The Mahé circle by Georges Simenon

 

 

The Mahe Circle

The circle by Georges Simenon

Belgian fiction (Roman Durs)

Original title - Le Cercle des Mahé

Translator – Sian Reynolds

Ah wanna tell ya ’bout a girl
You kno, she lives in Apt. 29
Why… that’s the one right up top a mine
Ah start to cry, Ah start to cry
O ah hear her walkin
Walkin barefoot cross the floor-boards
All thru this lonesome night
And ah hear her crying too.
Hot-tears come leaking down
splashing thru the cracks,
Down upon my face, ah catch’em in my mouth!
Walk’n’cry Walk’n’cry-y!!!
From her to eternity!
From her to eternity!
From her to eternity!

Well this is Nick cave song about obsession with a  neighbour source  

The first non Maigret novel ,I’m review here is the first to be reissued from the other type of fiction Simenon was known for his Roman Durs (means hard novels – they are more complex in the storylines than his other books and often darker ) .As it is Nobel week I decide to look at Nomination database that is on the Nobel site to see if he was ever nominated for the nobel prize it shows he had 6 nominations up til 1963 which is as far as the database goes up to so it looks like he may have had more in the years after that .

“She is dead isn’t she ?”

The eyes of the girl in the red dress were still starring at him through the darkness and he hesitated to answer the woman ,who went on :

“The last hour , she was trembling all over , I had to hold her … sweating too … bad smell  … I can still smell it on my hands

The woman dies just as the doctor gets there to see to her .

 

The circle is the story of one man  Dr Francois  Mahé  and his obsession with a women ,after he caught a glimpse of her this is on his holiday with his family on the small island of porquerolles of the southern coast of France , whilst their he also attends to a dying women as he is called into help whilst fishing with some local men .He returns home ,but then he drags his family back for the following three summers as he has a growing sense of attraction to this younger women Elizabeth  even getting a young family member to start trying to date her .

Already last year , she was much changed .She had still been wearing the red dress, as she was even this year , it was as though the dress was growing with her .And she was still just as thin , but her breasts had formed and now showed through the fabric

The girl has grown more into a women over the years he has visited the islands .

Well this is different to Maigret , there is a very sparse nature to Simenon’s story we only get what is need , he is never one to over load his writing with too much detail .The story could be viewed as one man’s mid-life crisis in a way , Francois is a man who has reach a point in his life he is a doctor ,has kids and a life ,but at some point he wants a different life .That is the main point of the book it is the battle of Francois  between the life he has and the life he sees on the small islands , worlds classes apart its a dark look at what happens when a rich chap looks over the other side whilst on holiday , I was reminded of the film Shirley Valentine , where a housewife falls in love on a greek island ,well imagine if that film had a male and was made by David Lynch and you have the Mahe circle , love here is really obsession , this obsession is also mirror in his obsession to catch a certain fish in the book .The island leaps of the pages at time , but all that sun and easy living as it seems isn’t all it is cracked up to be .

Fear and Trembling by Amelie Nothomb

 

Fear and trembling by Amelie Nothomb 

Belgian fiction 

Orginal title - Stupeur et tremblements

Translator – Adriana Hunter 

Source – Library

Loving you is driving me crazy
People say that you were born lazy
‘Cause you say that
Work Is A Four-Letter Word

So change your life
There is so much I know
That you can do
Come and see …

I choose one of my favourite song by The Smiths work is a four letter word as it caught in part this book .

I decide a month or two ago to start adding a few books by writers I have enjoyed in the time I have been blogging ,to add depth to blog and to the list of books read ,so I read Amelie Nothomb’s The character of rain  three years ago and had a time want to try more of this talent Belgian writer ,this book like the character of rain is another book set in Japan Amelie Nothomb ,lived in Japan and was born there  in Kobe .The title of this book is a reference to how the average citizen should have felt when greeting the Emperor of Japan .

