giovedì 3 gennaio 2019


How to forget the record holder of literature to become a novelist 

Come dimenticare il recordman della letteratura per diventare un romanziere  
Comment oublier le recordman de la littérature pour devenir un romancier

How much hard had it been for Simenon to shed his skin? And he had to do it more than once during his life. For the first time when he had to slough off his garments of provincial reporter, once arrived in big Paris, to put on those of a literary apprentice in the field of popular writing. A second shedding his skin occurred when he wanted to begin in detective novel, with the inquiries of this Chief Inspector who moreover went against all the rules of the genre. Thus it was the first difficulty to unstick off his trademark as an author of romance and adventure novels that were sold for less than one franc. And furthermore with the reputation of a performer on command he had won, as he was able to produce the most various literary products, at a velocity that didn't augur well about quality.  
This speed in writing still remained in the semi-literary phase of the Maigret novels and didn't help him to be appreciated, not even from the critics of the genre, who at first didn't look favourably at this Chief Inspector, neither young, nor beautiful, more inclined to eat, drink and smoke than to act. Maigret was a simple official in his mid-age, from middle class, married with an all home and kitchen woman, and further he was not even able to drive a car. In short, to enter genre fiction and serial literature too Simenon has chosen the hardest way.  
Then once again he shed his skin when from writer of detective novels he moved towards literature "tout court" with the aspiration to be a novelist and only that. Enough with the Maigret novels (at least he believed it would be so), enough with journalistic works (even if they would be some exceptions), enough with being considered as a successful mystery writer and nothing more. 
Since Simenon got into and out of his characters' skin with every novel, you could think that these changes would have been easy for him. But it was not the case. Because stories like that of the novel written in the glass cage within five days, event it hadn't taken place, went on to be remembered every time the novelist's name was mentioned. Because his nickname "Citroen of literature", given to him in the period of popular novels on account of the industrial rhythm with which he wrote and published, became a jingle every time he was spoken of. Because, since he has used so many pseudonyms at his beginnings, there were people who didn't believe that Simenon was his real name.  
Thus all these stereotypes inexorably followed him, when he tried to be considered as a novelist, by writing stories that were everything but cheerful and escapist literature. Here too he had chosen the most difficult way, that is to say telling about simple and poor people's life, or about those wretches who were struck by an inescapable destinyAnd of course this was not entertainment literature. Though his performance as a literary record holder was not forgotten and had even procured him considerable popularity, yet it was not always in a positive way. And when he wanted to enter the phase of literature "tout court", his commercial past, full of eccentric feats, had been a reason for prejudice and critics. His whole past weighed as heavily as a hood, until writers like Gide, Céline, Mauriac brought him into light, and he entered the influential publisher Gallimard. 
Despite everything Simenon always kept away from literary circles, from writers cliques, from mundane ambience. And in the end he was right on everyone. He was recognized as a great novelist, as a much original mystery writer, with acknowledgements from the part of critics and public, with millions of novels sold in France and abroad, whether romans durs or Maigret novels. 

by Simenon-Simenon 

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