― Georges Simenon The prolific Georges Simenon. Georges Simenon changes the definition of prolific. At the height of his writing career “I would like to carve my novel in a piece of wood. My characters—I would like to have them heavier, more three-dimensional ... My characters have a profession, have characteristics; you know their age, their family situation, and everything. But I try to make each one of those characters heavy, like a statue, and to be the brother of everybody in the world.” ― Georges Simenon The prolific Georges Simenon. Georges Simenon changes the definition of prolific. At the height of his writing career he was writing and publishing 13 novels a year plus 60 to 80 magazine articles. He wrote on average 60 to 80 pages a day. Even a person not worrying about literary value would struggle to write that many pages a day. The public never had to wait long for the next Simenon novel. One day Alfred Hitchcock supposedly telephoned the author at home. "Hello may I please speak to Mr. Simenon." "One moment, please...I'm sorry, he's just started a novel." "That's all right, I'll wait." I have only read a few of the 350+ books that Simenon wrote. I like to travel with a Maigret in my luggage because I find them perfect for reading in hotel rooms or on airplanes. They are compelling, but I struggled to explain their literary value until I read the following summation by an expert. Pierre Boileau a Simenon devote explains the impact that the Maigret novels had on the public. "Before the advent of the inspector no one ever reread a detective story unless they had forgotten the ending. Simenon twisted the traditional rules of the genre so thoroughly that readers did not expect clear and simple answers to the standard triad of questions (who? how? why?). The important thing was not identifying the murderer but understanding him, decoding his own enigma instead of the puzzle posed by his actions, no matter how mysterious they seemed." Reading this book I came to admire not only the author's work ethic, but also marvel at his monumental sex drive. His second wife said that they made love three times a day and still Simenon would go visit the brothel or a mistress. He liked to write and he liked to have sex and devoted most of his day either chasing down that next word or chasing that next sexual conquest. If Simenon were writing today he would be sharing couch time with Dr. Drew and he would have loved the publicity. The Legendary Josephine Baker entertaining Simenon. She was one of his many successful conquests. He once boasted he made love to 10,000 women, but his second wife putting pencil to paper came up with about 1,200. Simenon was a wonderful promoter in an age when it was deemed inappropriate to hawk your own writing. At one point he was intending to lock himself in a glass booth so the public could gather and watch him write a novel. The scheme fell through, but still just promoting the nonevent sold books. He devised a ball and invited the aristocracy, homeless people, and hookers. It was an event that quickly escalated out of control and was talked about for decades. He was to say the least a dynamo. Prodigious amounts of energy and always trying to make the most of every moment. Once when greeting some journalists at the Hotel George V where he granted interviews he stated: "I'm glad you're on time. I don't mind having my wallet or some other object of value stolen, but not my time. Objects can be replaced, but who knows how much time any of us has left?" Good advice for all of us. I'm really glad that I read this book because now when I do read a Maigret, knowing more about his creator, I can certainly glean more from the plot with the overlay of Simenon's own life in the background of my thoughts. Well written, compelling biography about a legendary writer who certainly left his mark on detective fiction. He even nudges his way onto the literary bookshelves.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Hanneke