Miss Mori was at least five feet ten , a height few japanese men achieved .She was ravishingly svelte and graceful despite the stiffness to which she, like all Japanese women , had to sacrifice herself .But what transfixed me was the splendor of her face .

She was talking to me ,The sound of her soft voice brimmed with intelligence .She was showing me some files , explaining what they contained , and smiling. I was dimly aware that I wasn’t listening to what she was saying .

Amelie as she says is transfixed by Miss Mori on their first meeting .

The story of this book is a fiction Amelie going to work for a large company in Japan the Yumimoto corporation ,she has managed to get a job for a year with them .initially it is great she loves the way she is greeted by the people in the company ,but then she is put under the perfect Miss Mori .This is the point that things start to go wrong for the young Amelie ,because she just cannot do anything right ,she has hit the brick wall of Japanese etiquette and the way things are done .She eventually she her self doing less and ,less as every task she is given she seems to fail at in the eyes of the task perfect Miss Mori ,Amelie is also strangely attracted to Miss Mori and the way she is .Amelie ends up with one job sorting the toilets on the 13th floor of the building a toilet that just she and Miss Mori use ,even this she isn’t very good at in the eyes of Miss Mori .

I SPOKE RARELY in my new post , not because it wasn’t forbidden but because an unwritten rule stopped me .When your job is as dreary as mine was the only way of preserving your honour is by remaining silent .

Amelie on her last job the bathroom attendant .

What i loved about this wonderfully short novel is the humour that is there from the clash of cultures ,the western ideas of Amelie cut no way with Miss Mori .Miss Mori leaps of the page as a perfect example of a women in business in Japan she has to be better than the men beside her and above her this is what drives her perfection and in some ways the way she treats Amelie .Miss Mori has her own problems she is turning thirty in the new year and this is traditionally the time a women in Japan is expected to be married .Like character of rain Amelie Nothomb has a great way of casting an outsiders eye on Japan without turning it into a joke and a freak show that so many times happens when we view how Japan works .I felt Miss Mori could have been one of the figures of love from a Murakami novel ,she is just so perfect or tries to be .Amelie at one point imagines her and Miss Mori’s position as similar to that of David Bowie and Ryuichi Sakamoto in the film Merry christmas Mr Lawrence .

Amelie -san

CONGRATULATIONS

-MORI FUBUKI

I added this as it is the last lines a letter Amelie received just after her first novel came out from Miss Mori .

Have you a favourite book by a Belgian writer ?

The Carter of La Providence by Georges Simenon

#2 The Carter Of 'La Providence'

The Carter of La Providence by Georges Simenon

Belgian fiction

Original title – Le Charretier de la Providence

Translator David Coward

Source review copy

“He was somewhat of a loner by temperament–because though never wholly happy when alone, he was usually slightly more miserable when with other people.”
Colin Dexter, The Wench Is Dead source good reads ,I was looking for a quote about why the boatmen were so badly thought of at the time ,but this quote struck me as how Maigret was at times in the book. 

 

I was lucky to get sent two of the Maigret novels that Penguin are being brought out in their attempt to put all Simenon’s books out under one publisher .So I get to review two more from the series to add to the three books I have already reviewed this year.So as I’ve said before Simenon published over 400 books if not more in his life time .He like boats and in 1928 spent six months on the water living in a boat ,he wrote this book in 1931 in his own boat Ostrogoth ,which he had christen by a priest and spent many years travelling through Europe with it

For the first couple of days ,mary was the life and soul of the party .But on day three she disappeared .

“And do you know where we found her ? staying at an inn at Giens ,where she was happily passing the time playing mummies with a couple of unwashed brats .

They both had lovers and loved to party a lot .

