(Masterpieces of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Three Bedrooms in Manhattan is semiautobiographical, based on Simenon’s meeting with his second wife, Denise Ouimet. In Simenon’s role is French actor François Combe, a man jilted by his more-famous French actress wife. He has come to New York to escape his demons, not to mention his former wife, her younger lover, and the French press.

Combe has been in the city for several weeks, moving into a series of more decrepit apartments. He is ashamed to have anyone see his latest residence. He walks into a neighborhood bar late one night to escape the squalor. Sitting at the bar is a fairly attractive woman, and she strikes up a conversation with Combe. Her name is Katherine, but Combe likes to call her Kay.

Simenon describes the chance encounter of two desperately lonely people. As Kay is perched on her barstool, temporarily homeless, she tells herself that she will become attached to the next man she meets. She meets Combe. Meanwhile, Combe tells himself that he is just visiting New York, and he can go home and resume his career any time he wants. He spends his days drinking and carousing with his fellow French show business expatriates. Combe is more than fifty years old now and unbelievable in leading man roles. He is reduced to walk-on character parts requiring a middle-aged Frenchman. Kay calls him Frank.

Their first night together resembles a forced march through a desert; the hot, unforgiving desert is replaced by the cold night and the equally unforgiving city streets. They latch on to each other like two people who are drowning, each hoping the other knows how to swim. Clinging to each other, they walk and walk, stop for a drink, play a tune on the jukebox, and repeat the process over and over until the sun comes up and exhaustion claims them.

Since she has no home and he is ashamed of his, they find a seedy hotel. It is their...

(The entire section is 774 words.)


(Masterpieces of World Literature, Critical Edition)

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