    Having read a fair amount of biographies throughout the years - but definitely not claiming to be an expert on the subject - I think I can safely say that there seem to be two distinctive approaches towards writing a biography. Biographies seem to be either quite factual with facts and figures or, alternatively, have a psychological approach to the person under review. The biographer Assouline is clearly a facts and figures sort of man and so was Simenon himself. This is a biography of a very di Having read a fair amount of biographies throughout the years - but definitely not claiming to be an expert on the subject - I think I can safely say that there seem to be two distinctive approaches towards writing a biography. Biographies seem to be either quite factual with facts and figures or, alternatively, have a psychological approach to the person under review. The biographer Assouline is clearly a facts and figures sort of man and so was Simenon himself. This is a biography of a very difficult man, a legendary writer, quite out of the ordinary and undoubtedly a formidable individual. Simenon had a staggering output of novels and articles ever since he was only seventeen years old, to wit at the time of his death: about 500 novels (including over 100 Maigret detectives, 24 autobiographies and innumerable stories). At the start of his writing life, he often published under a false name, thus concealing his outrageous production. I cannot help to see that as a sign of the neurotic personality he had. As the biographer states time and again that Simenon tended to lie outright when it suited him, I found it hard to form a clear picture of his personality. Nowhere in the biography have I found any family members or friends to give any intimate testimonies of what they actually thought of Simenon as a person. Contrary to his almost solid silence on the personal side of Simenon, biographer Assouline, as a true facts and figures person, provides us in abundance with information about the number of books published, how many books were written in a month or a year, the names of the publishing houses, what contracts were agreed upon with the publishers, the percentages and details of these contracts plus a neat overview of the yearly proceeds of the sale of books, movie and theatre rights. One could always count on Simenon’s commitment of the exact delivery of a manuscript, would never be late in the date agreed upon, thus a very dependable person. Being on time was one of his neuroses throughout his life. His houses had clocks to check the time at any angle. He was a keen businessman himself and insisted on dealing with publishers, cinema studios and newspapers himself and was known to drive really hard bargains. It is interesting to learn that Simenon considered his ‘hard novels’ (romans durs) his true literary achievements. He regarded his Inspector Maigret novels as stations between serious writing. The Maigret detectives were mere products to gather money for his lavish life style. If necessary, he could write a Maigret novel in a week or at most ten days. He had firm opinions on how his Maigret detectives should be written. They should be never be long, thus no longer than 220 pages, written in episodes and ideally be fit to be read in a single sitting of two and a half hours. Sometimes there was such an abundance of Maigret manuscripts waiting for publication that the publisher decided only to publish six Maigret books a year in order not to overflow the market, thus diminishing the readers’ interest. The Maigret books were hugely popular and translated widely around the world. In contrast, the writing of the ‘hard novels’ made him nervous and he could only write them in a certain state of mind. He was such a creature of control and habit that writing the hard novels unsettled him. He claimed they wrote themselves once he sat down with his Parker pen. He did not type them in contrast to the Maigret detectives. In fact, writing the Maigret detectives was a nice distracting pleasure for Simenon. He said that it calmed him down and made him feel satisfied. Another nice distraction was being present on the movie sets when Maigret books were filmed and he did not hesitate to protest if he thought the story was deviating from his novel. Overall, I find it a setback that, as an interested reader, you never could form a firm picture of the man Simenon. The biographer is very discreet in not making any allusions to the reputation of Simenon as a legendary womanizer. He does mention that Simenon was a frequent visitor of bordello’s. Mentions Josephine Baker as a long time lover, but no details about that relationship whatsover, and never any further ideas on the supposedly thousands of women he had relations with. Furthermore, as what I thought was an extraordinary feature of his household in my personal view, not much attention is paid to Simenon living with three women whom he apparently ‘serviced’ every day three times, i.e his former wife Tigy, his wife Denyse (later divorced and replaced), and his life-long secretary cum housekeeper and organizer Boule who accompanied him since the 1930’s. A psychologist reveals somewhere that these ‘services’ would only take a few minutes.Thanks, but no thanks, I would imagine from the women’s point of view! I would have been interested to know what these women thought of the arrangement. Visitors like Henry Miller or Jean Gabin and others are not quoted for their opinions either. My feeling is that Simenon was a serious misogynist. It is a known fact that his mother was a very nasty person and that he suffered greatly from that. Yet, he was proud of his sexuality and thought that the only way to know a woman was to sleep with her. There is another issue that you cannot find any solid evidence of and that concerns the fact that the French authorities were investigating Simenon’s apparent collaboration with the Vichy regime during WW-II. Simenon visited Germany several times during the war to negotiate film rights of several of his books. I would imagine there are records dating from the immediate aftermath of the war in the French national archives which could be consulted for details, but the biographer does not mention any research into this matter. However, it is clear that Simenon felt a big urge to leave France for the U.S. right after the war to let things settle down for a few years. I would assume that, in the end, there was only his opportunistic sale of movie rights to the German Continental cinema company that put him in that shady position. He never showed much interest in politics. Going to Germany must have been a typical Simenon act to personally deal with cinema deals, just as he did with his publishers. He probably was only being the opportunistic businessman that he always was, ignoring the world at large around him. There is no doubt in my mind that Mr. Assouline wrote a solid biography. What I found strange is that I never detected any sign of sympathy towards Simenon. I felt a constant sense of alienation, if not dislike, towards his subject. But that is, of course, my personal feeling, but it certainly colours my feeling about Simenon as a person as well. Having read the biography will not alter my enjoyment of reading Simenon’s ‘hard novels’ at all. Perhaps I will only be more aware of certain neurotic characteristics. I do love his hard novels and find them always out of the ordinary in subject matter and action. Not having read any Maigret detectives since my teens, I am even considering trying a Maigret detective as an experiment to find out if one can notice, for example, that the book was written in only 10 days. I will try the Maigret set in Delfzijl, Northern Holland, the place where a statue of him was erected in his honour. Would be interesting!

  3. 5 out of 5

    J.

