Georges Simenon Biography


(Masterpieces of Fiction, Detective and Mystery Edition)

Georges Joseph Christian Simenon was born on February 13, 1903, in Liège, Belgium. His father, Désiré Simenon, was an accountant from a solid petit bourgeois background; his mother, Henriette Brull, came from a family known for financial instability and social snobbery. The contrast between his paternal and maternal families preoccupied Simenon and often figures in his stories, which tend to idealize the petit bourgeois life and cruelly satirize the pretentious social climbers of the upper-middle class.

Simenon’s family was never well-off, and his education was interrupted by the need to earn money when he learned (at the age of sixteen) that his father was seriously ill. After failing at two menial jobs, he became a cub reporter, at which he was an immediate success. While working at a newspaper and frequenting a group of young artists and poets, he wrote his first novel, Au pont des arches (1921), at the age of seventeen. In 1920 he became engaged to Regine Renchon and enlisted in the army; in 1922 he went to Paris, and he was married the following year. At this time he was writing short stories for Paris journals with amazing rapidity; he wrote more than one thousand stories over the next few years. For two years he was secretary to two young aristocrats, and through them, especially the second, the marquess de Tracy, he made literary connections. In 1924 he began writing popular novels at an incredible rate. The first, a romance titled Le Roman d’une dactylo (1924; the novel of a secretary), was written in a single morning. Simenon...

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Georges Simenon Biography

(Survey of Novels and Novellas)

Born in 1903 in Liège, Belgium, the elder of two brothers, Georges Joseph Christian Simenon enjoyed an urban childhood that was sufficiently middle class that he recalled being disgruntled when his mother felt herself obliged to take in boarders in order to make ends meet. The failing health of his father, an insurance clerk, obliged the young Simenon to cut short his formal education and join the workforce at about age sixteen. After false starts as apprentice to a pastry cook and subsequently as a salesclerk, Simenon found steady work as a journalist at a still-precocious age and thereafter earned his living through writing, either as a journalist or as a secretary-speechwriter. Married in 1923 to Régine Renchon, Simenon later in that year began selling short stories to newspapers and soon expanded to the novel as well, publishing more than two hundred potboilers under various pseudonyms between 1925 and 1934, by which time his own name, thanks in part to Maigret, was beginning to ensure brisk sales.

According to Becker, Simenon originally attempted the detective novel “as a bridge between the popular potboilers he had been writing and the more serious literary efforts to which he aspired but for which he did not consider himself ready.” His proposal accepted by the publisher Fayard, Simenon contracted in 1929 to write eighteen Maigret novels, which in time would expand to eighty-three in addition to shorter Maigret adventures. Curiously,...

(The entire section is 520 words.)

Georges Simenon Biography

(Masterpieces of World Literature, Critical Edition)

George Joseph Chrétien Simenon (see-muh-NAWN) was a man ruled by his passions. Whatever he loved, he did to excess. This was true in both his professional and personal lives. Simenon was an able publicist for himself, and one of his passions was retelling tales of his own life. He wrote two autobiographical novels and four autobiographies. After his retirement in 1973, he stopped writing fiction to concentrate on his memoirs, of which he produced twenty-one volumes. For his biographers, the challenge was not too little information but too much, and much of the information provided, even from Simenon’s own hand, was often contradictory.

One of the most prolific writers in the history of literature, Simenon kept to a rigorous creative schedule that would leave him nearly exhausted at the end of each work. Not only could he write a book in twelve days, he did this as his routine: seven days to write the book and five days to edit it. Typing in excess of eighty pages per day, Simenon would lock himself away in his study and produce several books each year. A legend grew around Simenon’s writing speed. According to the legend, Simenon once contracted to write an entire novel while sealed in a glass case. No evidence exists that this really happened, but it was a commonly held belief. Any accounting of Simenon’s work is based on estimates or best guesses. Having written in so many genres, using varied pseudonyms, and having written a prodigious amount of material make an exact count impossible. He wrote under such names as Bobette, Germain d’Antibes, Jacques Dersonnes, Georges d’Isly, Luc Dorsan, Jean Dorsange, Jean Dossage, Jean du Perry, Georges Martin Georges, Gom Gut, Kim, La Deshabilleuse, Monsieur Le Coq, Plick et Plock, Georges Sim, Gaston Vialis, G. Violis, and Christian Brulls.

Simenon was born in Liège, Belgium, on February 13, 1903, the eldest of two sons born to Désiré and Henriette Simenon. Simenon’s relationships with his father and mother were contrasting. While he adored his father, who often made allowances for Simenon’s youthful indiscretions, his relationship with his mother was strained for his entire life. His mother made no secret that she preferred Simenon’s younger brother, Christian, and she would not spend the money Simenon gave her when he was earning a fortune as the most widely published author in the world. When Simenon was fifteen, his father, an accountant, suffered a heart attack, and Simenon subsequently left school.

The following year, Simenon joined the newspaper Gazette de Liège as a reporter. He began associating with a group of young men who saw themselves as brilliant artists and thinkers. They called their group La Caque (The Cask), which was an appropriate name because they spent most of their free time drinking. Simenon was a fringe member of this group that was ultimately more renowned for its troublemaking than its genius.

It was through members of La Caque, however, that Simenon met Regine Renchon, the woman would become his first wife and the mother of his oldest son. Simenon called her Tigy, and he would refer to her by this name for the rest of his...

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Georges Simenon Biography

(Masterpieces of World Literature, Critical Edition)

The two brands of Georges Simenon novels—the Maigret novels, or roman policiers (police novels), and the Simenon novels, or roman durs (hard novels)—have some important similarities. Both benefit from tight writing, a stingy use of vocabulary, and a complete lack of extraneous or superfluous detail, and they all explore the human character. The human character in Simenon is most often represented by one person, and that one person is trapped in a predicament of his own making. Simenon pushes the character to his breaking point, testing his mettle.

In Three Bedrooms in Manhattan, The Snow Was Black, and Red Lights, each man experiences desperation. Each man is desperate to resolve inner conflict, whether it is an inability to love, a lack of humanity, or a refusal to recognize one’s own faults. Simenon pushes each man to the abyss of personal crisis, prodding him with truth until the man either plunges to his fate or steps back from the brink of disaster to commence his salvation. The purpose of this exercise, repeated in each novel, is always to understand and never to judge.

Georges Simenon Biography

(Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Georges Joseph Christian Simenon (see-muhn-awn), the master of the contemporary psychological novel, is perhaps best known for his detective stories featuring Inspector Maigret, but he also became internationally celebrated for his other novels, which—like the Maigret works—deal with guilt and innocence, flight and return, and the search for home.

Simenon’s parents were a mismatched couple; his father was a petit bourgeois accountant whose values were at complete variance with those of his wife. The contrast between his parents’ values is reflected in Simenon’s stories, which often depict the narrowness and hypocrisy of middle-class values and the appeal of working-class honesty. Simenon dropped out of school...

(The entire section is 821 words.)