On a “roman dur” that is very “dur”
SIMENON SIMENON. LE ROMAN “LES SUICIDES” EST-IL UNE HISTOIRE D’UN DOUBLE SUICIDE ? / 2
Sur un “roman dur” qui est très “dur”
SIMENON SIMENON. IL ROMANZO "LES SUICIDES" É LA STORIA DI UN DOPPIO SUICIDIO' / ?
In merito ad un "roman dur" che è davvero "duro"
Herein continues the examination of whether this novel is a tale about the double suicide of its two main characters.
Emile Bachelin is totally egocentric.
Self-interest drives everything. He seeks self- satisfaction in the littlest things: “He continued to look at himself in a mirror” until “satisfied” with “his smile.” He crows, “They have even published my picture” after his first major crime. “He’s afraid of me!” and “They’re all afraid!” are self-gratifying references to the friend, whore, bartender, and gun dealer he fleeces in succession.
At the same time, Emile is nervous and insecure, “always having the feeling that people resent, mock, and disregard him.” And, when the egoist perceives interference from others, reactive anger erupts, for “he had always been angry,” and aggression follows, for “he had always felt the need to hurt himself while trying to hurt others.” Simply put, “he needed to be malicious.” For example, when his hoped for father-in-law blocks all further contact with girlfriend Juliette at gunpoint, Emile swears he “will make a big splash!” Torching the Grandvalet house and dragging the young girl off to hide in Paris are his resulting ego trips. In the suicidal letter he dictates to her for her parents, “every written word is a new victory” for him.
However, the escape to Paris does not work out. Emile has to steal and cheat and blackmail to survive. Although he is “cunning like no other one,” he fails more often than he succeeds. As they sink into poverty, the couple begins to whine and bicker. “You don’t like anything I like.” Non-communication and dispute alternate, and Emile in particular suffers by “feeling powerless to dominate the situation.”
In fact, a certain Simenonian fatality rules, and “furious and humiliated by each other, they are powerless to escape this fatality.” Envisioning “a sort of congenital powerlessness to be happy,” Emile senses “he is at the end. It was too long already that he had tried to be happy without achieving it.” The final straw comes when Emile believes Juliette will leave him to return to her parents and people will scorn him. “She once had an adventure with a small-time punk that ended badly.” Visualizing such a scenario “is enough to unhinge him,” and he “feels exactly like a mouse in a trap” from which “he no longer sees any way out.”
Things go rapidly downhill from there, and Emile quickly comes up with the idea of suicide. After all, “they have both failed. They have tried in vain, and both are powerless.” He writes his suicide note and, “with a look that said the idea had not even come to her,” she writes hers, too. The irony is that it is Juliette who goes and gets the gun. Right to the end, “it is as if a battle is being waged between them” until, lo and behold, picking up the gun Juliette has not fired, Emile shoots and kills her.
This, not so much because Juliette is too passive to do it, but more because Emile believes “she is again accusing him of being a coward” unable to act. Well, he is a coward, for he follows her murder—it is exactly that—by deliberately aiming to a place where the bullet will “inevitably glance off the bone.” So, egocentric Emile survives, and the novel ends with a murder and a cop-out instead of two suicides.
David P Simmons
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