    This novel required no research. He nevertheless made a brief trip to Paris to pick up the scent of the neighborhood, wandering through the streets at nightfall, climbing stairways, walking through hallways outside attic rooms. Simenon needed these snapshots to recover the neighborhood's atmosphere and its light, the dreamlike light that dazzled his hero... Hard to dislike this as a biography of a very difficult man, a peculiar sort of writer, and no doubt a fairly prickly individual. For so This novel required no research. He nevertheless made a brief trip to Paris to pick up the scent of the neighborhood, wandering through the streets at nightfall, climbing stairways, walking through hallways outside attic rooms. Simenon needed these snapshots to recover the neighborhood's atmosphere and its light, the dreamlike light that dazzled his hero... Hard to dislike this as a biography of a very difficult man, a peculiar sort of writer, and no doubt a fairly prickly individual. For some reason that combination of elements doesn't sound like this was a simple project to construct. There are two aspects of this biography that are important throughout: Simenon's tendency to lie outright when it suited him, and the unique position of the Inspector Maigret novels, which GS regarded as bridges between serious writing, the work that paid the tab for the interesting excursions. Assouline early on sets the reader on the right track by letting him know that Simenon cannot be trusted; anything that is to follow must be judged, graded, inspected for the curve that Simenon liked to introduce into his own story. A strange dissonance there, considering that in his fiction, GS was committed to removing the unnecessary, the ornamental, the filigree; but for his own story, the facts would often be reassembled and author Assouline lets us know. Typical: That is his story. But is it history? There were no other witnesses, but a careful study of Simenon's multiple versions of this incident, recounted in many interviews, turns up a few false notes... The Simenon reader is inclined not to care, but is grateful for the tip."I'll manufacture Fords for a while until enough money comes in. Then I'll make Rolls-Royces for pleasure." Georges SimenonIn a more difficult vein, you have to get thru the whole biography to realize that not only Simenon but Assouline too basically disregard the internationally famous novels GS wrote featuring Inspector Maigret. If by chance you came to this bio as a Maigret fan, you would be sorely disappointed by the content. The Maigret books were a means to an end, suggests Simenon outright; they paved the way for the hard novels, the romans dur that are his real and substantial achievement. I have to agree, but they were also the foundation of a framework for writing, an outlook that persisted into the novels. "A suicide will cost me two hundred thousand readers; what I need is a murder."Jean Provoust, Simenon's editor at Paris-SoirWhat we've got, in overview, is former altar-boy Simenon rising thru the ranks of Belgian tabloid journalism, (where he gets a good glimpse of police methodology in passing), his golden years in Paris in the bohemian demimonde as he cultivates his pulp & detective technique, the money years where travel and barging on the back rivers of northern France become his delight, the war and his quasi-collaboration with the Vichy authorities, and a surprising period of exile in the United States. On his return, Simenon is now an international phenom and moves from chateau to chateau in France then Switzerland, eventually writing 200 books (fact) and bedding what he approximates to have been 10,000 women (undocumented). Recall, he's not exactly to be trusted with his own story. But there is a staggering amount of life that is covered here, and even if some of it has been rearranged by various tellers, it is fascinating. The eras and the namedropping are stellar; already married at 20 in Paris, he makes the famous American chanteuse Josephine Baker his mistress. In the course of the bio, we glide through interactions with Roberto Rossellini and wife Ingrid Bergman, Graham Greene, Somerset Maugham, Alexander Korda, Ian Fleming, Noel Coward, J.B.Priestly, Henry Miller, directors HG Cluzot, Jean Renoir, Marcel Pagnol, Jean Cocteau, Fellini, and, driven to meet Simenon due to a "combination of curiosity and a passion for detective novels", the reclusive T.S.Eliot. And this is a partial list; we're talking about someone cool enough to hang with Jean Gabin, and go to bed with Josephine Baker. Whilst plotting that next brutally noirish story. "I promised myself an upbeat novel, or at least an optimistic one, but my characters would not allow it." Simenon, 1962What should be discussed is Simenon's true material, which if not crime detection (as in the Maigret books, at any rate) is more closely seen in the 'hard' novels. It is something like: the intersection of Frailty and Brutality, meeting each other in unforeseen circumstances and melting for a minute, intermingling for a star-crossed, ill-fated blip in time. While steaming down the tracks comes the inevitable, the unavoidable, the grand consequence. Simenon is nearly greek-tragic in his sense of fate, and the way he's able to put it across comes down to the other thing that should be discussed."At bottom, I am not a writer." Simenon, 1965Simenon's style is non-cryptic, direct, foreshortened and generally blunt. And yet he's able to use it to couch complex, contrary material, as above, in commonplace, banal descriptions. His atmospherics are precise, draftsmanlike, and without prosy bloat. Pierre Assouline offers a nice full chapter toward the end of the bio, discussing the style aspects in Simenon. If there is any formula, it is reduction, and direct reportage, delivered on-time without slant or skew. Simenon "was less sensitive to the music of words than to their weight". So in the end the policier grounds and frames the delicate balance of the hard novels, while the crime, in noirish tradition but contrary to the detective genre, remains observed, but unsolved.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Will

    "Simenon sat at his table, inhaling the mingled odors of coffee and pipe tobacco. He flipped through the pages of the Larousse. P as in pygmy, H as in hacienda, M as in monsoon. He was convinced that the poetry of this kind of story lies wholly in the words and not in the plot or the action. He believed he had penetrated the secret of the adventure novel the day he learned to write 'mangrove' or 'baobab' instead of 'tree,' and 'tomahawk' instead of 'hatchet'." "Simenon sat at his table, inhaling the mingled odors of coffee and pipe tobacco. He flipped through the pages of the Larousse. P as in pygmy, H as in hacienda, M as in monsoon. He was convinced that the poetry of this kind of story lies wholly in the words and not in the plot or the action. He believed he had penetrated the secret of the adventure novel the day he learned to write 'mangrove' or 'baobab' instead of 'tree,' and 'tomahawk' instead of 'hatchet'."

  5. 5 out of 5

    Mary

    Interesting man, interesting book. Seemed to ramble sometimes though, with lists of books and their publication history.

