Georges Simenon is known better for his Inspector Maigret novels than his darker, more literary “romans durs.” The latter present a bleak, existential universe without much pleasure. But the short who-done-its are restful to read. The world is orderly, and Maigret is in charge. The best thing about them, aside from the brooding, intuitive Maigret, is the occasional paragraph like this. It is dawn in Paris after an all night investigation:
“All around them, workmen were eating their croissants, still sleepy-eyed, and the early morning mist spangled their overcoats with moisture. It was chilly. In the streets, each passer-by was preceded by a little cloud of steam. Windows were lighting up, one after the other, on the different floors of all the houses.” Continue reading “An exemplary sentence”
I am lucky to have read three excellent books in a row, Monsieur Monde Vanishes, by Georges Simenon in a new translation by Jean Stewart, My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante (translated by Ann Goldstein), and The Other Language, a book of stories by Francesca Marciano.
The stories in the The Other Language are sharply observed vignettes from Italy, Africa, Paris, New York. Almost all have a middle-aged female protagonist. Here are a few lines from “The Presence of Men,” about a very gentle yoga-teacher’s reaction to a husband’s affair:
“Lara stood up from the kitchen table, where they were eating a spinach and beluga lentil salad, and hurled the plate across the room. She saw the crumbled feta scatter in slow motion, then land on his shirt like snowflakes.
She detected a flash of terror in his eyes and knew that at last she’d gained some power over him. She immediately furthered the opportunity and slapped him in the face. Continue reading “The exemplary sentence”