The little man from Archangel by Georges Simenon

The little man from Archangel by Georges Simenon

Belgian fiction

Original title – Le Petit Homme d’Arkhangelsk

Translator Sian Reynolds

Source – review copy

A quick break from all the booker longlist books and another of the series of books that Penguin over the last few years have been retranslating from the great Belgian writer Georges Simenon. This is the 11th book from these books I have reviewed.  Here is a novel that shows how diverse his style was a crime novel but more a commentary on those values that simmer under the surface in small french towns and how when a meek mild-mannered man can get s=caught up through one simple lie. This book has been a radio drama on radio four and with a change in the origins of the main character, it was made into a film in 2007. This among critics it is considered to be one of his best books!

He makes the mistake of telling a lie. He sensed this is the moment he opened his mouth to answer fernand Le Bouc, and it was really inly from timidity and lack of self confidence that he hailed to change the words that rose to his lips.

So he said

“She’s gone to Bourges.”

Le boue,as he rinsed a glass behind the counter, asked,”La Loute still there, is she?”

He replied without looking up

“I suppose so”

It wasten in the morning and a thursdad, so the markjet was in full swing. In Fernand’s narrow, glass-frontedcafe on the corner of Impasse des tois-Rois, five or six men were standing at the counter. At the precise moment, it was not important who was present, but it would became so, and Jonas Milk would try to indentiry every face

The book opens with a little white lie that will snowball out of control for the meek Jonas.

The book follows a couple Jonas Milk and his gina a good wife she keeps their flat above their bookshop clean the marriage was sorted from her family to give her a settled base but there is little love companionship and a 16 year age difference. but she has one small problem her mild-mannered meek husband of Russian descent. This meek man isn’t enough so she spends the night with other men but she always returns. So when one morning when she hadn’t returned to her home when asked by a neighbor where his wife was that day she disappeared he says she had visited the local town as the days turn voices start turning toward Jonas the Russian who came to the town with his parents he went to Paris but returned to this village settled down. A man that is simple with plain tastes soon finds him at the heart of gossip and also a changing feeling as the longer Gina is away the more the eyes turn to the husband about what has happened to her. Jonas starts to feel the pressure build around him as he is trapped by what he had said as people cut him off and rumors start around him!

The left him in peace until monday, too much in peace perhaps, since it made him think they were distrancing themselves from him. Perhaps he was becoming too sensitive and ascribing to people non-existent intentions?

Having asked for news of Gina over the last two days, as insistently as if they were calling him to account, they no longer mentioned her in his presence now, and he suspected Le Bouc, ancel and the others were deliberately avoiding reffering to his wife.

Why had they suddenly lost interest in her? And if they knew where she was, what reason did they have not to tell him ?

The suspicions of Jonas grows and he starts to see the signs of the Anti semitisim and the suspicions around him?

This is different from the other books I have read by Simenon as they are mainly from the Maigret series of books here we have him looking at the way a small town can turn itself also an underlying feeling of anti Semitism that follows under the town when it turns out Gina may have not gone to the next town and all eyes turn on Jonas the Russian although he has lived in France most of his life and is French. It is a story of the undercurrents that flow in small towns like this in the post-war years where the mistrust is never far away. What happened to Gina, what will happen to Jonas. It is a perfect evening to read a glimpse into a small french town that becomes fevered rather like in Agartha christie towns there is an undercurrent against the immigrant. There are two more coming in the series of non-Maigret books coming this year. Have you read this or any of the other non-Maigret Simenon books.

Winstons score  -A  This is a perfect book for an early summer evening.

 

6 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. BookerTalk
    May 03, 2021 @ 20:47:56

    Sounds an interesting book Stu. As much as I love the details about Paris that you get with the Maigret novels, the small town setting here appeals too

    Reply

  2. Lisa Hill
    May 04, 2021 @ 00:30:36

    I tried reading a Simenon in French once, but I think I should give up on that and just read him in English:)

    Reply

  3. kaggsysbookishramblings
    May 04, 2021 @ 14:45:28

    I’ve read some of the non-Maigret Simenons, Stu, and they’re very good although very dark.

    Reply

  4. Trackback: That was the month that was May 2021 | Winstonsdad's Blog

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