For forty years Charles Alavoine has sleepwalked through his life. Growing up as a good boy in the grip of a domineering mother, he trains as a doctor, marries, opens a medical practice in a quiet country town, and settles into an existence of impeccable bourgeois conformity. And yet at unguarded moments this model family man is haunted by a sense of emptiness and futility.
Then, one night, laden with Christmas presents, he meets Martine. It is time for the sleeper to awake.
Open any of his major novels: at once, a magic takes effect. From the first paragraph, you are gripped as if by the jaws of a steel trap that will not release its hold until the final full stop of the last page; and, even then, after you have shut the book, you remain stunned… . Again and again we return [to Simenon] to draw the courage to contemplate our own misery without flinching. —Simon Leys
Simenon’s romans durs are utterly unsentimental, frightening in the pitilessness of their gaze, yet wonderfully entertaining. —John Banville
Like Patricia Highsmith, Simenon grasped the psycho-pathology of the twentieth century at its intractable roots. —Gary Indiana, New York
Simenon’s novels are acute, compact, remarkably varied, and as lapidary as great pop songs. —Luc Sante
Irresistible. A writer of total pessimism and total integrity, yet marvelously alive… You read him at your peril, avoid him at your loss.
—The Sunday Times (London)