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Paris Match   (N° 1509)
Avril 28, 1978, pp 50-51

 

Georges Simenon:
Attacked by his wife
thirteen years after their
separation

by Dominique Ottavioli

original French

 

Simenon's last novel* was called "In the shade of our tree." He had found the inspiration under the unique cedar that grows in the courtyard of the housing unit where he lives as a reclusive multi-millionaire. On her side, his wife Denyse found the inspiration for her novel "A bird for the cat" while sifting through her memories of their 20 years of life together.

At the foot of his hundred-year-old cedar, Simenon the multi-millionaire takes a rest from his thousands of women. And makes some wise decisions — one, among others, not to answer, in writing at least, the book that his ex-wife Denyse has published. The companion of Georges Simenon for twenty years, from 1945 to 1965, felt the pressing need to devote a work of 322 pages to the most prolific author in the world. She tells how her husband, who became the richest French novelist, made a businesswoman of her. But also the manner in which he got rid of her — by having her committed to a clinic for depressed millionaires at Prangins, in Switzerland. Denyse Simenon forgives herself for having wanted to settle accounts. "It is hard to imagine that geniuses go through everyday life. I merely tried to give my mythical husband a human dimension and to return to him a warmth that he is losing." (Understood since their separation). Denyse tells of the passions of the father of Maigret, which he himself doesn't hide. "He confessed," recalls Denyse, "to having had 10,000 women since the age of fourteen." But one also learns that Simenon was apparently something of a tyrant. "He told me," writes Denyse, 'You were born the day I met you.' He wanted me as his thing." Where does the title of her book, "A bird for the cat," come from? "I am, in spite of everything," confides Denyse, "the only woman he truly loved. Why me? A miracle. Or maybe some neurotic compensation. He adored Joséphine Baker, but their affair lasted only three months. Jo was too afraid of becoming Mr. Baker. He didn't actually cheat on me. All his mistresses were prostitutes." At 52, Denyse keeps the name Simenon. "Jo doesn't want a divorce. And he gives me a pension equivalent to a thousandth of his income." An income that remains a mystery, even for the tax office, since Simenon pays a fixed yearly rate. A strange multi-millionaire who sold his thirty-room house at Epalinges on Lake Geneva to live in Lausanne in a maid's room... with his maid.

* Not a novel, but one of his dictées: "A l'abri de notre arbre", dictated at Montreux (Vaud), from December 12, 1975 - January 6, 1976, then at Lausanne, 12 avenue des Figuiers, from January 9-13, 1976; revised September 6-8, 1976. Paris, Presses de la Cité, September 1977. (Tout Simenon Tome 26, p 1123)

 

translation and note by Stephen Trussel


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