lunedì 3 luglio 2017


On Nathalie Sabin-Levesque and Denise Simenon as look-alikes 

Sur Nathalie Sabin-Levesque et Denise Simenon comme des sosies
Nathalie Sabin-Levesque et Denise Simenon come delle sosia 

It is said that all novels are autobiographical. After a recent rereading of Maigret and Monsieur Charles, I concluded it deserves an alternative title: Simenon and Madame Denise and it could be classified as a roman dur rather than a Maigret. This gloomy tale about an alcoholic crazy woman is not surprising for Simenon’s last novel. To me, Nathalie equals Denise in her alcoholism and psychopathology. 
Although stylistically Nathalie is a rather flat, poorly filled out character, her alcoholism stands center stage, larger than life, very much in your face. She’s a drunk, who is always drunk, and only gets drunker. There is always a bottle around her, and if there is no glass nearby, she drinks from the bottle. Yet, one issue remains elusive. Does her drinking drive her mental instability or does her mental instability drive her to drink? It’s the age-old dilemma: Chicken or egg?
Here are some selected quotations that combine Nathalie’s alcoholic and crazy behavior into one portrait: “She almost fell walking through the door. She was looking at him in a genuine stupor. It was as if she was out of her mind. He had rarely seen a woman in such distress, in such a state of impairment. He was expecting to see her rolling on the floor.” Fortunately, her spoken exchanges with Maigret help tell when drunkenness, anxiety, and/or depression are more or less in play. 
Further comparison of Nathalie and Denise in the developing story reveals similarities and differences as relatively superficial factors, effectively balancing one another out. This single novel defines Nathalie the character completely; knowledge of Simenon’s later dictées and Denise’s own writings is necessary to render the real woman complete. Considering the two women as living now for this discussion, here’s how they are alike: both are intelligent and sensitive and anxious. Although in their past lives Nathalie had been a nightclub hostess and Denise a live-in mistress, both may have married for love. In any case, both husbands happen to have lots of money. Both women evolve to hate their husbands and become aggressive towards them. 
Here’s how the two women are differentNatalie is younger, from 40 to 45 years old, making it a stretch to Denise’s 52 years. Nathalie is a fake former secretary, but Denise is a real long-standing one. Nathalie ignores her husband for the most part and Denise certainly does not. The martial bed becomes empty for Nathalie within three months; Denise isexually active with her husband for many, many years. Nathalie has no children and Denise has three. Nathalie is depressed whereas Denise is manic-depressive. Nathalie is relatively passive (for the most part), but Denise displays an active need to dominate. Nathalie drinks only cognac and sometimes right from the bottle. Denise’s favorite drink(s) and her drinking style—except for its excessivenessare unknowns. 
Despite this similar-different tally, there is one overriding facttheir substantial drinking problems. After all, it is alcohol abuse, with all its problematical manifestations and results, which makes Nathalie Sabin-Levesque and Denise Simenon, at least in my eyes, birds of a feather. 

David P Simmons 

1 commento:

Anonimo ha detto...

The crime doesn't seem very well thought out. Simenon put all his effort into describing Natalie.