lunedì 21 novembre 2016


Some after-the-war opinions on Simenon’s two hats 

Quelques opinions d'après-guerre sur ces deux casquettes de Simenon 
Qualche opinione del dopo-guerra su queste due facce di Simenon

18 months into WWII, while Simenon was donating money to destitute military families, sending his books to prisoners of war, and donating many for wartime charity sales, he wrote his mother: “For my part, I have confidence in the [German] offensive, and I hope the English will not hold out much longer.” If not the words of a potential collaborator, they sound at least like those of a sympathizer. 
Although Paris was liberated in August 1944, fighting in France continued into the early months of 1945. Charles de Gaulle announced the end of World War II in France on May 8, 1945, 18 days after Simenon was cleared of the collaboration charges against him. However, he was destined to dance on coals heating the controversy for years and years to come.
For example, on the first day of her 2002 murder trial, Dr. Geneviève Simenon testified that her great-uncle Georges had collaborated during the war and she had the documents to prove it. (To my knowledge, they were never produced.) More recently, Patrick Roegiers - inaccurately and inappropriately, according to his critics - fanned the almost extinguished coals in his 2014 book, L’autre Simenon. That the work is a novel suggests a defense.
My take on the collabo matter at this point, just over halfway through Pierre Assouline’s biography Simenon, is that Simenon did not cooperate traitorously with the enemy, rather he profited nicely from the wartime situation.
But what do the experts think? For starters, Assouline states that Simenon was “neither really collaborative nor completely resistant, even if he flirted successively with both tendencies between the start and the end of the Occupation.” His opinion seems to be that “Simenon remained Simenon: an opportunist above all.” 
And the following is what Mr. Google, my good friend, told me: 
Fenton Bresler (1983)Two reviewers of his biography seem to concur that, although Bresler apparently referred to Simenon’s “tunnel vision” regarding the realities of the war, he “avoided the subject of collaboration.” 
Patrick Marnham (1992):  one reviewer’s summary says, Simenon weathered World WarIInicely in his rural home, performing some minimal civic functions which were later (and probably not quite justifiably) construed as collaboration with the Vichy regime.” Another indicates, “The novel explores the fine line artists sometimes trod when it came to collaboration with the Nazis. 
Michel Carly (2005): after his published investigation in response to Assouline’s “certain ambiguity, he comments, If I had found tangible proof of collaboration with the enemy, I would certainly have published it. But the investigation testimonies clearly show that ‘Simenon the collaborator’ simply never existed.” 
Stephen Knight (2012): in a Simenon book forward, he states, “It is much more likely that, as Maigret does in the novels, Simenon kept his head down, did the right thing at close quarters, and, like many French, waited for the storm to pass…. and so could be picked on afterwards by enemies. 

David P Simmons

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