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The Strangers in the House (New York Review Books Classics) Paperback – October 24, 2006

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Product Details

  • Series: New York Review Books Classics
  • Paperback: 216 pages
  • Publisher: NYRB Classics (October 24, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1590171942
  • ISBN-13: 978-1590171943
  • Product Dimensions: 5 x 0.5 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 6.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #364,744 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


"The greatest literary discovery I have made in recent time is Georges Simenon--his 'hard' novels, such as Dirty Snow and The Strangers in the House. So impressed was I by these books that I was determined to write one. The result is Christine Falls." --Benjamin Black (John Banville), Publishers Weekly

"Most of Simenon's novels are short, 200 pages or less, short enough to be read in one or two sittings. His style is spare but unusually potent. If you want to learn how to use adjectives - which is to say, with economy and precision - read Simenon. His skill at creating a sense of place is uncanny. When you finish The Strangers in the House, the memory of the dark and rainy streets of Moulins, the town where the story is set, stays with you palpably." —Philadelphia Inquirer

"This is not a Maigret but one of the French master's romans durs and is quite simply a masterpiece." --John Banville

“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

'A master storyteller ... Simenon gave to the puzzle story a humanity that it had never had before'–Daily Telegraph

"The most extraordinary literary phenomenon of the twentieth century." –Julian Symons

“The romans durs are extraordinary: tough, bleak, offhandedly violent, suffused with guilt and bitterness, redolent of place (Simenon is unsurpassed as a scenesetter), utterly unsentimental, frightening in the pitilessness of their gaze, yet wonderfully entertaining. They are also more philosophically profound than any of the fiction of Camus or Sartre, and far less self-conscious. This is existentialism with a backbone of tempered steel.”–John Banville, The New Republic

"This is what attracts and holds me in him. He writes for `the vast public,' to be sure, but delicate and refined readers find something for them too as soon as they begin to take him seriously. He makes one reflect; and this is close to being the height of art; how superior he is in this to those heavy novelists who do not spare us a single commentary! Simenon sets forth a particular fact, perhaps of general interest; but he is careful not to generalize; that is up to the reader."–André Gide

“[Simenon] digs right inside his protagonists heads, in ways so specific that his characters have a forceful and very convincing individuality. He makes crime fascinating, even attractive.”–The Dominion Post (New Zealand)

About the Author

Georges Simenon (1903—1989) emerged as a writer in the 1930s, gaining renown for his detective stories featuring Inspector Maigret. He is no less famous for his psychological novels. New York Review Books has published revised translations of Simenon's most acclaimed romans durs, including Dirty Snow, Three Bedrooms in Manhattan, The Man Who Watched Trains Go By, Monsieur Monde Vanishes, Tropic Moon, and most recently, Red Lights.

P.D. James is the author of eighteen books. She served in the forensics and criminal justice departments of Great Britain’s Home Office, and she has been a magistrate and a governor of the BBC. In 2000 she published her autobiography, Time to Be in Earnest.

Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

59 of 62 people found the following review helpful By Leonard Fleisig VINE VOICE on December 21, 2006
Format: Paperback
Exodus ii. 22.

Georges 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"). "Strangers in the House" is one of Simenon's hard novels and to call it noir is not an understatement.

Hector Loursat, an accomplished attorney, has been a stranger in his own house ever since his wife abandoned him and their newborn child eighteen years ago. Since that time Loursat's universe has shrunk to his bedroom, his library and his dining room. He barely speaks to his now 18 year old daughter or their cook. They are for all intents and purposes, strangers. He is a hermit, alone with his books and a profligate amount of burgundy and brandy. It is only the murderous presence of other strangers in his house that may stir him out of his emotional coma. That dark-setting forms the backdrop for "Strangers in the House".

Loursat is roused from his alcohol-induced sleep by what he thinks may be a gunshot. His suspicions are confirmed when he stumbles through portions of the house he hasn't seen in years and discovers a body. He soon discovers that his daughter has fallen in with something of a gang of youths who like to live on the edge. The rest of the novel finds Loursat grappling with the implications of the murder. We see Loursat struggling out of his hermetic cocoon.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Roger Brunyate TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on March 9, 2009
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
The New York Review of Books is reissuing the "romans durs" of Georges Simenon -- his non-Maigret novels where the emphasis is more on psychology than on detection. Of the three that I have read so far -- including the magnificent TROPIC MOON -- this is the most like his detective novels. There is a crime, a mystery, and a court case, and the book ends when the true culprit is discovered. Or almost ends -- for the main focus is not on the solution of the crime, but the effect that his involvement in the case has on the defence attorney, Hector Loursat.

Maître Loursat is not an attractive figure when we first meet him. A middle-aged bear of a man, he had been abandoned by his wife many years before. Now, drinking several bottles of Burgundy a day, he lives in two rooms of a big rambling house, accompanied only by a surly cook, a shifting procession of housemaids, and his almost-adult daughter Nicole, whom he sees only at silent mealtimes. He is quite unaware that a group of Nicole's friends have been occupying the house at night -- until he is disturbed by a gunshot and finds a dying stranger in one of the beds. The events that follow shake him out of his self-pity, and he eventually finds himself defending Nicole's lover in court. Loursat will be changed by the experience -- perhaps not much, but still significantly -- and this change is the real subject of the novel.

Simenon is superb as ever in describing the small provincial town. For instance: "Hardly a window that was not shuttered. The steps of the rare passerby in the dismal streets sounded furtive, almost embarrassed.
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4 of 6 people found the following review helpful By vs on February 8, 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I never acquired a taste for the detective stories, whodunits or crime mysteries however high their quality might be, so I was surprised many years ago when I read Simenon's "The Venice Train" and "Prison". I used to think, as everybody else, that Simenon is all Maigret, the Great Detective.

Both "The Venice Train" and "Prison" though should be considered as part of French realist and existentialist tradition, the later in full swing in the middle of XX century. Both books are about people who struggle (mostly unsuccessfully) to find their true identity and raison d'être. I liked both books very much, so when I found that NYRB has published quite a few Simenon's "non-Maigret" books, I decided to give one of them a try.

To my today's taste the book is not as good as the previous two I read, though I read them many years ago, so I guess I need to read them again to be able to compare. Also I read them in Russian translation, and Russian translations to my experience are almost always better than English ones (be it from German or French). English speaking world never considered translation to be an art (see "Translators Struggle to Prove Their Academic Bona Fides" in "The Chronicle Of Higher Education").

"The Strangers in the House" is very much in vein of "realist/existentialist" Simenon. The story is about a sensitive and intelligent man, one Hector Loursat, a lawyer, who, after his wife left him for another man, has abandoned his practice, and withdrew from the society to live a life of solitude in his house with his daughter and a maid. Incessantly drinking wine, smoking, reading, losing shape both in the physical sense and in terms of his ability to communicate - this goes on for years and years.
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