lunedì 23 ottobre 2017


What Georges had to say about them and more 

Ce que Georges avait à en dire et davantage 
Quello che Georges aveva da dire e oltre

The English translation of Assouline’s biography Simenon whittles ten pages about Simenon’s Dictations down to just three. Expanded consideration of these works is worthwhile because they reveal a lot about the man. 
For his 70th birthday, Simenon bought himself a tape recorder, which he called a “toy. Belittled further as a “hobby by its user, that little machine, in fact, recorded a prodigious amount of material from 1973 to 1977. In a not so humble justification, Simenon proclaimed therein: “I no longer had the need to instinctively put myself in the skin of those that I met. I was in mine, for the first time in 50 years.” Transcribed by Joyce Aitken onto 1260 pages in 21 volumes, his spoken words emerged in readable form over five years from 1975 to 1979. 
Biographer Assouline offers Simenon’s “compulsive need to express himself” as the principal reason for this outpouring. Although clearly off on a prolonged ego trip, at times Simenon was hard on himself regarding the quality of these works. Take, for examplethis dictated denigration: “These dictations show that I am rather talkative by nature… All this is nothing but chatter [… that] I am sometimes ashamed of I dictate, therefore I am… In the end, I have nothing to say… I can’t keep quiet…” Although the biographer confirms that the author “was not always softhearted towards this autobiographical production, he does wonder if “was this false modesty on the part of this arrogant man or the ultimate leap of his terrifying lucidity?”  Indeed, he auto-critically compared the “fraudulent copies” of his Dictations to the “original canvas” of his Pedigree. Stillas Assouline points out, “Like a writer who had nothing to lose, he believed himself to be sufficiently untouchable that one would grant his ‘Reflections’ a reprieve. 
While it does seem apparent that Simenon “did not try to deny the extravagant character” of his Dictations, the following extracts suggest his self-deprecations were phony, at least to me: In 1974, when he applies the Latin derived word elucrubations to these works and states they “don’t look like anything, it sounds as though he is putting himself down, but he is not because the word’s first meaning is assiduous studies and he’s saying they “are unlike anything else.” In 1975, when he states his own personal notes” are “of little interest,” he has just finished comparing them favorably to Thomas Mann’s “30 great notebooks.” In 1976, when he calls himself an ignorantus—seemingly a Latin term for an ignorant personthis has a false ring, too. Since no such word exists in Latin (Molière made it up in The Imaginary Invalid), he is not really calling himself ignorant. 
So, why then did Simenon risk these “extravagant” Dictations? The biographer’s answer is: to drive off the ghosts that haunted him: failure, old age, and death. To justify himself, encore et toujours.” This latter phrase translates literally as again and alwaysa pleonastic reinforcement of the idea of once and forever. To my mind, the autobiographer answered the question in 1977, in the last of his DictationsI write for my personal satisfaction, I was going to say because of obsession…” 

David P Simmons 

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