lunedì 20 novembre 2017


Man and writer, sexual and sexist 

L’homme et l’écrivain, sexuel et sexiste
L'uomo e lo scrittore, sessuomane e sessista

Very early in his biography SimenonPierre Assouline recounts how Georges lost his virginity at the adolescent age of 12 to a “grown-up somewhat older girl who, he said, “hurt me really badly” and “practically circumcised me.” The biographer asserts, It is an understatement to say that, from then on, he was no longer the same.” I looked to the rest of the biography to learn how much that “incident” actually “troubled his life.” Now, nearing the end of the work, it seems clear Simenon’s sexuality had a more complicated origin and evolution. Adding up the factors that made Simenon into a man who, in this day and age, would be classified as a sexual addict is challenging. Assouline describes Simenon, when he was well into his seventies, as a man “who still proclaimed his pressing need to make love three times a day, every day of the week.” His biographer seems to have believed the priapic man, for he writes: Simenon “fornicated the way he wrote, published, and talked. Whatever he did, he did in abundance.” Yet, Assouline seems only to speculate on the reason(s) for this intense sexuality: Was it because of latent impotency, repressed homosexuality, or his need for self-reassurance?” Indeed, in what ways and how much was his relationship with his mother influential? How did other women like Tigy, Boule, Denise, Mari-Jo, and Teresa factor in? Were they cause or effect? Curiously, the English translation points out how Simenon’s novels show his “preoccupation” with his sexualitybut omits Assouline’s focus on those same “tracks “of sexuality in his autobiographical materials. In the end, one can only conjecture. 
Equally thought provoking are the manifestations of prodigious sexual appetite juxtaposed with displays of apparent misogyny towards the very ‘objects’ desired. Once again, cause or effect? Yes, Simenon was often accused of misogyny—“criticism immediately rejected with the utmost energy.” Yet, when he professed, “I would even say there is no possible communication with women other than sexually,” could that opinion be any more misogynistic? Even as an old man in 1977, he was still insisting: “I don’t have any sexual vice, but I do need to communicate.” When one interviewer remarked that Simenon didn’t know how or didn’t want to create “great female characters,” the examples the author offered in his defense “were actually few.” Simenon’s common “way of referring” to “females” rather than “women, ” as reported by his biographer, supports misogyny. His “continual frequenting” with prostitutes underscores the point as well.
Although Simenon personally described his behavior toward Denise as being “like a Pygmalion” and “like a Saint-Bernard, she told Assouline that Georges “was terribly misogynist and “he treated her willfully like a whore” and “was contemptuous of women.” As proof, in a 1958 magazine interview, Simenon defended his “diminishing” of the role of women in his novels by stating flatly “for a man and a novelist, a woman could only be a partner who ought to be satisfied with her role as a companion.” In factthe biographer submits, “no matter what he said [to the press],” Simenon [the man and writer] “sounded like a total misogynist.” 

David P Simmons  

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