Now this is a murder thriller from the Maigret series ,a body is found in the early hours of the morning in a stable near the canal .The body turns out to be an upper class women by the name of Mary Lampson ,who with her husband Walter Lampson are travelling through France on their pleasure boat the southern cross .Now Mary was known for her taking of lovers and partying .The body was discovered by Lock 14 (which happens to be the books original title and also the title of the first chapter ) ,records show there is only one other boat near by at the time she was killed a barge call La Providence .Now Maigret comes to the canal ,he is rather gruffer than in the other books from the series I have read .Now the prime suspect is of course the husband ,but what did the men on the La Providence see or hear that night ? And what happens when she died .Maigret dives into a world of boatmen ,cafe owners ,An upper class husband and lock-keepers .Who killed her and why ?

At four in the morning ,one of the Carters woke his mate ,and both began seeing to their animals .They heard the horses on the Providence being led out and harnessed .

At the same time ,the landlord of the cafe got up and lit the lamp in his bedroom on the first floor .He also heard the Providence as it got under way

The boat sets of just as Mary’s body is found that early morning .

Now this for me saw Maigret develop a little we see a side we hadn’t seen much before he is a little gruffier than in the earlier books .Now as for the novel as a whole well it is a classic country house crime moved on too boats ,but where as a lot of novels in this style focus on the upper class this is both about Sir Walter and the Late Mary’s connections and the rough boatmen of the Barge . The other thing that oozes of the page is the obvious love of Boats and canals that Simenon had ,the details of the boats ,running of the boats and locks and lock-keeper operations feel so real .Also a bit of Class issues surface as Maigret struggles to get the upper class ways at times .Now this isn’t the first book I’ve come across set on the canal of course Colin Dexter wrote the wench is dead which also follows the murder of a woman on the canal but in the 1850′s .Next up for me in the series is Yellow dog which is the first that is a reread .Have you read this book ?

The Hanged man of Saint Phoilen By Georges Simenon

the hanged man of Saint Pholien

The Hanged Man of Saint Pholien by Georges Simenon

Belgian Crime fiction

Orginal title –  Le Pendu de Saint-Pholien

Translator – Linda Coverdale

Methought I heard a voice cry “Sleep no more!
Macbeth does murder sleep,” the innocent sleep,
Sleep that knits up the ravell’d sleave of care,
The death of each day’s life, sore labour’s bath,
Balm of hurt minds, great nature’s second course,
Chief nourisher in life’s feast

Macbeth after he killed the King and felt Guilt 

Well another stage on the trip through the new translation of the Maigret series ,this is the third in the series which is coming out in order of release .So 72 after this to review (well I’ve read number four and part way into number five) .

The man was shabby and looked for all the world like one of the chronically unemployed found in every big city, always on the lookout for an opportunity. Except that he was pulling thousand-franc notes from his pocket and counting them, after which he wrapped them in grey paper, tied the package with string and addressed it. At least thirty notes, 30,000 Belgian francs! Maigret had frowned at that, and when the unknown man left after paying for his coffee, the inspector had followed him to the nearest post office.

What made Maigret follow the man in the first place

Now this focus on Maigret following his nose ,he sees a man of disheveled  appearance ,whilst working in Brussels .He observes this man with a very large amount of money for his appearance .So the Inspector being the inspector follows the man ,we see him having his case change ,Maigret sharing the room next to him and then next day the man commits suicide .This leads him to a case full of bloody clothes after some investigation he finds the mans name is Lecoq initially he was thought to be Jeunet but when Maigret discovers his real name we start to see what brought this man to this point it was an event ten years earlier that involved Lecoq ,Van Damme (now a business man ) and a few others that where students at the time .a secret club they where in lead to them trying a killing this is what drove the man to suicide after they had killed a man ten years earlier and left him hung in a church .

Maigret found a seedy-looking hotel at 18, Rue de la Roquette, right where it joins Rue de Lappe, with its accordion-band dance halls and squalid housing. That stretch of Roquette is a good fifty metres from Place de la Bastille. Every ground floor hosts a bistro, every house a hotel frequented by drifters, immigrants, tarts and the chronically unemployed.

