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The Bulletin at 60: From the archive 2007: Cleveland Moffett honours his literary hero Georges Simenon

11:20 08/03/2023
Cleveland Moffett profiled the best-selling Belgian author Georges Simenon in The Bulletin in January 2003 ahead of centenary celebrations in his home city of Liège. For The Bulletin’s 45th anniversary issue in 2007, the late Bulletin journalist wrote a follow-up piece about Simenon’s literary legacy.

I’m happy to say that I no longer have to argue defensively for recognition of Simenon’s genius.

In the four years since I wrote this piece a lot has happened to justify my championing him as one of the major writers of our time.

The handsome maroon and gold Pléiade volumes have appeared and, inevitably, launched a literary feud over the 20 novels selected for the collection, pitting defenders of the ins against the outs.

And now the Americans have joined the debate with The New York Review of Books including eight Simenon novels in their Classics series, more than any other author. If anything, his backers have begun to protest too much, upping the ante as if to shame any remaining detractors into silence.

John Banville writing in The New Republic is not content to claim that the romans durs (meaning the non-Maigrets) are “tough, bleak… frightening… yet wonderfully entertaining,” he insists that, “They are more philosophically profound than any of the fiction of Camus or Satre…”

George Simenon

Well! I wouldn’t have dared go quite so far myself, but now that Banville has set the pace I am ready to cheer him on. I have to admit I enjoyed my minority-of-one status while it lasted. I’ll just have to get used to hearing people agree with me. But of course with Simenon it is always possible to argue that they have not read the right ones. Do you know Le Clan des Ostendais? No? How about Les Anneaux de Bicêtre? You don’t?

And Les Volets verts? Oh, well, then you don’t know the real Simenon at all!

This article was first published in September 2007.

Read about the Simenon Spring festival in Liège from 8 until 11 March to mark the 120th anniversary of the author’s birth

Written by The Bulletin