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Pedigree (New York Review Books Classics) Paperback – July 20, 2010


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Product Details

  • Series: New York Review Books Classics
  • Paperback: 560 pages
  • Publisher: NYRB Classics (July 20, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1590173511
  • ISBN-13: 978-1590173510
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 1.2 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #599,853 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

 “Pedigree is an unforgettable picture of the Belgian city of Liège and its people as observed by the innocent but pitiless eye of a very unusual little boy. It is a Dickensian portrait, with poverty, crime, lunacy, wealth, corruption, and mockery, but a complete absence of Dickensian sentimentality. The story opens with the birth of Roger Mamelin in 1903 and ends with the liberation of the city from German occupation in November 1918...The author objected to the book being called an “autobiographical novel,” but the details of Roger’s life are too close to those of Simenon’s for argument.”–Patrick Marnham, The Wall Street Journal

 

"This is what makes Simenon such an extraordinary novelist: the way he can mix everything together; the way he collects sounds, smells and sights and inflects them with menace, arousal, comfort or some other abstract quality that becomes concrete on the page and blooms into a story. Among other things, "Pedigree" is a remarkable act of mixing memory and imagination, re-creating the textures, places and people the author had left behind." --The Los Angeles Times


“…once I begin to read his work, especially the romans durs, nothing else exists but the slide into whatever seedy underworld awaits… his autobiographical novel Pedigree is something of a departure, and not simply in terms of length. Pedigree is the book that Simenon spent the most time on, and it’s the one where the most time passes. —Liz Brown, The Paris Review Daily

 
"Pedigree is an unforgettable picture of the Belgian city of Liège and its people as observed by the innocent but pitiless eye of a very unusual little boy. It is a Dickensian portrait, with poverty, crime, lunacy, wealth, corruption, and mockery, but a complete absence of Dickensian sentimentality.” —Patrick Marnham, The Wall Street Journal

"...it's always enjoyable, and good to have back in English" --The Guardian (UK)

Pedigree is a very beautiful book full with humanism and tenderness, a gruff tone and sharp-edged words. A real discovery.” -La Tribune (Paris)

 

“Simenon was born in 1903 in Liege, Belgium. He tells the story of his childhood-his petit-bourgeois upbringing, his scheming mother, the early death of his gentle and unambitious father, the ravages of the war-in Pedigree, the barely fictionalized memoir that is his masterpiece and quite possibly the greatest single work of Belgian literature.”; -Luc Sante, New York Magazine

 

“Simenon brings to life in Pedigree the whole sensory world of his childhood in Liege. His words capture the sounds, sights, tastes, smells, and textures of the city…Writing in prose that is pictorial and tactile, Simenon in Pedigree does for Liege what the young Joyce did for Dublin: he evokes the city with such immediacy that we feel we've walked in its streets.” --Lucille Frackman Becker, Georges Simenon

 

“How important a writer is Georges Simenon? The greatest storyteller of our day, a writer comparable with Balzac…” -Julian Symons, The New York Times

 

"As the New York Review of Books Classics series publishes Simenon after Simenon at a rate the novelist would envy, it's tempting to read them all in a lump, as an extensive, though still partial, psychological portrait of the writer." -The Nation

 

"These books...are not mysteries...They are hard, blunt, frequently punishing studies of human beings driven by circumstance and personality to the ends of their tethers, forcing them to extreme measures...They are acute, compact, remarkably varied, and as lapidary as great pop songs." -Luc Sante on NYRB's reissues of Simenon's romans durs, Bookforum

 

"One of the greatest and most prolific of the modern French creators of fiction." -Philadelphia Inquirer

 

"Simeon is not only a master of suspense, he knows also how to probe so deeply into the minds of his characters as to reveal with remarkable fidelity the more evasive of human motives." -Cleveland Press

 

"One of the world's...most notable talents." -Houston Chronicle

 

"There is a harsh, almost Biblical intensity to M. Simenon's catalogues of punishment: he is a believer in original sin." -New York Times

About the Author

Georges Simenon (1903–1989) was born in Liège, Belgium. He went to work as a reporter at the age of fifteen and in 1923 moved to Paris, where under various pseudonyms he became a highly successful and prolific author of pulp fiction while leading a dazzling social life. In the early 1930s, Simenon emerged as a writer under his own name, gaining renown for his detective stories featuring Inspector Maigret. He also began to write his psychological novels, or romans durs— books in which he displays a sympathetic awareness of the emotional and spiritual pain underlying the routines of daily life. Having written nearly two hundred books under his own name and become the best-selling author in the world, Simenon retired as a novelist in 1973, devoting himself instead to dictating several volumes of memoirs.

Robert Baldick was a Fellow of Pembroke College, Oxford, and of the Royal Society of Literature. He wrote a number of histories and biographies, and translated the works of a wide range of French authors. He was a joint editor of Penguin Classics and one of Britain’s leading French scholars until his death in 1972.

Luc Sante is the author of Low Life, Evidence, The Factory of Facts, Kill All Your Darlings, and Folk Photography. He has translated Félix Fénéon’s Novels in Three Lines and written the introduction to George Simenon’s The Man Who Watched Trains Go By (both available as NYRB Classics). He is a frequent contributor to The New York Review of Books and teaches writing and the history of photography at Bard College.