  6. 5 out of 5

    HansBlog

    Aus HansBlog.de: Der Biograf, Romancier, Dozent und Journalist Pierre Assouline (*1953) erzählt Simenons Leben so packend wie einen Roman, mit viel Sinn für Skurrilitäten, interessante Nebenfiguren, knackige Dialoge, Einzeiler und Storytelling, ganz ohne professorale Langatmigkeit. Immer wieder zieht Assouline Parallelen zwischen Simenons Leben und dessen Romanen, zitiert auch aus Simenons zahlreichen Memoirenbüchern. Das liest sich sehr lebendig und interessant. Assouline schreibt kurze Sätze f Aus HansBlog.de: Der Biograf, Romancier, Dozent und Journalist Pierre Assouline (*1953) erzählt Simenons Leben so packend wie einen Roman, mit viel Sinn für Skurrilitäten, interessante Nebenfiguren, knackige Dialoge, Einzeiler und Storytelling, ganz ohne professorale Langatmigkeit. Immer wieder zieht Assouline Parallelen zwischen Simenons Leben und dessen Romanen, zitiert auch aus Simenons zahlreichen Memoirenbüchern. Das liest sich sehr lebendig und interessant. Assouline schreibt kurze Sätze fast wie Simenon, poliert aber mehr auf Effekt, und er verwendet mehr gebildete (nicht eingebildete) Ausdrücke. (Vielleicht wirkte die Biografie auch deswegen so kompakt auf mich, weil ich sie in der offenbar stark gekürzten englischen Ausgabe las, die auf 447 Gesamtseiten kommt; das frz. Original hat 1059 Seiten; mehr dazu unten.) Assouline konzentriert sich sehr stark auf biografische Fakten, Verifizier- und Quantifizierbares, er meidet lange literaturwissenschaftliche Einschübe, Exegesen, Textanalysen oder Theoriehuberei. Doch traumhaft sicher flicht Assouline gelegentlich Verallgemeinerungen oder zeitraffende Zusammenfassungen ein; auch hier bleibt seine Geschichte im Fluss. Er recherchierte von 1989 bis 1992 und hatte uneingeschränkten Zugang zu Simenons Archiv, redete mit den drei Söhnen, der Ex-Frau Denyse, der Gefährtin Teresa und der Mitarbeiterin Joyce Aitken. Diesen famosen Zugang erwähnt Assouline nur knappstmöglich in der Danksagung; einen Recherchebericht wie andere Biografen liefert er nicht. Detective Novel Tricks: Nur ein einziges Kapitel behandelt keinen konkreten Zeitabschnitt, sondern berichtet komplett allgemein – es behandelt fast am Ende auf etwa 17 Seiten Simenons Herangehen an das Romanschreiben. Selbst dieses Kapitel, natürlich mit vielen Beispielen, liest sich spannend (zumindest wenn man sich für Kreativität interessiert). Auch bei diesem Thema "Simenons Romanhandwerk" liefert Assouline kaum wolkige Interpretationen, sondern interessantes Material, das sich leicht belegen und teils sogar quantifizieren lässt, etwa Zeitablauf, typische Struktur der Buchtitel, Art der Vorrecherchen, seelische Abläufe, Alkoholzufuhr beim Schreiben). Fast nie zitiert Assouline Pressestimmen zu einzelnen Simenon-Büchern, außer bei den eher negativen Beurteilungen der Intimen Memoiren. Praktisch nie macht Assouline düstere Andeutungen über die Zukunft seines Hauptgegenstands, vermeidet aufdringliche Cliffhanger. Mit einer gravierenden Ausnahme, und dies ist meine einzige stilistische Kritik an der Biografie: Eine aufwühlende Szene zwischen Simenons Frau Denyse und der gemeinsamen Tochter Marie-Jo deutet Assouline mehrfach nur an, erklärt ihre Wiedergabe sogar für gerichtlich untersagt – und dann bringt Assouline die Episode doch detailliert. Auch New York Times und Kirkus Reviews kritisierten Assoulines Stilmittel, Publishers Weekly monierte hier "detective novel tricks" (Konkurrenzbiograf Patrick Marnham schildert die Szene viel kürzer, vager und scheinbar mit abweichendem Geschehen). Starkes Material für erzählfreudige Biografen: Weit über seine verblüffenden Schreibgewohnheiten hinaus lieferte Maigret-Autor Georges Simenon (1903 – 1989) seinem Biografen Assouline Material für eine bärenstarke Story: Simenon begann als kleiner Reporter, wollte einen Roman öffentlich im Glaskäfig schreiben, reiste in Booten durch Frankreich und Europa, fortwährend Fiction raushauend, kollidierte schon 1930 mit dt. Staatsschützern, sah Hitler, traf Trotsky, verkehrte mit André Gide, Charlie Chaplin, Thornton Wilder, Josephine Baker, Fellini und Henry Miller, hatte wilde Marketingideen, war während der deutschen Besatzung in Frankreich mal als angeblicher Jude gefährdet, danach als angeblicher Kollaborateur, scherte sich nie ums comme-il-faut, verhandelte beinhart mit Verlegern und Filmleuten und kultivierte einen grandseigneuralen, teils skurrilen Lebensstil. Simenons legendären Frauenverbrauch streift Assouline nur am Rand. Die zweite Ehefrau Denyse mit ihren psychischen Problemen erhält ein paar eigene Absätze. Hier setzt meine einzige inhaltliche Kritik ein: Ich hätte gern mehr über Tigy erfahren, die erste Mme Simenon, die mit ihm durch Armut und deutsche Besatzung ging, sein Leben und seine Arbeit organisierte und später laut Scheidungsbeschluss samt Sohn in seiner Nähe zu leben hatte. (Auch seine langjährige Haushälterin und Geliebte Boule und seine komma-besessene Lektorin Doringe würde ich gern näher kennenlernen. Vielleicht bietet die ungekürzte frz. Ausgabe diese Aspekte.) Sehr viel Raum erhält Simenons Haltung zu Juden und zu den deutschen Besatzern in Frankreich. Assoulines Fazit hier (S. 199): Simenon remained Simenon: an opportunist above all else. Gelegentlich staunt man, wie genau der Biograf Gefühle oder Dialoge wiedergibt, zumal Simenons Erinnerungsbücher notorisch unzuverlässig sind – aber Assouline erzählt auf jeden Fall gut, und er hatte ja mit Simenon und dessen Umfeld ausführlich gesprochen. Mitunter verwendet der französische Autor Namen und Begriffe, die Nicht-Franzosen genauer erklärt