giovedì 8 agosto 2019


Some information about the autobiographical book "Je me souviens"

Alcune informazioni sul libro autobiografico "Je me souviens"

Quelques informations sur le livre autobiographique J"e me souviens"

At the end of summer 1940, Simenon was living in a farm at Pont-Neuf, in the middle of the Mervant-Vouvant forest. One day, while playing with his son Marc, he underwent a strong injury to the chest and he decided to make a control visit. The doctor who made the radiography stated that Simenon was suffering from a heart condition that would give him about two years to live. The doctor ordered him to stop with alcohol, tobacco, and sexual relationship… In short, civil death, for a hyperactive such as Simenon was, he who was not even in his forties. The novelist immediately thought of his father, who died at 44.
Simenon decided to write the autobiographical Je me souviens. The official intent was to leave something from him to his son, yet in reality it was a way of taking stock of his life, while seeing the inexorably approaching end.
But four years later on Simenon consulted the best radiologist in Paris, and the doctor told him that his heart was in perfect stand. In his Mémoires intimes, Simenon spoke about years of waiting for death… Yet in reality things didn’t go this way: in fact after two weeks, another doctor told him that it wasn’t so serious. In short Simenon took advantage of all the events in his life to turn them into continuous communication about his person and his works. He knew how to manoeuvring the levers of communication that concerned his own life, even the most private. He was aware of the importance of his own image, not so much for the promotion of his works, but for the building of the author’s image and its visibility.
Apart from all the other related and connected events, true or imagined, a tangible consequence of that episode was that Simenon wrote one of his first autobiographical books. Je me souviens was used to give to his son Marc memories of his father, his ancestry, who he was, what he had done.
It’s a particular book. Nothing to do with those written in eight/ten days in “état de roman”. It was a first drawing up that needed about six month (from December 1940 to June 1941), the book stayed to “decant” up to 1945, when Simenon did a revision and the Presses de la Cité released it at the end of that year. Then there was a second revised edition in 1961.
The length is also particular: there are eighteen chapters (nineteen in the second edition) in which the intent is to recreate his world, that of his adolescence, the story of his father’s and mother’s families, and dramatic moments of the war. The names are not the real ones, as Simenon highlighted. Yet in the 1961 edition the names would coincide with the real ones. We can feel in the work the pressure about someone who wishes to transmit to his son a whole world, meanwhile he is urged (in reality presumed to be so) by the fear of dying. Anyway, this is an important step in Simenon’s biographical works, which would be Pedigree, the Dictées and finally Mémoires intimes.
The title Je me souviens was chosen by the publisher Sven Nielsen, and Simenon was not so pleased with it. However it was an off-series work, that is to say based on a different mode than that of his usual literature: it’s between a true confession and a fictional reconstruction of his familial past. Je me souviens had a troubled genesis, a long gestation, oblivion for four years, suppressed and then restored passages and finally a new edition in 1961. Nothing to do with instinctively written novels under the impulse of inspiration! And also the attention to language and style is quite another thing. Simenon himself said so, in a note written for the second edition: “This is not a real literary work, but a kind of document. The style is rather a spoken and familiar one, of a father addressing to his son, and not the novelist’s written style. Should I suppress repetitions, avoid clichés, mistakes? It would need to be entirely rewritten and I fear that such a treatment would remove the spontaneity from these pages…”

by Simenon-Simenon

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