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Paris Match   (N° 1017)
November 2, 1968, p 7-9

 

The Simenon factory produces
its 200th novel in Switzerland

original French

 

It's 8:00 a.m., the factory awakes.

The dozen employees, the 27 telephones, the master's 50 yellow pencils finely sharpened by electric pencil sharpener... on his desk all is ready for production, in the great white building emitting neither sound no smoke, and which a passer-by could easily take for one of those modern dairies or ultra-chic clinics the Swiss are noted for. The passer-by won't know that it's the Simenon factory, the factory which will produce its 200th novel, the extraordinary house filled with electronic equipment that the father of Maigret has had built on the shores of Lake Geneva.

This time, the publisher who announces the news kills three birds with one stone. He announces the title: "[There are still some hazel trees]" but he immediately adds that it won't appear until March, 1969. That's to clarify that the 198th ("The Man on the Bench in the Barn") will appear in a few days and that in December the 199th ("[The Establishment of Maigret1]") will appear.

But the number 200... is it authentic? That's not certain. Simenon, who is a man who knows how to count, is in a better position than anyone to know the truth. Simenon's 200th novel is like Maurice Chevalier's 80 years... passed long ago, but still celebrated.

And isn't it perhaps a little unsatisfying that the period when Georges Simenon was known as Georges Sim, a pseudonym, is ignored? And not only as Georges Sim but also as Aramis, Christian Brulls, Germain d'Antibes, Georges d'Isly, Poum et Zette, Plick et Plock, Kim, Jean Sandor, Gaston Violis, Jacques Dossage, Jean Dorsange, Jacques Dersonne, Luc Dorsan, Georges Caraman, Georges Martin Georges, Jean du Perry, Maurice Pertuis2, and Gom Gut. All names which hid for a long time a single man... Georges Simenon. One writer in 19 authors.

It probably requires no less, for 300 million copies in 28 languages, the world's second best-seller after Lenin, tied with Agatha Christie and Mao Tse-tung. The printings don't have to be fabulous when you have so many books in so many editions. Every two days, a Simenon novel appears somewhere in the world! Without mentioning films – 60-some-odd at this point – nor the television series in America, England, Japan, Denmark, Germany, and Norway3 based on the 76 novels in which Maigret is the hero.


The first pencil of the writer's day.
To pretend that [There are still hazel trees] is the 200th Simenon novel is to unjustly erase from memory titles not without savor, like [Nini ravished] by Luc Dorsan, [Shirts in the wind] by Gom Gut, [A touch of love] by Georges Martin Georges, [Alas, I love you] by Germain d'Antibes, [The submarine in the forest] by Georges Sim, [The desert of killing cold] by Christian Brulls, [Voluptuous embraces] by Plick and Plock or [Too handsome for her] by Gaston Violis, among dozens of others.

We mustn't forget that in those days, literary overachiever par excellence Simenon was capable of writing a novel in several hours... in a large department store, enclosed in a glass booth, under the eyes of the public! Lenin might well surpass Simenon by 50 million copies, but he never did that.4 And Mao Tse-tung, who swam across the Yangtze, would arrive in a parallel position by elaborating one or two thoughts in his famous Little Red Book.

Four novels a year

"Georges Simenon wrote his first novel at 16. Today, he is 65. This comes to about four novels a year," explains his publisher. A low average, often much higher. Sven Nielsen, top man at Presses de la Cite, must regret not having been Georges Simenon's publisher when he was truly prolific... in 1928, for example, when he published 40 novels in one year, under 10 pseudonyms! Georges Simenon, in losing his pseudonyms, seems to have lost much of his creative force.

Maybe it's because there isn't much left for him to desire anymore. With 300 pipes, 40 rooms, 27 telephones, 7 television sets, 5 cars, 4 children, 2 offices – one, the smaller, for writing, to other to sign contracts – a convertible pool, a machine to photocopy his manuscripts, an electronic laundry in his basement, a super-kitchen with robotic electronic ovens... does he perhaps dream of a some kind of computer capable of writing his next novel, and able to come up with a true and incontestably exact bibliography?


Notes
1. No Maigret novel with that title appeared. In April 1968, "Maigret's Boyhood Friend" was published.
2. Philippe Proost notes out that Maurice Pertuis was not a Simenon pseudonym, as confirmed by experts such as Menguy and Lemoine.
3. Mattias Siwemyr, who has made a study of Maigret films and television series, says there was never a Danish, German or Norwegian series... probably the English series with Rupert Davies.
4. Neither did Simenon. This project was discussed, but never actually came to pass.

translation, notes: Stephen Trussel
Honolulu, September 2008

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