The hotel was Jeunet /lecoq ended up living ,

Now this isn’t really a straight forward crime novel ,no its more a dissection of a man’s life after he has died .When Jeunet as he thought at the time committed  Suicide had caught the inspectors eye and had just decide to follow which lead to the mans earlier history as he tried to find out why this guy had all that money and what had driven him to kill himself .That then lead to the second case the killing of the man ten years earlier .I enjoyed this one it was maybe to compact for the complex nature of the plot so although you got the crime in full it maybe felt you were blinkered at times as some of the minor characters were quite one-dimensional .So next time I will bring you a tale on the Canal and Maigret .

The Late Monsieur Gallet by Georges Simenon

the late monsieur Gallet

The late Monsieur Gallet by Georges Simenon

Belgian crime fiction

Original title –  M. Gallet décédé

Translator – Anthea Bell

Source personnel purchase on Kindle

“Above all , don’t lie to yourself .The man who lies to himself and listens to his own lie comes to a point that he cannot distinguish the truth within him , or around him ,so loses respect for himself and for others ,and having no respect he ceases to love “

Fyodor Dostoyevsky

Earlier in the year I reviewed the first reissue from Penguin of Maigret and now move on to the second book in the series having already read the following two in the series as I try to read the complete Maigret series as Penguin release them one a month for the next five plus years .I ‘ll dispense with the usual bio as I’ll just end up doing it time and time again ,if over time I find exciting titbits about Simenon I’ll pass them on .

Émile Gallet, commercial traveller, home address Saint-Fargeau, Seine-et-Marne, murdered night of 25, Hôtel de la Loire, Sancerre. Many curious details. Please inform family for identification of corpse. Send inspector from Paris if possible.

The Late Monsieur Gallet ,sees Maigret is trying to unwind the history of a man who has been found dead in a hotel room and Maigret is sent from Paris to find out more  .On the surface the man Monsieur Gallet seems a commercial traveller ,that is married .But as we delve further into his life he has been transferring funds from the people he works for .Then it turns out he may not be whom he sees and it takes Maigret back 18 years , when this Monsieur Gallet swap his name with another Monsieur Gallet .But someone found out this had happened and had been bleeding him dry .Then the man had fallen out the day before with his late son Henri .Then what have the late man’s neighbours to do with his death ?

‘That’s of minor interest now,’ said Maigret. For all this was obviously to do with the swindle on which Gallet had embarked. The pink file had provided him with information on that subject, as well as several phone calls to the owners of châteaux and manor houses in the Berry and Cher areas. At some time or other, probably three or four years after his marriage, and one or two years after his father-in-law’s death, Émile Gallet had decided that it would be a good idea to make use of the old documents relating to the Le Soleil material that he had inherited.

This book sees Maigret first looking at the family then into the late mans wider life.It then turns on what may have been on a note ,why the man was taking the money from his firm .Also what did he know .We don’t learn a lot more about Maigret as a character he ,we see him frustrated at times ,by what seem a simple task of going and sorting a body in a dead hotel room fall apart .Gallet and his journey is an interesting case a man who isn’t who every that knows him now thinks he is .I wonder if  he had read Agatha Christie  as for me it bares a few traits to her story Murder on the links ,which also involves a change of identity at the core of the story .Of course it goes without saying the new translation is flawless as it would be by Anthea Bell one of my favourite translators .So where next well we go to a hanged man and Maigret goes to Holland .