werden sollten. Assouline schrieb später mehr Einschlägiges wie Autodictionnaire Simenon (2011, 640 Seiten). Französischer Autor auf Englisch von Deutschem gelesen: Assouline schrieb französisch, ich habe die englische Übersetzung von Jon Rothchild gelesen. Zwar gibt es ein paar Assouline-Bücher auf Deutsch, doch ausgerechnet die Simenon-Biografie gelangte zwar ins Italienische, aber nicht ins Deutsche (Stand Juni 2019) – pourquoi, donc? Wie erwähnt hat die englische Ausgabe lt. Paginierung 447 Seiten, die frz. dagegen 1059. Hier wurde im Englischen wohl massiv gekürzt, aber die englische Ausgabe (relativ große Seiten relativ eng bedruckt) liefert keinerlei Hinweis auf Kürzungen in Impressum, Vor- oder Nachwort. Hier sollte Daniel Kampa Abhilfe schaffen – eine deutsche ungekürzte Ausgabe muss her. Zur Übersetzung: Die englische Übertragung klang für mich immer stimmig und nicht nach "Übersetzung". "Many French books lost their flavor in other languages", warnt ein englischer Simenon-Verleger im Buch auf S. 154, aber die Sorge ist hier unbegründet; die New York Times hielt die Übersetzung indes für "pedestrian". Bei den meisten Simenon-Romanen nennt der Übersetzer zunächst den frz. und dann in Klammern den engl. Titel – gelegentlich bringt der Übersetzer nur den frz. Titel. Mitunter erscheinen auch frz. Ausdrücke unübersetzt, z.B. "tout court" dreimal auf S. 91 und erneut auf S. 145, "Sime-non-lieu" auf S. 126, "Histoires de partout et d'ailleurs" auf S. 170, "au courant" auf S. 194, "je me souviens" auf S. 232. Manchmal weist der Übersetzer umgekehrt auf sprachliche Besonderheiten hin, liefert aber ausschließlich die englische Entsprechung; dort hätte ich gern *auch* den frz. Ausdruck gehabt (z.B. beim frz. Pendant zum engl. "wild blue yonder" – wie sagt man das auf Frz.? – oder bei Simenons übersetztem Ausdruck "semi-bread-and-butter literature", der nur auf Engl. erscheint). (Die auf Englisch geschriebene 1995er Simenon-Biografie The Man Who Wasn't Maigret von Patrick Marnham gibt's dagegen auch auf Deutsch, und englische und deutsche Version bringen viele französische, nicht übersetzte Ausdrücke. Marnhams Biografie erscheint in Assoulines Literaturliste, jedenfalls in der 1997er-Assouline-Übersetzung ins Englische. Im Lauftext, im Index und in der Danksagung erscheint der Name Marnham nach meiner Übersicht nicht; es ist aber durchaus möglich, dass Assouline Marnham-Erkenntnisse präsentiert und den Urheber nur in einer Endnote, nicht im Lauftext nennt; das habe ich nicht systematisch überprüft. Assoulines Name erscheint auch in Marnhams Literaturliste, und in der engl. Ausgabe zitiert Marnham Assoulines Erkenntnisse viermal; die dt. Ausgabe unterschlägt mindestens einmal den Hinweis auf Assouline.) Zur verwendeten Ausgabe: Meine Hardcover-Ausgabe des Verlags Chatto & Windus 1997 hat relativ dicht bedruckte Seiten und: Haupttext inkl. Vorwort: ca. 391 Seiten Anhang (Bibliografie, Endnoten, Danksagung): ca. 54 weitere Seiten Gesamtseiten lt. Paginierung: 447 Nicht paginierte SW-Fotoseiten auf Fotodruckpapier: 32 (gute Repro-Qualität) Gewicht: ca. 926g Dicke: ca. 40mm Gesamtseiten d.frz. Originals: 1059 Das schwere, eng bedruckte englische Buch wirkt in der Hand und beim Lesen, als ob es mehr als 391 Seiten Haupttext umfasste. Die zahlreichen Endnoten bringen nach meiner Übersicht tatsächlich nur bibliografische Angaben und keine vertiefenden Hintergrundinformationen; wer also nicht gerade eine genaue Quellenangabe sucht, muss nicht nach hinten blättern. Vergleich der Simenon-Biografien von Assouline (1992) und Marnham (1993): (Assouline habe ich in der scheinbar gekürzten englischen Übersetzung gelesen, Marnham im engl. Original mit Stichproben in der dt. Ausgabe.) Die zwei Autoren im Testfeld sind erfahrene Biografen, Journalisten und teils Belletristen. Beide sprachen mit Simenons Kindern und den letzten Mitarbeiterinnen; Assouline hatte evtl. mehr Zugang (und Marnham zitiert mehrfach Assoulines Erkenntnisse). Gewiss unterhält Assouline besser und vielleicht lernt man bei Marnham mehr (im Vergleich zur *gekürzten* Assouline-Ausgabe), zumindest über Simonons junge Jahre und einige Nebenfiguren, ebenso über Komissar Maigret (Entwicklung, Wesenszüge). Die deutsche Marnham-Ausgabe ist lieblos mechanisch übersetzt. Assouline hat deutlich mehr über Simenons Verlagsbeziehungen und Haltung zum Judentum; seine Darstellung Simenons im 2. Weltkrieg erschien mir übersichtlicher. Marnham bringt m.E. mehr Details aus Simenons Jugend und mehr Einzelheiten zu den Romanen, auch über die biografischen Bezüge hinaus. Assouline hat mehr über Simenons häusliche Situation in Lüttich. Assouline erzählt mit kürzeren Sätzen und vielen knappen Dialogen. Marnham erzählt etwas epischer ohne Dialoge und evtl. mit mehr zeithistorischen Hintergründen; er liefert deutlich mehr unübersetztes Französisch in der dt. Ausgabe und mehr noch in der engl. Ausgabe, meist zwei bis acht Worte. Assouline belegt fast alles mit Endnoten, Marnham verzichtet ganz auf Endnoten (er bringt freilich auch weniger Zitate, aber die vorhandenen Zitate lassen sich nicht immer zuordnen, erst recht nicht die Quellen für Tatsachenbehauptungen). Die engl. Marnham-Ausgabe zeigt zwei schlichte SW-Landkarten, die Eindeutschung und Assouline haben keine; die engl. Marnham-Ausgabe hat die Bilder in sehr mäßiger Qualität auf ungestr. Textdruckpapier, die dt. Marnham-Ausgabe kann's nicht viel besser auf gestr. Fotodruckpapier; die engl. Assouline-Ausgabe liefert besseren Fotodruck auf gestr. Fotodruckpapier.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Barbara Nutting

