|The following excerpts from Chapter 12 of Marnham's biography of Simenon treat the same 1952 European visit as Baleine's Paris Match article. The photographer (Daniel Fillipachi) is mentioned, as well as Simenon's visit to his mother, and the Pedigree libel suit.|
The Man Who Wasn't Maigret - A Portrait of Georges Simenon
New York, Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1992
excerpts from Chapter 12: pp 259, 261-262
While he was living in Lakeville [Connecticut] Simenon twice visited Europe. In October 1954 he made a publicity tour of Britain at the request of Hamish Hamilton. But his first trip, in March 1952, after a seven-year absence, had been a triumphant success. ...
... After Paris Simenon and Denise ... went to Belgium. The official excuse for the whole visit was Simenon's election to the Académie Royale in Brussels, and the enthusiasm in Liège was even greater than it had been in Paris. Simenon's return made front-page news in all the local papers. He wanted to introduce Denise to Henriette, but this was a delicate task and he thought it best to make a preliminary reconnaissance. Daniel Fillipachi, then a Paris-Match photographer, who had been carrying out a paparazzi operation on the sombre pavements of Outremeuse (even though Simenon had taken care to arrive twenty-four hours early), was persuaded to desist, and the novelist made his way alone to 5 rue de l'Enseignement, the terrace house where his mother now lived and which was in sight of the house where he himself had grown up. It was almost thirty years to the day of his departure. His mother had remarried and been rewidowed, she had lost her beloved younger son; he himself had been divorced and remarried, but had not brought either of Henriette's grandchildren to see her. He had not seen her for fourteen years. When he reached the doorstep Simenon did not ring the bell, uncertain at the last moment whether he had the right address; instead he faced the door which was so similar to the door of his own childhood and gave the signal which the wrong occupant might not respond to, but which would certainly bring his mother, even though he was a day early. He did what he had always done as a child, he rattled the letter-box. The door opened and his mother stood there. 'Georges, it's you!' They embraced and Simenon said that he felt on the verge of tears.
She looked at me with that timid, self-effacing smile which I had always remembered as hers. She still had the same way of apologising for being there, of apologising for her existence, perhaps because she was the thirteenth child of a German father and a Dutch mother.They went inside and talked for a while. There was a portrait of him on the wall, made by Tigy when he was 19 years old. One of his mother's first remarks was, 'Why don't you settle down in Liège? You would be very well placed here.' Thirty years on Henriette was taking up her farewell remarks made to Georges on the eve of his original departure. Eventually Georges refused her invitation to stay to supper and went back to the Hôtel de Suede where he had once interviewed Poincaré and the Crown Prince Hirohito. The hotel was run down now, but he felt more comfortable there than he would have felt staying with Denise in his mother's spare room. For the first half-hour of the visit, he noted in Mémoires intimes, he and his mother avoided each other's eyes.
The fête that followed during the next few days in Liège was memorable enough. It was further enlivened by a libel action over Pedigree that came to court on the first day of his visit and which Simenon lost. One of his mother's former lodgers had sued him for making fun of his activities as a medical student. The case increased Simenon's stature as Liège's most famous son, but it resulted in several lengthy passages being removed from Pedigree. He was very angry about the judgment which the plaintiffs had obtained despite all the eloquence of Maître Maurice Garçon, who had travelled from Paris to represent his old friend. Maître Garçon asked Dr Marcel Chaumont, by now an oculist, if he had lost a single patient because it was said in Pedigree that he had once hidden a skeleton in a girl's bed. But the court was unmoved, and Simenon had to pay damages and costs.
Simenon in Liège was now a personality of the sort he himself mocked as a young reporter, and it was his turn to be interviewed by the disrespectful members of his former trade, his turn to be guest of honour at the pompous official receptions which he had once been thrown out of. When he glanced at the reporters' table, did he see the shade of an irreverent boy columnist staggering to his feet and hear the accompanying cry, "You bunch of old fools ... God this is boring!'? His turn even came to lay a wreath on the Outremeuse war memorial in the place d'Yser; in view of his own memories of the first occupation and his brother's activities during the second, this event provided perhaps the most bizarre moment of the visit.
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