June 27, 2010

"Why are Emile and Marguerite Bouin still married? They cannot stand each other."

"This is evident from the moment we meet them, isolated and wordless before a beautiful fire. Their only correspondence is an occasional invective jotted on a scrap of paper — this discreetly flicked across the room to the recipient's lap."

This 1967 novel — "The Cat" by Georges Simenon, which I loved when I read it in the 70s — seems to presage texting.

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It was made into a movie with the most archaically artsy trailer imaginable.

11 comments:

maria horvath said...

Georges Simenon belongs right up there with existentialist writers like Camus, especially in his novels, although I wouldn't exclude his Maigret stories in this comparison. Le Chat is just the married couples version of the lonely L'etranger.

pm317 said...

Georges Simenon! You must like Maigret..Bruno Cramer as Maigret, that 60+ year old man with a paunch is sexy, you know why? Because he drips with humanity in the most difficult of circumstances.

Same with Montalbano, the Italian detective.. Where are their American counterparts?

Methadras said...

Why was someone tossing cats in the trailer?

edutcher said...

Maigret is an excellent detective, one of the best in fiction. It's too bad more people don't know that side of Simenon.

As to the couple, my God, I've known people just like that. Which is also the mark of a great writer.

ricpic said...

One of the most moving things I've ever read is Monsieur Monde Vanishes. It's not so much what happens as it is the mood Simenon sets that draws you in. Monsieur Monde is the good bourgeoisie, with all of the obligations that go with that solid citizen condition. One day he just up and vanishes. Without any forethought at all he gets up from his desk, leaves the office, goes to the train station and boards a train for the south of France. There is no elation in what he does, just a dreamlike suspension of all feeling at first and then when he arrives in Nice a tremendous weariness that settles over him and in him. But within days he's found a place for himself in some sort of waterfront cafe/brothel where he starts as the lowest kind of all around assistant and then slowly begins to take over the books and get the place in financial order. At the end of the book a detective the family has set on his trail finds him. When confronted he offers no resistance to being returned to his former existence where he resumes, without outer or inner complaint, the life he had suddenly left. A tremendous fatalistic book.

maria horvath said...

If you like Montalbano, you'll enjoy reading the wry musings of lawyer-detective Guido Guerrieri, by Gianrico Corofiglio. Sadly, so far only three of the novels have been translated into English.

pm317 said...

As I left my previous comment and went out to dinner, I asked my husband why he thought Maigret was special. His answer went along with how I felt -- that Sherlock Holmes is all about evidence, the cigarette and the ash tray and so on whereas there is a lot of psychological analysis with Maigret like dysfunction in the family, the weirdness of a character and so on that he uses in addition to other physical and circumstantial evidence. He makes us develop that emotional connection, that empathy for the victim and sometimes even the perpetrator. It is rich in emotional intelligence as well as a raw evidence-based detective work. And there are little scenes where he plays with a child or something that shows his soft side.
Thanks maria horvath, I will check that out. The detective Lazarro in Homicide Squad was also very good.

But nobody does it better than Simenon's Maigret.

Ann Althouse said...

I don't read mystery books. I just don't care. "The Cat" is a regular novel about a married couple, not a mystery, and it's really terrific.

pm317 said...

Sorry, I guess I got carried away about Maigret..

An Ohio Greek in King Atreus' Court said...

"The Cat" is a regular novel about a married couple, not a mystery, and it's really terrific.

Have you ever tried any of the Dorothy L. Sayers novels? Her early works are very much like those of Conan Doyle or Collins but by the time you get to "Gaudy Night" the characters are so well developed and so fascinating that the mystery is incidental. You read more to find out what the main characters are thinking than to solve the mystery. The three best are: "Gaudy Night", "Busman's Honeymoon", and "The Documents in the Case".

Ann Althouse said...

I've read "Gaudy Night." I seem to remember it was a mystery. I just don't care about mysteries. "The Cat" is not in any way a mystery novel. It's not, for example, a really literary mystery novel. It is simply not a mystery novel.