    I’m finally giving up on this one, just way too much French and a ton of information that doesn’t interest me. I’m halfway through the book and only just getting to WWII. I did get a good look at Simenon and he was not at all what I expected. I didn’t know he’d written tons of novels besides Maigret. He was very prolific and knocked out books sometimes in just days. His personal life wasn’t very nice - he was rude, egotistical and arrogant. I’m sort of disillusioned because Maigret is so upstand I’m finally giving up on this one, just way too much French and a ton of information that doesn’t interest me. I’m halfway through the book and only just getting to WWII. I did get a good look at Simenon and he was not at all what I expected. I didn’t know he’d written tons of novels besides Maigret. He was very prolific and knocked out books sometimes in just days. His personal life wasn’t very nice - he was rude, egotistical and arrogant. I’m sort of disillusioned because Maigret is so upstanding. It’s like finding out Agatha Christie was actually a madam in a bordello! I went to Google to get a more condensed version of his life and there I found the most interesting bit of info never mentioned in the book - he actually lived on Anna Maria Island in Florida, which is a stones throw from my home - I can see it across the bay!

  8. 4 out of 5

    J.R.

    Simenon is a legend and this book provides an indepth look at his career and personality. Fascinating stuff, especially for the writer. This is not the first biography I've read of Simenon but I believe it's the best. Simenon is a legend and this book provides an indepth look at his career and personality. Fascinating stuff, especially for the writer. This is not the first biography I've read of Simenon but I believe it's the best.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Naim Frewat

    I always imagined Pierre Assouline to be a Simenon parasite. This is because I had bought his biography of Simenon two years before he published the Auto-dictionnaire of Simenon, and I wondered how much more would he milk out of Simenon's reputation. In all honesty though, both books are quite nice to have for Simenon fan(atics) "Simenon" is the first biography I read (I think... at least not counting the political figures' biographies). I normally don't like to know the hidden details of the li I always imagined Pierre Assouline to be a Simenon parasite. This is because I had bought his biography of Simenon two years before he published the Auto-dictionnaire of Simenon, and I wondered how much more would he milk out of Simenon's reputation. In all honesty though, both books are quite nice to have for Simenon fan(atics) "Simenon" is the first biography I read (I think... at least not counting the political figures' biographies). I normally don't like to know the hidden details of the lives of authors - or people in general - whom I admire; but I rationalized that I have read too many Simenon books that I could take the blow, if there would be one. And boy are there plenty in this book! Assouline managed to write 940 pages on Simenon and he still has tons of unpublished material; this is hardly surprising, as Simenon was such a prolific writer. Around 400 published books of hard novels, Maigret stories, crime stories without Maigret, some fluffy romance novels, screenplays, and memoirs... Surprisingly, the material for those romance novels and for the crime stories (the bulk of his work) come from Simenon's youth: he had little exposure to the world of police and courts after his journalist years. Assouline divides the book into titled chapters including the timeframe the chapter deals with. I think Assouline did a very good job reflecting the gradual transition Simenon undertook from a simple reporter to an author hugely admired by Gide and supported by the prestigious Nouvelle Revue Francaise. Then again, Simenon himself aids Assouline in this clear-cut division of his working years; it seemed that Simenon knew exactly where he wanted to be at particular points in time. He knew how much time span to give writing popular novels, before moving to Maigret, building his reputation there, before again taking the risk to write serious literature. Assouline presents to us a writer who was in control of the the minutest details that affect his work: for instance, he had a daily writing routine that he changed little wherever he would find himself around the world: waking up at 6 am, soundproof bureau, his pipes charged and ready before him, yellow envelopes, white paper, the yellow pages, dictionaries, coffee (and Coca Cola when he was writing in America). He exercised a lot of control over his author's rights, and he was one of the few who were able to command such high royalties and advances over his books. Assouline goes into the intricate details of Simenon's accounting books, unearths correspondence between Simenon and his publishers to demonstrate what a tough businessman he was; a reputation that became solidly established in the world of publishing at that time. Even when he was young in the business, he would be furious at the manipulation done to his books when they were transported into movies (though having his books made into movies at that time was a feat by itself) and he learned, early on, to be quite cautious with production houses, screenwriters and directors. Similarly, once he familiarized himself with the English language, living in America, he rechecked the English translations of his books, and it did not take him more than a year before he broke off his contract with his English translator, the respected Geoffrey Sainsbury. Though Simenon had such a rigorous system when he was writing, yet he managed to get in touch with the local culture, wherever he found himself, but only as an observant. Assouline tells of an incident where Simenon sensed the suspicious looks of two gentlemen at a cafe in Lakesville, Arizon who suspected "The Frenchman", as they used to call him there, fishing around for stories. Nevertheless, his environment never influenced his writing style, and it would be quite the challenge to point out which novels were written in Paris, which ones in America, and which ones in Switzerland, later. What I particularly loved about the book are the thorough investigations Assouline undertakes when digging out little details. He does an excellent job, since early on in the book, in setting apart the memorialist from the writer. Frequently, he will point out to some incident that Simenon writes about in his "Mémoires Intimes" or in his previous memoirs, and will detail the differences between the two, supporting his claim by other evidences. Early on, we are told that Simenon is not be trusted when he remembers the past events of his life. Assouline reveals, albeit towards the end of the book, what could be (because we are never sure) the true source for the name Maigret, he also reveals personal, family details about the Simenons, about Marie-Jo, about Denyse, Simenon's second wife. He shocked me with how little Simenon read and how little interested he was in the literary world. By itself, this is not a bad thing, but Simenon in this biography is quite the self-centered type. For example, it wasn't until later that we realize, from his own letters, how little he paid attention to Gide and how ignorant he was of his novels, even though Gide was quite helpful in pushing him upon Gallimard, in proofreading his stories, in helping him draw his characters... Though I write this months after reading this book, I still remember how horrified I was when I read Simenon's notes about Gide - sometimes, his egocentricity bordering on ungratefulness and hypocrisy. Having said that, Simenon himself suffered from his Maigret-writer reputation, his voluminous production - though with all the care and business strategies in the world - could never shift the light from Maigret to his hard-novels. He was never the recipient of the Goncourt prize, never made it to the Académie; his "presidency" of the Festival de Cannes was a big flop. At the end of the book, it seemed to me that he was quite a mechanical writer, quite modern in his production: he was able to structure his novel in such a way to attract the regulars yet with slight variations to keep readers asking for more, but rarely, if ever, showed much originality. This is clearly reflected in the sales figures of his books, his Maigret books outselling his romans-furs 3 to 1, but both maintaining more or less the same publication figures: the Maigrets at around 60,000 copies (in France) and the romans-durs at around 20,000 copies. In conclusion, I found the book quite entertaining, very enriching, as objective as a biography could be, and quite honestly a must-read for Simenon fans.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Doris

