A woman alone, at the foot of a magnificent cedar. It has kept watch for two hundred years over the pink Lausanne house where the novelist Georges Simenon spent the last years of his life. This tree had already seen the scattering of the ashes of his daughter, Marie-Jo, in 1978. Today, Teresa adds those of the father. A double wish accomplished. Neither of them are truly gone now, they have become the soul of the garden.
Behind Teresa's smooth forehead, and the natural serenity that so struck Simenon when he first saw her in 1961, a multitude of images are stored. With him she lived through a good many dramas, but she had also known love. Hired as a secretary, she very quickly became nurse, confidante... indispensable. Between them it was first the physical understanding. "Teresa soothes me, delights me", he confided in his Intimate Memoirs.
Much has been made of the famous declaration of Georges Simenon to his friend Fellini at the time of the filming of Casanova: "I've known ten thousand women, of whom eight thousand were prostitutes." His first sexual experience goes back to the age of 12. It dates from then, his love of women, for the woman.
"Since my youth, I've made love every day, more often two or three times. It was enough for me to lightly touch a woman on the platform of a bus, and I'd hurry to a whorehouse. It was a nearly painful need, a devouring thirst. And that's how it was until I met Teresa."
In his Intimate Memoirs, the novelist confesses to his great shame that at the age of 18, he traded his father's adored watch for one night with a black woman that he wanted ardently. But he also adds that he is not sexually obsessed, whatever the stories say: "Allow me to point out that I have very normal tastes, and that I am not the only one to be moved, since my adolescence, by imperious sexual needs. I have a taste for beautiful, noble material. Is there more splendid material than skin, than a woman's flesh? Is communication closer between two beings that couple?" Paradoxically, the woman's bewildered quest, quest for love, physical love and tenderness, throws her into the arms of the marriage. He met, in Liège, a young woman painter, Regina Renchon, whom he called Tigy. In 1923 he was 18 he married her.
It was the most romantic period of his life. His writings are a hymn to women. Love? It exists, but... without frenzy nor ecstasy. And throughout their shared life, he "cheated" on her, not only with their young maid, Henriette, called Boule who will only leave them to take care of their son Marc's children, but with hundreds of women. When she realized, Tigy, so jealous, nevertheless recovered. Each took their liberty, and even after their separation they remained the best of friends. Tigy also served him as shelter against his passion for women. That he felt, for example, for Joséphine Baker "whom I would have married," he says, "if I had not refused, unknown that I was then, to become Mr. Baker. I went with Tigy to take refuge on the island of Aix, by La Rochelle, to try to forget her, and we didn't meet again until thirty years later, in New York, still as in love with each other."
In New York, however, it was to another passion, devastating, to which he succumbed. He was famous, like his commissioner Maigret. And while he let himself be ravaged by what he called "an illness of the heart", he dove every day into the quiet and snug universe of the Maigrets. True fairy of the home, Louise Mme Maigret was always there to wait for her husband, with a small dish simmering on the stove. She was there with a scarf or slippers for him, accompanied him to the movies in spite of swollen feet, and gave him all her affection, without feeling entitled to influence him in any way whatever. Neither invading nor domineering as the mothers in Simenon's books, and of whom he sometimes made true shrews. The only gesture of tenderness between them: when the commissioner left his wife in the morning, he tapped her gently on the rear. Plump, with a trusting smile, didn't Louise Maigret represent the perfect maternal surrogate? She was far from Denise Ouimet, Canadian candidate secretary for Simenon, who very quickly became his mistress. Thin and brunette, the antithesis of the women he liked, blond and plump, a little like Mme Maigret. "Besides," he said, "I liked simple women and I had fallen for the most complicated woman I ever had met." For her he divorced. She was absolutely anxious to become Mme Georges Simenon.
They had three children, two boys, Johnny and Pierre, and a girl, Marie-Jo, whose fragility would suffer from the maternal imbalance. The marriage was a mixture of blind passion, highs and lows, tears and injuries "that I accepted for a long time," he wrote, "in the hopes of seeing her one day relieved, and simply a woman." But in vain. He himself had almost succumbed to the temptation of suicide, and without Teresa he would not have managed it. After their separation, Denise, whom he persists in calling by her initial "D" in his Memoirs, published a book that, he says, contains more inaccuracies than truths, and that hurt Marie-Jo. Sick of love for her father at eight she had asked him for a wedding band that, troubled, he gave her, and that she would keep all her life traumatized by the "madness" of her mother, unfit to live, to like herself, she shoots a bullet into her heart at the age of 25. A new drama for Simenon, from which he will never completely recover... even with the serenity and acceptance that will come with age. At 80, he could write "In the end, what I have searched for all my life, so curious about all women, getting married twice, disappointed twice, always running after something I didn't know, I finally learned. The goal of my tireless quest was not a woman but "the woman", the true. And I found her!"
translation: Stephen Trussel
Home Bibliography Reference Forum Plots Texts Simenon Gallery Shopping Film Links