lunedì 9 luglio 2018


An extreme example of a common theme in the Simenon "romans durs"

Un exemple extrême d’un thème commun dans les romans durs de Simenon
Un esempio estermo di un tema comune nei romans durs di Simenon

Part One of Simenon’s “American novel” The Fugitive/Account Unsettled/Crime Impuni concludes with protagonist Elie egocentrically shooting antagonist Michel point-blank in the face and fleeing from Belgium. Part Two begins 26 years later with Elie hiding from this “unpunished crime” in America. He is a front desk clerk at the only hotel in Carlson-City, Arizona, which is a “dying” copper mining town of about 5000 people. Lo and behold, Michel arrives one day, having just bought the hotel and the solo mine. Elie is now grossly obese with “a double chin,” and Michel’s face is horribly deformed with “only his forehead and eyes intact.” Yet, in an “aha” moment, they recognize each other.
“Elie knew this very time would come someday,” and “Michel had also expected to meet him somewhere in the world one day.” Surprisingly, except for some unfathomable looks coming from his half-face, Michel ignores his prior assailant. “It was hard to tell if he might have been smiling” at Elie because of the “rigidity of his face.” Except for “ a sort of gurgle” that might have been a “goodnight,” he does not speak one word to Elie, and that was not simply because “he was missing half his tongue.” While Michel continues inscrutable, Elie wracks his brain, trying to guess what Michel is thinking, trying to decide how to respond.
The question of “what is in Michel’s mind” torments Elie. Noting how Michel “stared at people and things with formidable gravity” in silence, Elie considers hate, fear, contempt, and pity as factors. Recalling the face with its “bloody hole,” he did not then and does not now see “hate” in Michel’s eyes. He wonders if Michel “might have fear of him? That he might kill him a second time?’’ Since Michel “had always had contempt for him,” Elie wonders if now “he was contemptuous enough to not give him the chance to explain himself?” Was it possible that “Michel would not pity him? Would not someone, anyone pity him someday?”
What Elie eventually concludes is that the bottom line for Michel is his indifference, for he ignores all efforts to communicate. For example, in response to a simple “good evening” from Elie, Michel merely shrugs and waves his hand dismissively. He “barely looks at him” and, most of the time, he “does not pay any attention” at all. Since Michel does not give him “the charity of five minutes of his time,” Elie cannot “explain himself.” Thus, he could not “finally find peace.” Not only did he “not know what that was,” he realizes he “would never be able to know” peace.
Elie considers Michel’s behavior to be “cruelty.” Basically, he “was crushing him under his heel like an insect.” He humiliates Elie and, at the same time, angers him. Feeling “he is eating Michel’s leftovers. Like a dog,” the self-absorbed egocentric actually believes he has “suffered more” than Michel and he has “paid the price as dearly as it was possible for a man to pay.” This was apparent back in Belgium in Part One and, now in America in Part Two, Elie’s actions at the end confirm he is the ultimate egotist. No wonder, (with the risk of providing a spoiler), the novel’s last sentence is: “This time, he was dead.”

David P Simmons

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