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Le Soir magazine
February 12, 2003

The Simenon Year

Simenonville remembers
Simenon in Paris
A star never honored
An immense œuvre
Simenon in the Pléiade
Treasures of the Simenon Collection
Intimate Memoirs of a son
His final residence
A life of breaks and changes
On the festival menu
The Simenon Production
They all played Maigret
At the movies, 57 films

original French

Georges Simenon the man

One of the writer's sons has assumed the administration of the rights to his work.
He evokes a little-known side of Simenon, that of a father.

The intimate memoirs of a son

collected and arranged by Alain Van Der Eecken

Fonds Simenon
Marie-Jo and John dressed as Maigret in 1956. Today, John lives in the house his father had built in Epalinges, near Lake Geneva.

Georges Simenon produced more than 400 novels, and four children: Marc, John, Marie-Jo and Pierre. His novelistic work is unceasingly explored, analysed by literary scholars. He, who untiringly sought to present the "naked man" in his work, is seen undressed by his critics.

His life has been autopsied, without the specialist's uncovering anything but lesions with no great mystery, common wounds, the ordinary contents of a "poor package of secrets". It is other looks at this man which have seen another character: a father. John Simenon lives today in Switzerland where he has assumed the heavy charge of the rights of the work of his father. Son of Denyse Ouimet, Georges Simenon's second wife, John was born September 29, 1949, in Tucson, Arizona. He would followed his parents eto Switzerland and live, from 1963 to 1968, in the house which the writer had had built at Epalinges. Georges Simenon left this house on September 21, 1972, three days after making the decision to stop writing. Joyce Aitken had been the writer's faithful collaborator in charge of the administration of the rights, and keeping the "Simenon Factory" running. Upon her death in 1995, John Simenon took over these responsibilities. His career in cinema and television production had placed him naturally in this position. He left Paris and established himself in the house at Epalinges, near Lausanne.

While Simenon was alive, this dwelling caused much ink to flow. Immense, it could be taken for a school or a clinic. The number of rooms, their dimensions, their ultra-modern equipment, would excite imaginations. The house would soon be peopled by journalistic phantoms. They told of an imaginary operating theater in the basement, confirming the hygienic worries of the master of the house. This description, these phantoms, irritate John Simenon who live for eight years in this dwelling... You know, there's nothing extraordinary about this house. I could name you a hundred around this lake, much stranger, more mysterious or luxurious, but they are hidden behind walls. I've chosen to set myself up here with my family, here, for convenience. In fact it's a little too big, but I don't plan to spend my entire life here.

Doesn't this place hold bad memories for the Simenon children, of the separation of their parents? The relationship between my father and mother led them to separate, and I'm grateful to them for having chosen for us the least suffering. But this is part of my private life, an intimacy of which I don't want to speak. Our life with my father was the same as all children. We went to school, argued with friends, made up. My father was very present at our sides. Our school was near the house and we could come home for lunch. My father was there, and we could talk, about everything, very simply. Of course, sometimes, he thought about his characters. We didn't question him about what he was writing. I took a walk with him every afternoon, where we had very direct conversations, as I talked about my problems as a boy.

When he'd finished a book, he gave us the typescript. I read all the books he wrote at Epalinges.

At that time, if he gave us a book, he didn't ask us to read it and to tell him what we thought.

When I was older, I'd sometimes talk about such-and-such a book with him. He listened carefully. It sometimes troubled him to remember a plot or a character.

We never had any problem communicating. He took his role as a father very seriously. In the eyes of others, the man has been overshadowed by the novelist. The legend, which he sometimes contributed to, built knowingly or unconsciously, made him disappear.

For us, he was a father who always left us free to choose, but who repeated to us, "Before speaking of your rights, think of your obligations." This sentence still often echoes within me.

tr: ST 2/07

Le Soir magazine
February 12, 2003

The Simenon Year

Simenonville remembers
Simenon in Paris
A star never honored
An immense œuvre
Simenon in the Pléiade
Treasures of the Simenon Collection
Intimate Memoirs of a son
His final residence
A life of breaks and changes
On the festival menu
The Simenon Production
They all played Maigret
At the movies, 57 films


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