    Contente de l'avoir trouvée sur Goodreads Je l'ai lu au mois de novembre mais je ne suis pas arrivée au début de la repérer sur le site A la dernière heure j'ai eu la présence d'esprit d'y ajouter la biographie et ça y est L'ouvrage apparait et j'en suis contente! Je n'ai pas beaucoup de temps maintenant de me lancer sur le livre mais c'est une vie époustouflante Georges Simenon est belge de Wallonie par coté de son père ancienne famille de petits artisans et du coté de sa mère les petits proprié Contente de l'avoir trouvée sur Goodreads Je l'ai lu au mois de novembre mais je ne suis pas arrivée au début de la repérer sur le site A la dernière heure j'ai eu la présence d'esprit d'y ajouter la biographie et ça y est L'ouvrage apparait et j'en suis contente! Je n'ai pas beaucoup de temps maintenant de me lancer sur le livre mais c'est une vie époustouflante Georges Simenon est belge de Wallonie par coté de son père ancienne famille de petits artisans et du coté de sa mère les petits propriétaires Fière femme madame Simenon Elle a marqué le jeune age de son fils et elle a été bien en opposé de son père Son père préférait Georges sa mère son frère : Il a été bon élève ; bon en français mathématiques en dictée jouissant d'une bonne mémoire mais il a toujours voulu écrire et Son parcours a révélé cette volonté tenace Il y avait trois ; parties de sa vie Liège; Paris Amérique et quatre femme avec qui il a partagé sa vie sa mère; la première épouse; la deuxième épouse et sa concubine de l'Amerique: Une vie déterminée qui a marqué sa vie intérieure d'écrivain et sa création du commissaire Maigret Je n'ai pas le temps mais je vous la conseille de tout mon coeur

  11. 5 out of 5

    Chris Oleson

    Learned lots of interesting stuff about Simenon: one 12 million novels, one each to honor the memory of the 12 million women ihe slept with; had a passionate affair with Josephine Baker when they were both in their early 20s; lived in America in the early 50s and might have become a U.S. citizen for McCarthy and his ilk. Here is my plan for immortality. I'm going to spend the next 30 years tracking down copies of his 12 million novels and then spend another a decade reading them; they are very s Learned lots of interesting stuff about Simenon: one 12 million novels, one each to honor the memory of the 12 million women ihe slept with; had a passionate affair with Josephine Baker when they were both in their early 20s; lived in America in the early 50s and might have become a U.S. citizen for McCarthy and his ilk. Here is my plan for immortality. I'm going to spend the next 30 years tracking down copies of his 12 million novels and then spend another a decade reading them; they are very short.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Julien

    Une biographie d’accord, bien écrite et intéressante même si certaines années passent plus vites que les autres. Par contre des pages et des pages d’analyses de romans, des paquets de comparaison entre l’œuvre et son auteur (« et si le protagoniste de ce roman était en fait l’auteur, et celle-ci sa femme ?,... »). Il faut choisir entre un bio ou un travail d’analyse universitaire. À lire pour les fans de Simenon, mais on en apprend pas des tonnes.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Bruce Graham

    If you are interested in understanding the motivations, the psychology of Simenon, this is the go-to book. The depth is a painful at times, particularly concerning the death of Simenon's daughter. All things considered, this is a magisterial work of biography. If you are interested in understanding the motivations, the psychology of Simenon, this is the go-to book. The depth is a painful at times, particularly concerning the death of Simenon's daughter. All things considered, this is a magisterial work of biography.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Ann

