giovedì 25 luglio 2019


Why did Simenon have to take refuge at Delfzijl in 1929?

Perché Simenon dovette rifugiarsi a Delfzijl nel 1929?
Pourquoi Simenon dut-il se réfugier à Delfzijl en 1929 ?

June 1929. We are aboard the Ostrogoth, the ten meters boat on which Simenon navigated through the canals of France up to the North Sea, along the Dutch and German coasts. The harbour is Wilhelmshaven, in Lower Saxony.
For a couple of hours a strange man has been questioning the novelist. A policeman? According to Georges he could be an agent of counter-espionage. The man isn’t only interrogating, but he also starts searching the boat. What is he looking for? And why does he do that on a novelist’s boat?
At the time Simenon was not yet famous, event if he already was known as Georges Sim… But he certainly could not be known by an agent of German services. Germany was then crossed by the electric shocks that the rise of a certain Adolf Hitler caused throughout the country and beyond. Alarms, suspicions, feuds, complots, formed the ideal water to make spies swim, counterespionage, double agents, foreign agents…
In this ambiance an innocent object like Simenon’s typewriter assumed a strange and even suspicious meaning in the agent’s eyes. And all those typewritten pages? True novels or fictions that could hide coded messages?
In short, the whole thing was rather suspicious in the agent’s mind. A man of Belgian nationality, a boat that flied the French flag and these letters… that is to say Simenon’s correspondence with the Détective magazine… “Does this magazine really exist? Is it its true name? – wondered the agent without understanding the situation – Is this man indeed a detective and not a writer?”
In short this was enough to bring Simenon to a police station to investigate the matter. This “detective” case stirred other attentions and soon the writer found himself in front of another man, high degree counter-espionage, who wanted to make things clearer.
The main point seemed to be whether Simenon was a detective, a spy, an agent and, in that case, for whom he was working… Moreover, what was a Belgian with French documents doing in a German harbour, in such a critical period…?
During the interrogation Simenon admitted among other things that he knew a little German, but that was what remained of a school smattering... Then the writer told that German was not his strong point. That was a mistake. Because this provoked another question from the part of the official, who simply and directly asked: “Why don’t you like our language?” Thus the interrogation was about to take a bad turn. Probably in that moment Simenon realized that in Germany the ambience was quickly changing and there was no place for suspects or misunderstandings. He remembered that the night before he had just sent to Gallimard a parcel for the Détective magazine. Maybe it had been opened and this was the reason for the whole thing?
The situation was not easy. The writer tried to justify himself, but he realized that if on one hand the counter-espionage official didn’t see things clearly, on another hand he had no specific evidence or accusations against him. After a few moments of anguish for Simenon, the situation got to its epilogue. A cut order: “at noon the Ostrogoth must have left Wilhelmshaven.” Expulsion from Germany and ban on sailing in German waters. Peremptory. A bad morning. But Simenon got away with it, changed destination: no longer Hamburg, but the small and welcoming Dutch harbour in Delfzijl.

by Simenon-Simenon

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