lunedì 6 novembre 2017


What others had to said about what he had to say

Ce que d’autres avaient à dire à propos de ce qu’il avait à dire 
Cosa avevano da dire a proposito di quello che aveva da dire 

It’s worth knowing what others thought about the author’s Dictations: his primary biographer, Pierre Assouline, introduces them this way: “For a half-century, Man had been his subject. From now on, rid of the mask of fiction, he was going to devote himself without wandering to that profound self he had never ceased to explore.” He later indicates Simenon seemed “to be interested only in himself without putting the least bit of his genius into it.” The biographer goes on, “These 21 volumes are only a litany of rarely sensitive self-justifications, of solemnly enunciated clichés, of badly stuck doors opened, of more and more weighty wanderings, of identical memories reiterated over and over, of his repetitions claiming to be indicative of his obsessions… They don’t even have talent as an excuse.” And finally, my favorite Assouline one-liner: “Dictation was the principal theme of the dictations.” 
The opinion of others lies in the biography, too. Critics, in general, seem to have welcomed the Dictations with “a degree of discomfort” and were “concerned about hurting the great writer’s feelings.” Nevertheless, “in many cases” they “inflicted” upon them the worst of verdicts: indifference.” In addition, one learns that certain “unappreciative” critics used “the light of these Dictations” to “retrospectively expose” the bulk of Simenon’s works as “mediocre.” 
Three critics earn specific references: Maurice Piron, philologist and founder of the Center for Georges Simenon Studies, “defends the quality of human testimony” and cites “an unmasked, total sincerity” in the DictationsStanley Eskin, another prominent Simenon biographer, positively compares the “skeptical tone and vision hostile to all anthropocentrism” of the Dictations to Montaigne’s Essays. François Truffaut, the jack-of-all-trades in movies, is “enthusiastic” about the Dictations as “the third block in his works” after the romans durs and the Maigrets. 
Here’s another critique that appeared in an undated and unidentified Belgian daily, quasi-anonymously under the author’s initials. “This oral journal, which seems above all destined to keep the author’s mind alert, does not read, often, without a certain annoyance. […] Wouldn’t it be better, when he approaches such matters, that he put his ideas down on paper, so he could reconsider them with a cool head and judge if they might really merit being delivered to the public? Is this perhaps his final claim that, when the appetite comes to him, he has the right to nonsense? Jean-Baptiste Baronian is more open in a 2003 Magazine Littéraire article: “One probably does not realize that this vast corpus sanctifies a very original type of literature.” He calls it a “sentimental autobiography in the greatest disorder and in the freest and least structured form.” He describes “Simenon ceaselessly feeling the need to justify himself, to legitimize all of his conduct in every moment of his life.” He expands: “As if he feared one might not understand him, no more the man he was or the novelist he became. As if he was always afraid of being perceived as a strange, undoubtedly annoyed animal.” He concludes, “One can here share his annoyance upon hearing his rehash […] As if, all in all, he needed to leave a self-image, whatever the cost.” 

David P Simmons 

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