The people Opposite by Georges Simenon

The People opposite by Georges simenon

Belgian  fiction

original title – Les Gens d’en face 

Translator  – Sian Reynolds

Source – review copy

I am as you may know a huge fan of simenon both his crimes and no crime works which over the last decade or so Penguin has been bring out in new translations. I have reviewed 11 from the books that have. come out so far and my intention is to try over time read all the books Penguin has brought out from him a long term project for me not a race as I find myself reviewing two or three a year from him and I do have a couple on my shelves. But was happy when I was asked if I was interested in reviewing this which is an early book in his writing life being written in 1933 and is also for Simenon a political book it came after he had a trip to Stalins Russia in 1933 and came back and wrote this book.It was originally published in seven parts so there is that pacing of a serial work.

The only newcomer present was Adil Bey, and he was so recent that he had arrived in Batumi that very morning. At the Turkish consulate, he had found a single official from Tbilisi holding the fort.

The official, who would be leaving again that night, had brought Adil new along to the Italian consulate, to introduce him to his two colleagues.

Adil is the new boy in the town.

The book was written on his return and what we get is the Stalinist Russia caught in a small Black Sea port and we are introduced to the New Turkish consul AdilBey who has been sent to the port town which is a multi cultural place. But he feels out of place  and why did his previous consul turn up dead and why did thethe other Turkish staff disappear back to his base as soon as he appears. there is a sense of poverty the town, even thou it is near the oil rich fields of Russia. Adil is alone in this town and so when his Russian secretary appears Sonia she has been sent to help him and this sparks Aldi how falls for `Sonia and gets obsessive around her as he watches her in the room opposite his office.But is she trying to tempt him ? we see the two grow close but there is always a sense of more to this relationship she lives with her brother a member of the GPU( the state police). The action slowly unwinds you cans see where this relationship is going and it isn’t going end in wedding bells and roses !!!

This girl, Sonia, could hardly be more than eighteen years old. She was a slip of a thing, with a pale face, fair hair and light blue eyes, yet she had a calm and self assured strength that panicked the consul. The door had remained open and he walked over to watch, as she told the crowd to leave.

She was standing very upright in. the middle of the office, pen in hand, and speaking Russian, without raising her voice but gesturing to stress what she wanted. Since the woman nursing the the baby had remained sitting in her corne, she walked straight up to her, removed the child from the breast, and buttoned up the woman’s blue herself

His initial meeting with Sonia his secretary when she arrives you sense his wonder at this young woman.

For me has caught what must have been the soviet world at times where everyone at some point seems to be spying on one another. It has a slow burning as we see the two grow closer I was remind of the relationship in tinker tailor soldier spy with Ricky and the Russian wife there is always a sense that this isn’t going be a good outcome. He slowly unfurls their relationship but then you figure there may be more to it than first meets the eye this is of course Stalin’s Russia and there is the under running current of fear and worry in the book and the way people act at times.It also capture a lonely man a women in a situation that is caught between love and duty. I liked this book it is different to his other books but he is very good at what makes people tick at times and he has caught that here the way the characters although obvious show how the system was and also the effect of a system like stalinism on those inside it and also coming into it from the outside was there a similar Sonia figure that maybe caught Simenon eyes when he was on his trip too Russia. There is an intro where he does say a bout his time in Russia. I do wonder  how ,such pop Adil is him in disguise as he wrote this straight after his return. Have you a favourite Simeon or book in Soviet Russia written from someone that visited Russia at the time ?

Winstons score – A a solid afternoon read that deals with Stalinism through the prism of two characters one inside and one outside the regime.

 

May 2022
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