giovedì 24 agosto 2017


On how the man was unlike all other men 

En quoi l'homme était diffèrent de tous les autres 
In che cosa l'uomo era differente da tutti gli altri

The English translation of Assouline’s French biography Simenon oddly omits the 30-page chapter “A Man Unlike Others that provides details of  “contradictions, paradoxes, and enigmas” the biographer identified in the man as he approached his 70th year. It’s an inventory of his likes and dislikes, a catalogue of his personality traits and strong convictions in 20+ categories that contribute to the complexity of his subject’s “indecipherable” character. Many strike me as worthwhile items for Anglophones, so they follow here as condensed, translated extracts. 
On money, Simenon, always needed a significant quantity of it. To reassure himself by spending it and not by hoarding it.” 
On religion, “neither practicing or believing, he stuck to baptizing all his children and giving his three sons the middle name Christian.” 
On culture, full of “distrust for knowledge, he had “a taste for mocking the intelligentsia” as “belly button contemplators,” and his novels “were practically free of any direct cultural references.” 
On novelshe did not “read any contemporary French novelists after 1928,” but he “consecrated” the “Great Russians. 
On his librarieshe “always needed to set out his complete works in all language versions” and never forgot to show them to each of his visitors.” 
On honors, prizes, and medals, “officially, he stopped believing in them after he was 12,” but his boasting “At 45, I will have the Nobel Prize” revealed a different attitude. 
On music, he said he adored it although “attending a concert never occurred to him. 
On painting, he was “responsible” for the “cliché” he was an impressionist” novelist. 
On tobacco, he smoked a pipe “without interruption from adolescence on.” 
On clothes, he had a “sartorial preoccupation with them. 
On food, he “bragged he was a connoisseur, but best liked “dishes for little folk.” 
On hotels, one in Paris, one in London, and two in New York topped his list. 
On colors, he loved yellow and hated mauve, a color associated with his mother.” 
On flowers, he liked “tulips, yellow or red, not in bouquets” but “single. 
On sportshe liked “walking from the beginning right to the end” and had “a passion” for horseback riding and golf. 
On card games, it was bridge “above all.” 
On materials, they “must be noble and primary” like wood, iron, and paper. He “detested gemstones.” 
On his biological rhythm, “whatever the place,” it was always his “siesta.” 
On his motto, “understand and not judge.” The idea of being a juror “terrified” him. 
On his vanity and bravado, they were matched only by his intransigency in business.” 
Thus, Assouline underscores how “paradox” made Simenon elusive.” Yet he had contagious quality that meant “the majority of those who knew him well as a monster of egotism nevertheless “retained full admiration” of him. 

David P Simmons 

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