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Dirty Snow (New York Review Books Classics) Paperback – August 31, 2003

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Editorial Reviews


“Attention should be paid to the New York Review of Books' continuing reissues of Georges Simenon. Simenon was legendary both for his literary skill–four or five books every year for 40 years–and his sexual capacity, at least to hear him tell it. What we can speak of with some certainty are the novels, which are tough, rigorously unsentimental and full of rage, duplicity and, occasionally, justice. Simenon's tone and dispassionate examination of humanity was echoed by Patricia Highsmith, who dispensed with the justice. So far, the Review has published Tropic Moon, The Man Who Watched Trains Go By, Red Lights, Dirty Snow and Three Bedrooms in Manhattan; The Strangers in the House comes out in November. Try one, and you'll want to read more.” –The Palm Beach Post

“What many regard as the finest of all noir novels…"--Tim Rutten, The Los Angeles Times

Dirty Snow is an astonishing work....a bleak masterpiece, its darkness is as William T. Vollmann writes in a perceptive afterword, 'as solid and heavy as the interior of a dwarf star.'” --John Banville, The New Republic

Dirty Snow is both exhilirating and taxing: exhilirating because it frees the reader to imagine unthinkable acts of violence and degradation and, if not to approve of them exactly, then at least to better understand their origin; and taxing because of the effort it takes to even visit Simenon’s nihilist world for a while. ... Dirty Snow has an eerie locomotion, an eerie appeal.” --Bill Eichenberger, Columbus Dispatch

“Simenon may not have thought much of humanity, but few writers have captured its squalid core the way he did.” --Time Out New York

“Extraordinary… Simenon demonstrates a rare mastery"--Anita Brookner

“A Master storyteller… Simenon gave to the puzzle story a humanity that it had never had before.”--Daily Telegraph

“The best mystery writer today is a Belgian who writes in French. His name is Georges Simenon.”--Dashiell Hammett

“A truly wonderful writer… marvellously readable, lucid, simple, absolutely in tune with that world he creates.”--Muriel Spark

“One of the very few novels to come out of German-occupied France that gets it exactly right.”--Hans Konning

“The great master of unease”--Marcel Clements, International Herald Tribune

“The gift of narration is the rarest of all gifts in the 20th century. Georges Simenon has that to the tips of his fingers.”--Thorton Wilder

“At his best, Simenon is an all-round master craftsman- ironic, disciplined, highly intelligent, with fine descriptive power. His themes are timeless in their preoccupation with the interrelation of evil, guilt and good; contemporary in their fidelity to the modern context and Gallic in precision, logic and a certain emanation of pain or disquiet. His fluency is of course astonishing. His life is itself a work by Simenon.” --Francis Steegmuller

“Georges Simenon is more than prolific. His psychological intensity and compression of style mark him as a leading writer of the Century.”-- The New York Times

"Georges Simenon is a recent discovery for me -- not the Maigret books, but what Simenon called his "romans durs", such as "Dirty Snow" and "Three Bedrooms in Manhattan" -- and hard they are indeed. The latest of these New York Review Books reissues, "Tropic Moon" (translated from the French by Marc Romano) is a dark masterpiece set among French colonials in heart-of-darkness Gabon in the early 1930s. Cruel, erotic, frightening and superb." -- John Banville, The Los Angeles Times

About the Author

Georges Simenon was one of the most popular and esteemed novelists of the 20th century. He wrote close to 200 novels, many devoted to the legendary Inspector Maigret.

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Product Details

  • Series: New York Review Books Classics
  • Paperback: 272 pages
  • Publisher: NYRB Classics; Rep Sub edition (August 31, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1590170431
  • ISBN-13: 978-1590170434
  • Product Dimensions: 5 x 0.6 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (28 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #161,086 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Georges Simenon is one of the most addictive and bestselling European authors of the 20th Century. His work consists of 391 titles, and he is best known as the creator of the fictional detective series consisting of 75 books featuring Inspector Maigret, translated into more than 50 languages and sold in more than 50 countries. There are over 800 million Simenon books sold worldwide and he is the most translated French speaking author of the 20th century and the second most translated author of all time in Italy after Shakespeare.