    This book is a fascinating literary biography of a controversial author. Georges Simenon was one of the most widely read Francophone authors of the mid-20th Century, and his Maigret mysteries are still very popular. Georges Simenon was an unusual character in many ways. First of all, there was his prodigious output. It took him literally two weeks to write a Maigret, often no more than a month to write one of his "literary novels". Andre Gide spent years trying to figure out the secret to this ne This book is a fascinating literary biography of a controversial author. Georges Simenon was one of the most widely read Francophone authors of the mid-20th Century, and his Maigret mysteries are still very popular. Georges Simenon was an unusual character in many ways. First of all, there was his prodigious output. It took him literally two weeks to write a Maigret, often no more than a month to write one of his "literary novels". Andre Gide spent years trying to figure out the secret to this never-ending well of creativity. Unfortunately, this apparent ease of composition and the comfortable life that it allowed Simenon to live, also led to him being considered a lightweight by many critics, who tended to believe that the only "good" writers were tormented souls with an independent income. So Georges Simenon was never part of the literary establishment, never received prestigious prizes and never became part of the Academie Francaise. Simenon made a life for himself as a perpetual exile. He left his native Liege in Belgium as a teenager, for the brighter lights of Paris, and never lived in Belgium again. He spent years on a houseboat and bought or rented properties all over France. His decision to continue to publish in German-influenced publications and to allow his books to be made into movies by a German-owned production company during WWII caused him many troubles after the Liberation. And so he decided to move to Canada, later to the USA. He eventually settled in Switzerland. Simenon was often quoted as having said that he had slept with 10,000 women during his lifetime, and this of course added to the myth. One of the reasons he could never really settle in the USA was that his neighbors could not understand his strange ménage : he lived with his second wife and their children, but his first wife and their son lived close by and he saw them regularly. On top of that, it was common knowledge that he was having an affair with his longtime housekeeper, and his last companion in his final days had started as his maid. Too shocking ! At a certain point Simenon announced that he would not write any more, and he broke his silence only to publish his memoirs. The suicide of his daughter Mary-Jo, who had inherited her mother's unstable temperament, was a shock from which he never recovered. I think that the picture that comes through in this book is that of a lonely man who was never able to leave the traumas of his early youth behind him : the death of a beloved but passive father, the lack of love from his mother, the hypocrisy of the Church and the petit-bourgeois values of his family. These themes are found in many of his books.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Sara

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. Simenon was a man of contradictions. This biography does a fine job of portraying his complexity, simply giving us the facts and letting us draw our own conclusions. Assouline does not hesitate to add his opinion, especially in regard to elements of anti-Semitism in his book and in discussing Simenon's friendships and working relationships with collaborators and Nazis during the occupation. But he also includes evidence of extenuating circumstances wherever possible. Simenon's egotism and someti Simenon was a man of contradictions. This biography does a fine job of portraying his complexity, simply giving us the facts and letting us draw our own conclusions. Assouline does not hesitate to add his opinion, especially in regard to elements of anti-Semitism in his book and in discussing Simenon's friendships and working relationships with collaborators and Nazis during the occupation. But he also includes evidence of extenuating circumstances wherever possible. Simenon's egotism and sometimes offensive self-promotion was driven by a need to prove himself as a writer and to succeed in the eyes of both the broader and the literary public - understandable when you know his conservative Catholic background in Liège. Assouline's book is a fine guide to Simenon's oeuvre and its relationship to his life. At times the recital of books/travels/homes/films/projects becomes wearisome, but then, this was his life. And outside of his writing, he was in numerous ways quite an ordinary man, though one whose habits of constant observation of people distanced him from them. It's fascinating to read about his one self-sacrificing involvement, that of running the camp for Belgian refugees in La Rochelle which becomes the setting for much of The Train. His relationships with his second wife and his daughter and the way he "handled" these through writing and through interviews which cracked open a rarely-revealed emotional core are key to understanding the Simenon behind the public Simenon.

  16. 4 out of 5

    John

    Despite having written his own version of his life in his own memoirs, Simenon granted Assouoline complete access to his papers for this biography. In addition, Assouline was able to interview most of Simenon's friends and family. The result is a very balanced but nuanced biography of a fascinating subject. Assouline has done a masterful job of sorting through what must be a daunting written record of Simenon's life. Assouline started work on the project when Simenon was still living, but this c Despite having written his own version of his life in his own memoirs, Simenon granted Assouoline complete access to his papers for this biography. In addition, Assouline was able to interview most of Simenon's friends and family. The result is a very balanced but nuanced biography of a fascinating subject. Assouline has done a masterful job of sorting through what must be a daunting written record of Simenon's life. Assouline started work on the project when Simenon was still living, but this critical biography was published after his death. Assouline's scholarship sheds much light on what made Simenon the most widely read author of his time, and enlightens the reader on the background of much of Simenon's work.

  17. 5 out of 5

    David

    It's probably hard to pretend you'd know someone when reaching the last page of biography - even more someone who enjoyed so much "novelizing" his own life as Simenon did - but Assouline did such an extensive research (at 900+ pages, it almost felt like a journalistic marathon) and a detailed account of it here that for the first time, I'd almost be willing to buy another one of his early books. It's probably hard to pretend you'd know someone when reaching the last page of biography - even more someone who enjoyed so much "novelizing" his own life as Simenon did - but Assouline did such an extensive research (at 900+ pages, it almost felt like a journalistic marathon) and a detailed account of it here that for the first time, I'd almost be willing to buy another one of his early books.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Charles Kerns

    All I can remember is he wrote 80 pages a day. He cranked out articles/stories/novels like Henry Ford did cars--that's what Simenon said. He only wrote one draft. He plopped them out like--well you know which end I mean. All I can remember is he wrote 80 pages a day. He cranked out articles/stories/novels like Henry Ford did cars--that's what Simenon said. He only wrote one draft. He plopped them out like--well you know which end I mean.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Loscrittorucolo

    Bella biografia di Simenon, che mette a nudo il genio e le contraddizioni, riuscendo alla fine a dare un'idea dell'uomo con tutte le sue fragilità e idiosincrasie, e con il suo immenso talento. Bella biografia di Simenon, che mette a nudo il genio e le contraddizioni, riuscendo alla fine a dare un'idea dell'uomo con tutte le sue fragilità e idiosincrasie, e con il suo immenso talento.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Markus Rieder

  21. 4 out of 5

    Marina

  22. 5 out of 5

    Guy

  23. 4 out of 5

    Alexandra

  24. 4 out of 5

    Vincenzo Fidomanzo

  25. 4 out of 5

    Jan Van den bosch

  26. 5 out of 5

    libraryfacts

  27. 4 out of 5

    Glenn Zorpette

  28. 5 out of 5

    Mary Hess

  29. 5 out of 5

    John

  30. 5 out of 5

    Alcacer

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