giovedì 22 agosto 2019


The novelist’s “career program”

Il “programma di carriera” del romanziere
Le « programme de carrière » du romancier

We know well what led Simenon to leave Liege and go to Paris, to give up his secure job at the Gazette de Liège for entering the unknown of literary adventure. It was not just about writing, but about what and how to write. His aim was to write novels that would emerge from his inspiring vein, without constraints, in fact literature as he conceived it.
Young Simenon had three gifts that would help him achieving his goal. First he was humble. He knew perfectly well that a long period of training was waiting for him and that he would succeed only after a certain number of stages. Then he was a lucid and conscious programmer. In fact he saw the periods that he had to go through: first apprenticeship, in which he would have to accept any job on commission, he would have to write every kind of thing, but that would be a fundamental moment to enter the mechanism of the publishing world, to experiment narrative forms; second the semi-literature period, in which, besides the freedom of writing what he wanted, he nevertheless had to follow a certain set of rules (that of the detective novel) which would guide him (up to a certain point…) and constitute a point of reference. Only after this experience he could set sail and navigate in the sea of literature tout court.
His third gif was perseverance. Simenon never discouraged, not even with the repeated and famous denials of Colette, when he brought him his short stories that he wanted to be published in Le Matin. Wilful and perseverant, he modifies them, he followed the writer’s advices until he succeeded in having one published. He made fruit this experience, because he did not intend to skip step. It was as if he had defined a route plan to achieve his goals and followed it diligently.
But he also had instinct. Thus he could be convinced that, among the numerous characters he created, Maigret would be the right one on which he should bet everything, up to the point of come out with his own true name? His Chief Inspector with his investigations had not the characteristics of the rules of the genre. We think this was not by chance. From a rational point of view his publisher Fayard was right when thinking that this series would not have success. Yet intuitively Simenon felt otherwise, and in fact the writer’s feelings won over the publisher’s “data”.
Thus Simenon, with Maigret’s success, had entered semi-literature. His Chief Inspector brought him fame and popularity, but also the label of a detective novel author, which he had hard time shaking off. After the first series of nineteen investigations, Simenon considered Maigret’s chapter was closed and he began to have romans durs published by Fayard. Yet at that moment parties were reversed: Fayard wanted Simenon to go on writing Maigret novels, whereas the writer did not want anymore. His consecration as a novelist coincided with his entering Gallimard publishing house. Yet Gaston Gallimard also wanted him to write Maigret novels. Simenon managed to sustain a sabbatical for a few years, then arrived the moment of Maigret’s coming back. And this was a return for lifelong.
Yet if in the beginning Simenon had taken care to differentiate the romans durs from the Chief Inspector’s investigations, as years went by, the difference between the two types of production got more and more reduced, up to the point that it could not be anymore spoken about literary production and commercial production.
All things considered we can say that Simenon had respected his program and finally it worked ... and how well.

by Simenon-Simenon

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