giovedì 23 maggio 2019


Why Simenon chose detective novel to move to semi-literature 

Perché Simenon sceglì il romanzo poliziesco per passare alla semi-letteratura 
Pourquoi Simenon choisit le roman policier pour passer à la semi-littérature 

Beyond the fact that Simenon "programmed" the different steps in his literary career, from the apprenticeship with the alimentary writings, through seriality with the semi-alimentary writings, up to landing in fictional literature, why did he choose the detective genre? 
Of course he couldn’t foresee that this would be the genre that would give him more popularity and financial income than his other novels. We can find a first answer in the market conditions. The French public was very passionate about what was still not called "polar", and thus high-level publishers like Gallimard, as well as popular novels publishers like Ferenczi, had their own collections dedicated to the genre. It's seems obvious that Simenon, who was used to making stories and novels on commission, could easily develop the vein of detective novel. Yet he might also have written sentimental or adventure novels as well. 
In a 1963 interview with Roger Stéphane, Simenon explained that "in reality the detective novel is easier to write from a technical point of view. First of all you have at your disposal a protagonist that pulls all strings and can question everybody and enter anywhere… Then when you have set since the first chapter that there is something to resolve, even if there is a weaker part in the novel, it doesn't matter. With other novels people can stop reading, but with a detective novel they would go on because they want to know the solution. That's why I wrote detective novels, that is to say the Maigret novels." 
And in a 1981 interview with Bernard Pivot, Simenon added that "the detective novel does have rules, which are like flights of scales: first there is a dead man, then one or more investigators, then a murderer and last a mystery. Thus you have nothing else to do than following those specific rules…" 
In reality this is not really true for the Maigret novels. Let's remember that Fayard had first refused to publish these novels because they did not comply with the commonly used standards, and he thought that this would make them unsaleable. Yet Simenon was conscious of this peculiarity and that he didn’t follow the tracks of the classical detective novel. He claimed so in "Le Romancier", a conference held in 1945 at the French Institute of New York: "My detective novels are the worst in the world… and they were only a step. In a frame where there were many conventional aspects, I tried to make men alive." 
Well, his own story would prove later on that the Maigret novels go beyond this reductive definition. In fact that's not only because of the pressures from his publishers or because of the amount of money that his novels allowed him to earn, that Simenon would go on writing Maigret's investigations up to 1972, even when the "romans durs" had already given to him worldwide fame and recognition 
Of course there is also the affection for this character that gave him so much, but also a taste for these little stories for which on one hand writing can run smoothly on the predetermined tracks of seriality, and on the another hand creativity may work on characters and atmosphere, without the stress imposed by the "romans durs"; yet with results of same level and even succeeding, in a few pages and with fewer strokes, in rendering stories equally deep, as well as accomplished and never banal characters. 

by Simenon-Simenon 

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