giovedì 19 settembre 2019


Why Simenon decided to stop writing novels

Perché Simenon ha deciso di smettere di scrivere romanzi
Pourquoi Simenon décida d’arrêter d’écrire des romans

September 18, 1972. Simenon, in his house in Epalinges, had ended in February Maigret and Monsieur Charles. By now he was almost alone in his big residence. His second wife Denyse had definitely broken bonds with Georges (even if they were still married). Marc, engaged in his job as a film director, was living in Paris. John was studying in the USA. Marie-Jo was often around. In Epalinges, the novelist was living with his third son Pierre and with his partner Teresa.
Simenon was about to write a new novel. Following his rituals, he prepared everything he needed, chose a provisory title, Victor. Then, as always, a list of names and surnames, chronological and geographic references, the whole written down on the usual yellow envelope. Some notes: Victor, solicitor… his wife Berthe… his son Raymond… a wife who kills her husband and who, once the sentence is served, disappears in South America… The plot was still vague, as usual Simenon still did not know how it would go to an end.
Then little by little the novelist realized that the famous click would not occur, that he would not enter the “état de roman”, and that he would not get into Victor’s skin. On the eve of his seventy years the novelist became aware that he would not be able to write that or other novels. What happened?
There were several motives. For example fatigue and stress when getting into his characters’ skin for over forty years and hundreds of times… Had maybe Simenon felt the danger of being on the verge of a point of no return? Or the danger of getting definitely lost in his creatures?
Some years before, when considering the hypothesis that some day he couldn’t be anymore able to write, he stated: “It would be a terrible shock for me and I don’t know how my doctor could help me recovering…” And on the contrary Simenon seemed to suffer passively the situation as ineluctable, as the sign of the end of a phase, a conscious fatalism that you couldn’t struggle against destiny, just the same way it happened for the characters in his novels. He too had gone to the extreme consequences of his fate, that is to say not writing anymore.
“I’ve decided to not write novels anymore”, he told in the interview he had with Henry Charles Tauxe in February 1973. This heavy sentence meant that Simenon was probably worn out by a life dedicated to creative effort, by the psychological stress in making emptiness within himself to make room for the protagonist of the moment, in trying to be another man for a brief period.
In this interview Simenon also told that he had had to be cured in hospital for vertigos that lasted for an hour. The treatment allowed vertigo to be reduced to some minutes. “To write my novels I need to be in 100% good shape. Particularly because my novels are getting more and more “durs”… So I’ve decided to stop… I think I’ve decided at the same time to get rid of this house (Epalinges)… For me it will be liberation…”
In fact Simenon had never stopped writing novels since 1923, first alimentary literature, then the Maigret novels and then the other novels. During the first years he had had a crazy rhythm and then this rhythm had remained very prolific in the following years. Moreover he had once stated that while the Maigret novels had first been a kind of relaxing and evasion moment between two “romans durs”, in the last years these Maigret novels would get closer to the other novels and thus they would require a similar effort.
“Now I want to live my life, I’m free, I feel happy and perfectly serene. I was getting slave of my characters. It was very tiring. […] I’m getting into my own skin, my own life and I don’t have the strength anymore to create characters…”
So it was an ended cycle. No more “romans durs”, no more Maigret novels, and he left Epalinges after a few months; everything was now behind him. From now on he would be an ordinary man, and would live with Teresa as an ordinary couple. They went to live in an ordinary apartment in Lausanne.
Just as his biographer Pierre Assouline stated, Simenon “finally felt as man like any other. Yet he was the only one who believed it…”

by Simenon-Simenon

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