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

15 of 15 people found the following review helpful By K. Egan on October 4, 2010
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This book is a mesmerizing account of one city, Liege, Belgium, and the surrounding Flemish countryside, as encountered by a boy growing up in his mildly manipulative mother's rooming house. We learn more and more about Liege as the narrator grows into his own mental awareness of the sounds, the smells, the food, the social fabric, the cultural tensions brewing as the First World War arrives, occupies Liege, and drains away. We experience the internal tension of adolescence as well as the boy learns that adults lie, that women are dishonest, that virtue is not necessarily a blessing, and that vice is not always as satisfying as it may seem. A wonderful book for anyone interested in the pale light of Northern Europe, civilian life during either World War, and the human commonalities of coming of age.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Roger Brunyate TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on December 21, 2010
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Georges Simenon's popular reputation rests on his series of detective novels featuring Inspector Maigret. They are terse and highly atmospheric, rendered in subtle greys rather than bright colors, taking place in a world inhabited by ordinary working people. Maigret's success stems mainly from his understanding of human nature -- which is of course the author's understanding too.

There is a second Simenon, the author of the so-called "romans durs," straight novels without a mystery component. New York Review Books have done a marvelous service of bringing these out in English translation. I have read three: TROPIC MOON, THE STRANGERS IN THE HOUSE, and THE MAN WHO WATCHED TRAINS GO BY (in my personal order of preference). They have all the virtues of the Maigret series: intense atmosphere, an uncanny ability to capture the human interplay within a small community, and their relative brevity. But they go deeper than the mere mysteries; all three are books I keep on my shelves, whereas I have given most of the Maigrets away.

With PEDIGREE, though, NYRB brings us a third Simenon. The most obvious difference is in size: 546 pages of small type, three or four times the length of one of the others. Whereas Simenon's other novels are distilled and intense, this one is copious in its coverage and detail. For it was written with quite a different purpose. In 1941, based on a misreading of an X-ray, Simenon's doctor told him that he had less than two years to live.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By JAK on October 3, 2012
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If you've never read Simenon , this is not the book you want to start with .It's definitely atypical and although I liked it , I don't think it borders on being his strongest novel.Simenon novels are usually tight , efficient machines and reasonably short.In this edition the novel is over 500 pages long. Simenon tends to go in for a certain amount of murder and mayhem , with occasional hints of perversion.Not here!The novel is firmly rooted in lower middle class early 20th century Liege , Belgium and is clearly autobiographical.As far as I can tell Simenon does a first rate job capturing the feel of the city at a time for a particular class.It centers around Elise and Desiree, who are clearly modeled after the authors parents.Desiree is an an unambitious man content with his existence.He derives satisfaction from having a rooted existence in the city among his people with whom interacts and performs civil , social and religious rituals.He is essentially pre- modern.Elise is a modern striver and her striving makes her miserable and casts a shadow on everyone around her.She is resentful and insecure. She hates the rich and the poor.It's fair to say the woman never has a happy day and if you spent a lot of time around her , neither would you.Gradually the focus of the novel shifts to the couples son, Roger.Predictably Elise has all kinds of plans for Roger , which you know will never be realized . After all,he is going to become Simenon the worlds most prolific writer, toast of the town and Olympian sexual athlete, not a small city businessman!The weirdest aspect of the novel is a subplot concerning Elises' brother , Leopold.Leopold is a drunk who is somehow involved with a young anarchist who flees Liege for Paris.Some time is spent on this .Read more ›
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12 of 33 people found the following review helpful By Daniel Myers VINE VOICE on September 5, 2010
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That this book is, I suppose, at least geographically autobiographical: not a paving stone, a butcher's apron, a prostitute's décolletage or any other minute observation or memory of the mean streets of Liege, Belgium before and during the First World War is left to the reader's imagination. Every mole and crevice is described. But it is NOT a Bildungsroman or a psychological work. The first two thirds of the book - if they centre on anything - centre on the doings of Elise, Roger's mother, and her attempts to ensure that the boy will be able to drop the hyphenation in petit-bourgeois when he comes of age - hence the title. Only in the last section does the book settle around Roger. But, throughout, the book consists only in reportage, in hard-bitten observations made thoroughly from the outside. One closes the book not having the faintest notion of an inner life, not having learnt anything of the characters' hearts or minds, save when they express it - as when Roger's acquiescent father bites his pipe for all, or some, to see - and thus can be reported. The German occupation during the war seems to have little effect on the family, save to give Elise - at first - better paying boarders and to open a black market from which Roger and his schoolboy chums can profit.

"Roman Dur" is entirely inappropriate as a title for this type of book. It is scarcely a "roman" at all. It has no narrative structure, no characters the reader comes to like or dislike, nor insights into a deeper reality - the raison d'etre of all literature for what English author Malcolm Lowry called "deep readers." It's not truly "dur" either. "Tawdry" and "shabby" are the English adjectives that come to mind as descriptive of both the writing and the subject.
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