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Le Soir Illustré
September 14, 1989
N° 2986, pp 4-20

All Simenon

Album of a prodigious life

Curious since childhood
Houses with a view
Is communication closer
Three brief encounters
Liège lived in Simenon
The Simenon atmosphere
Jean Richard will make his 92nd
I'm the last Parisian
The Legacy at Liège
The author of the naked man
His handwriting reveals
original French

His handwriting reveals... prodigeously disconcerting

The copy of Georges Simenon's writing reproduced here dates from some thirty years ago, when he was in full form, in full activity. What density of text when you consider this small piece of writing!

Naturally, on unlined paper – handwriting so dense, so tight, would not be accommodated by any such constraint of lineage or format. It would have irritated the writer considerably, constrained the thread of his thoughts.

The handwriting is reduced to its simplest expression. The minimum of means, of fatigue. To write very small allows you – usually – to write very quickly. Look at this line, simplified, but not dry. See these ligatures. Everything is conceived for speed. For readability? That's another question. Yet all the letters are perfectly formed. Little obliteration. Everything flows in a stream. Let's scrutinize this writing – slightly rising, extraordinarily regular. Small, with fine inequalities. He was, nonetheless a sensitive and receptive being! There are not only all the signs of the greatest receptivity, but also those of an extraordinarily observant mind.

Look at this writing, at the same time with the feature hot, full and "moiré" as they say nowadays. It is the wealth of the life, the vitality of the author that expresses itself thus. Simenon is a world unto himself. He is also tremendously disconcerting – it is, in characterological terms, an active-non-emotional secondary. Therefore a phlegmatic type, according to the classification of Le Senne. There are, indeed, few irregularities in this continuous line without monotony. But I want to stress non-emotional. He could have a chilling coldness when he wasn't – or was no longer – interested in something. He could also be extremely gracious, welcoming... but not all the time, and not with just anyone.

See these dry downstrokes, in the shape of baton – this is no indication of a materialist or a sensualist. Is he therefore an ascetic? Far from it, as the wealth of his features proves the opposite. This writing also denotes an almost manic concern with order and method. And yet – another contradiction – this being of order, habits, and manias, is as unstable as can be imagined.

Now consider his signature – it is big and wide, legible (except for the "G" of the first name), underlined, remarkably affirmative. The numbers are not well formed. Disdain of money? Or of keeping accounts?

Look again at the logic that frees itself from these well-spaced lines, with perfect regularity. The spirit of detail is well marked here, nothing is left in the shade, all is said, clearly, explicitly. Specified. This is not a simple fantasy, it is logical, strong, constructed. Like the writing as a whole.

What to conclude? That Simenon was a truly great novelist, who knew how to transport millions of readers into truly thrilling moments.

A.-M. Cobbaert

translation: Stephen Trussel
Honolulu - January 2006

Le Soir Illustré
September 14, 1989
N° 2986, pp 4-20

All Simenon

Album of a prodigious life

Curious since childhood
Houses with a view
Is communication closer
Three brief encounters
Liège lived in Simenon
The Simenon atmosphere
Jean Richard will make his 92nd
I'm the last Parisian
The Legacy at Liège
The author of the naked man
His handwriting reveals
original French


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