giovedì 18 luglio 2019
SIMENON SIMENON. LEAVING AMERICA, FOR EVER...
Why didn’t Simenon remain in America after ten years of residence?
SIMENON SIMENON. LASCIARE L’AMERICA, PER SEMPRE...
Perché Simenon non è rimasto in America dopo dieci anni di residenza?
SIMENON SIMENON. QUITTER L’AMERIQUE, POUR TOUJOURS...
Pourquoi Simenon n’est pas resté en Amérique, après dix ans de résidence ?
Why did Simenon refuse to become an American citizen, although he felt well in the country? In fact, twenty years ago he had also refused French nationality, even before knowing that he would hastily leave France after WWII. If things had gone differently, he would perhaps have stayed there for a long time. Of course Simenon was a restless spirit and speculating on how his life would have been is definitely risky. As Pierre Assouline defines him, Simenon was a chronic unstable.
When he was wandering through the USA, he found an accommodation in Connecticut that pleased him, Shadow Rock Farm near Lakeville. One day a federal official came to him and invited him to take American citizenship. It was in 1950 and Simenon had already been for five years in the USA. The official explained to Simenon that he couldn’t remain a “permanent resident” for so long a time, because after all he still was a foreign citizen guest. Simenon replied that he paid taxes as an American citizen. Yet for the official, Simenon “was like an American”, but “he wasn’t an American”.
Simenon was attracted by the idea; after all, staying in Connecticut was very pleasant. But there were several things that didn’t convince him. For example anti-Semitism. One of his friends had had to register in a New York hotel on another name, so not to let know that he was a Jew. And the same thing, and even worse, happened to Black people. His friend Josephine Baker told him about several unpleasant experiences of marginalization, if not of true racism.
And what's more, McCarthyism had begun, with persecution of all who were or seemed to be communists or showed sympathy for left-wing ideas. This witch hunt disgusted Simenon, who lapidary commented: “I accuse Senator McCarthy and his followers to have 'smeared' my America…” This was the ultimate disillusion about American democracy, which he has so idealized in the preceding years, and this was the drop that made the vase overflow. Simenon decided definitely not to take American citizenship. Moreover, the novelist couldn’t bear the American facade Puritanism.
In short, even if after all the American experience had been positive (otherwise it would not have lasted ten years), and even if, particularly in the five last years, the novelist seemed to have found peace at Shadow Rock Farm, there was in him a kind of perplexity that grew gradually and raised the question: wouldn’t it be time to come back to Europe? The question was serious up to the point to prospect this eventuality with his wife.
Then there were other problems. During these ten years Simenon had the occasion to make himself known by critics, readers, but he never broke through as a writer. He was much valued for the quality of his novels, but he was considered too much European for the American readers’ taste. Thus, good criticism, yet tepid reception in bookstores. This resulted in sales not as high as he expected. In short he didn’t succeed in conquering the United States, as he had done with Europe. Its main income still came from France (selling of the “romans durs”, of the Maigret novels, of the rights…).
Finally the intertwining of all these elements, his proverbial restlessness, maybe also a kind of nostalgia for the old continent, pushed him to the decision to leave America, which nevertheless had much given to him in experience and personal enrichment.
It was March 19, 1955, when he left Lakeville and embarked for France, definitely abandoning United States.
Pubblicato da Maurizio Testa a 09:38