Pietr the Latvian by Georges Simenon

Pietr-the-Latvian

Pietr the Latvian by Georges Simenon

Belgian crime fiction

Original title – Pietr le-letton

Translator – David Bellos

Source – personnel copy

Well when I heard earlier this year penguin was under taking retranalsting and publishing all 75 Maigret novels by the prolific Belgian novelist Georges Simenon I was really excited  ,I have read three of the books before but had always want to read them in the order they were published .Georges Simenon is probabkly the second best known Belgian writer after Herge . Georges simenon , started writing in 1919 and wrote his whole life on average writing 60-80 pages a day he wrote more than 200 novels and loads of short stories ,in fact he wrote so much and also published under a number of alias ,his own estate is fully sure what he wrote.Any to this the first of many I’m sure I will be reviewing over time the debut book of Jules Maigret Pietr the Latvian .

Maigret had a tough time disentangling his own feet from the dead man’s legs to extricate himself from the toilet .With swift professional movements he patted the man’s pockets .Clean as a whistle .Nothing in them at all

Maigret checks the body that maybe Pietr on the train toilet .

Pietr the latvian is a well known con man due to arrive in Paris and Jules Maigret has been assigned to try and capture him ,this man has been causing crimes all round Europe and is now heading for Maigret patch any way the train arrives and there is a body in the toilet of the train and it matches what they have been told about this Pietr ,but then they think he is dead they hear of another man appearing at a posh hotel the prime ground for this high-class con man who the man they were tracking Pietr is  ,so Maigret is now faced with the dilemma which is the real Pietr and what happened to get the body in the train ?

But what had he got against the American millionaire Mortimer – levingstone ? within an hour of the arrest ,the US embassy would lodge a protest ! The French companies and financial institutions on whose boards he sat would wheel in political support .

An homage to holmes in the name but what has this US millionaire to do with this story .

 

Well I hadn’t read this one and I must state from the start even thou the man describe as Maigret is younger than the one I have when reading the book which is a figure resembling Michael Gambon who had played Maigret in a uk tv series .So does this old book warrant a new translation well yes we see the greats of English crime fiction repackage and reissued .So yes its nice to see a translated crime book published in same way in a new version as English crime does .As to the book it is an easy read not taxing but I did find a couple of things as I read that I may not that is two nods to the great crime novelist Sir Arthur Conan Doyle at one point it is said holes sat and smoke three pipes ,rather like Holmes in the red-headed league when he said “It is quite a three pipe problem ” ,then there is a character called Mortimer as any Holmes fan would now he is one of the main character in the hound of the Baskervilles .So I think I will be getting one of these every month as they come out I have already brought the next two on my kindle to read .

Have you read Maigret ?

The misfortunates by Dimitri Verhulst

The misfortunates by Dimitri Verhulst

Belgian fiction

Translator David Colmer

Dimitri Verhulst is a Belgian writer and he grew up in a broken home and spent a lot of time in foster care .This is often reflected in his fiction .He has written several novel and short stories .The misfortunates ,was made into a film in 2009.The film won a prize in Cannes .

I add the trailer ,which to me seems to capture the character in the book so well .We follow Dimmy the son he is at school and is at a point where he could follow his father and his uncles into a life of drink and misadventures or he could put his head down and study .Now we follow a period as Dimmy begins to see his family are maybe a little different from the normal family .That time as you turn from a child to a teen and a young man ,he is 13 as this happens .

The male members of the Dimmy’s  family,  Dimmy’s father and his uncle’s Potrel ,Herman and Grider  spend a lot of time drinking in the pub  and ending up doing thinks because of the drink like having a naked cycle race this made me smile as I love cycling and the fact that grown men decide to copy the men they seen by doing it naked was funny .They did this as Dimmy was getting drawn towards cycling and being more disciplined in his life .Now Will of Just William compared it to Shameless with chips and Mayo .Which I agree with ,I also got visions of saturday night sunday morning and a hard-edged version of the northern Kitchen sink drama relocate to Belgium and scripted by Irvine Welsh . As the quote below shows this is even linked in the book .

It was only later ,when I read Alan Silltoe’s best known work ,The loneliness of the long distance runner ,that I realized that it had been pure logic that had turned me into a runner as a child .