'A writer who, more than any other crime novelist, combined a high literary reputation with popular appeal' P.D. James

'My readings? I read Tout Simenon, and when I'm done, I start all over again' Claude Chabrol

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

26 of 27 people found the following review helpful By Lonya VINE VOICE on October 24, 2006
Format: Paperback
doubt only of thought. Soren Kierkegaard

Frank Friedmaier, the protagonist of Georges Simenon's novel "Dirty Snow" seems to have no doubts about his life. In fact he seems to be more a creature of base animal instinct than of anything resembling thought. If he has doubts about anything they are not evident. But his words and deeds bespeak an unconscious despair so profound that the reader can feel it with every page.

Simenon was nothing if not prolific in both his literary and public life. Born in Belgium in 1903, Simenon turned out hundreds of novels. Simenon's obsession with writing caused him to break off an affair (he was prolific in this area of his life as well) with the celebrated Josephine Baker in Paris when he could only write twelve novels in the twelve month period in which they were involved. Although perhaps best known for his Inspector Maigret detective novels, Simenon also wrote over a hundred novels that he referred to as `romans durs' (literally "hard novels"). "Dirty Snow" is one of Simenon's hard novels and to call it noir is an understatement. "Dirty Snow" is darker than noir, devoid of any light or optimism. In the hands of Simenon it is an absorbing (entertaining seems an inapt word) look at the darker side of life.

Frank Friedmaier lives in his mother's brothel in a small apartment building. The brothel is in an unnamed city in occupied France during World War II. Frank divides his time between the brothel and a local bar inhabited by an assortment of shady characters that include low level criminals, women of `easy virtue', and the occasional German soldier. When he returns home at night he camps down with whichever one of his mother's employees suits his fancy. What follows may best be described as nasty, brutish, and short.
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27 of 32 people found the following review helpful By J. A. Gertzman on January 22, 2004
Format: Paperback
This novel is set in an occupied European city (Paris? The names are Germanic) during WWII (it was first published in 1950). I can certainly see it as a powerful portrait of a people under surveillance, living in poverty, going through a numbing routine of survival with no sense of getting control of their lives. Then, Paris, Amsterdam, Prague; today, Kabul or Bagdad. Is this the only way to read the novel? I do not think so.
There is no political resistance, no underground. No one speaks for the city or nation which is occupied. There are some citizens whom Simenon shows knowing and offering love and mutuality. The authorities could be municipal police as easily as military secret police. The protagonist, Frank, a 17year old hoodlum, thief, thrill-killer, and accessory to murder, is the son of a madam who lives with her girls in an apartment house. Frank is determined to test himself and his inner resources, and the way he chooses, maybe the only way available, is to prove he has the power to remain unmoved by various cruelties and evils he perpetrates. He does what he does by free, rational choice, in cold blood and without remorse. He's hard boiled to the core. And yet, clearly at the end of the book he punishes, and has punished, himself. He is in search of a father (Mr Holst) and a lover (Holst's daughter Sissy), like every young man, but he deliberately puts himself beyond the reach of them, or of any kind of life. He wants to be tortured, and sees himself as wanting and deserving death. I'm not sure exactly what happens to Frank at the end, although he may be about to be executed. Somehow Frank had defined love and fatherly affection as weakness, or perhaps as experiences shut off to him by the very fact that he is the young man he is. Puzzling, noir, mysterious. And a powerful existential novel.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Steven Reynolds on March 25, 2005
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Eighteen-year-old Frank Friedermaier lives in an occupied, wartime city. But he lives in relative luxury with his mother, who operates a clandestine brothel from their top-floor apartment, while the neighbours suffer through the winter with tiny lumps of coal and watery soups. Since he was a child - when he was temporarily shipped off to rural foster parents - Frank has wrestled with the problem of powerlessness in the face of destiny. Confronted with fate, one might either deny it or embrace it. But Frank chooses to taunt it by running huge risks and daring the world to snap back at him. In this way he makes himself feel powerful. The occupied city gives him every opportunity for such a game, letting him follow abjection wherever it leads: murder, petty theft, procuring young girls for his mother's business, and subjecting the one girl who loves him to a quite depraved betrayal. It can only be a matter of time before destiny bites back... Simenon's project here seems to be the exploration of a particular type of personality. He has been praised for getting the sense of occupied France "just right", but it could just as easily be American-occupied Germany, or any situation in which an individual feels oppressed by social convention. The story is a simple one, but the real interest here is Frank's character. The more we observe him, the more we see that there is something driving him other than the apparent urge for annihilation. In the final pages, we see that his violent immoral quest has been, ironically, as much about striving for connection as self-destruction: he is reaching out for a father in Holst, a lover in Sissy and, in "the woman at the window", a vision of domestic bliss.
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