I loved this quote linking his life a bit with Kitchen sink drama classic loneliness of long distance runner .

 

This book has a feel of a roman a clef  slammed with a coming of age novel .I feel this is Dimitri looking back in some ways to the point he became the writer he is now ,a Robert Frost moment take the trodden path that his family has taken or that unknown one that he seems more drawn too .The book can tug at the heartstrings this is a tough world ,but also a world that has a certain pathos to it .

I enjoyed this book ,I felt this was a very realistic book  given the writers own history ,I read an  interview with him here ,which was interesting in both a small insight into him and also an insight into Belgium .As it is mainly about the Flemish/Wallonia divide that has appeared in recent years in Belgium .I really want to watch the film and hope it gets shown or a uk DVD  release which it hasn’t seemed to as of yet .

 

The character of rain by Amelie Nothomb

Source – Library

Translator – Timothy Bent

Amelie Nothomb is a prize-winning Belgian writer ,she was born in Kobe in Japan and lived in Japan til she was 5 she learnt some Japanese whilst there ,she has had numerous books translated into in English .I ve enjoyed her other books before blogging so really look forward to this and it didn’t let down .

The book focus on Rain a child ,her thoughts as she approaches her third birthday .This is a time the Japanese think think children are gods til the age of three  the Okosma or lord child  .Now this is why I wanted to read this book in particular to compare at some stage to room to see who had caught a child’s voice the best .Now Rain has a wonderful voice, if a bit adult at times and also very funny at times ,she explains how she says mama as her first word and then quickly  has to say papa as she sees dads disappointment that it wasn’t his name first , her brother her sworn enemy ,you she how wonderful the world can appear to a two and half-year old and might I say how down hill it can be from when you reach three .There is a great scene when friends of the parents come with there little boy Hugo ,who Rain initially likes but then he makes friends with her brother ,this is like a first heartbreak but wonderfully funny ending at the same time .

Hugo was a serious and reserved boy .He had made a good impression on me until the moment he went over to the enemy -my brother .The two boys became inserable .To punish him I decided not to name him Hugo .

A first heart-break maybe …

The book is obviously based  partly on her own life ,rain is a child of a Belgium family living in Japan ,this book deals with growing up in a foreign land  been spoken to in two languages ,near the end of the book rain discovers and is fascinated with water ponds river rain .This is a very Japanese way at looking at the world a culture than loves the changing seasons and elements .I love rain she so jumps of the page and became a precious two and half-year old in my head .

Have you read any of her books ?

Do you like books set in Japan by non-Japanese writers ?

wonder by Hugo Claus A.T.W52 POST 1

Wonder was published late last year by archipelago books .It is one of the few Claus in print at the moment ,Claus was one of Belgians major writers having won a lot of prize and also courted controversy with his subject matter and even his own death due to euthanasia .This edition is wonderfully translated by Micheal Henry Heim who also translated my century by Gunter Grass .

   The book is about Victor de Rijckel a teacher in a small town in post war Belgium ,the chapters tend to jump from time to time and are inter speed with what are date notebook entry’s that are written by de Rijckel whilst in a sanatorium in transpires ,in describing events de Rijckel talks about school local people and ends up going to a masquerade ball where he sees and follows a woman to a small village and a meeting of post war fascists including the sinister Crabbe a former member of the ss this eventually leads victor to lying and despair as he question his on morals and people round him at this point he cracks .

14 November ,about 8 o’clock

….and I ve stopped writing .Korneel keeps goading me.Two lines a day and we ll make it he says.Frozen feet .losing weight .draw out vapor.This table was once used for cleaning herring ;you can smell it in the wood.Draw out vapors.Write a fair hand,all curlicues and cues .I don’t want this pen squirting shame on the paper ;I don’t want any regrets;the past clouds sail past.didn’t I say they were spots?Like butterfly spot? I did I sit

     the book its self is square nicely printed ,with a Goya print on the cover

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