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VINE VOICEon December 13, 2011
In his heyday the former Premier of France bestrode France and Europe like a colossus. A larger than-life figure he was at once feared, respected, admired, and often hated. It seemed that whenever the French Republic had a crisis, be it monetary, labor, social strife, or war the President of France would call on him to save the republic one more time. Now, at age 82 he is sick and living in relative seclusion in a house off the Normandy coast. He is watched over by a personal secretary, a cook, physician and chauffer. His days are spent in isolation and he spends much of his waking hours quietly contemplating his life. His stillness is that of the aging lion. He sits in his study and barely moves, as if conserving what little energy and time he has left. As the story opens France is facing yet another crisis. The government has fallen and the President is seeking desperately to find a Premier to step in to save France one more time. As the country's eyes turn to the most likely prospect, Chalmont, the retired Premier asks himself whether he should go public with the damaging information that he has about the man who was once his most trusted assistant.

Loosely based on the latter years of Georges Clemenceau ("Le Tigre") George Simenon's "The President" is one more reason why I will pick up and read a book by Simenon anywhere I can find it. Perhaps best known for his Inspector Maigret stories such as The Hotel Majestic (Penguin Mysteries), I think his finest work can be found in what he called his "romans durs" or hard stories such as The Man Who Watched Trains Go By (New York Review Books Classics). These were not police procedurals but, rather, stories that looked at the dark side of our nature. The Simenons I have read have all been fine examples of the art of writing and "The President" is no exception. Simenon takes the reader into the mind of this aging leader as he contemplates the world around him, from the political crisis to the randy behavior of his young kitchen girl, you get lost in his own thoughts and musings. The premiere's decision as to whether to pull the rug from under Chalmont's pending ascension to power is handled with skill.

If you already know and admire Simenon this book should be added to you collection. If you have not read Simenon yet this is as good a place to start as any. Highly recommended. L. Fleisig
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on April 26, 2015
Like many Simenon novels, "The President" is short, low key, and psychologically true. The publisher makes the claim that the book was inspired by Georges Clemenceau, but it would be more accurate to say that its protagonist, like Clemenceau, had a long career distinguished by king-making and by stepping forward in emergencies, but the parallels end there. "Protected" by detectives, the former Premier spends his days eating unappetizing healthy meals, entering the kitchen early to smell forbidden coffee, enduring daily visits by his physician, submitting his failing body to his nurse and valet, scribbling, meditating, and wondering if France will survive its present crisis without his intervention. There is an air of Kafka to the novel, the claustrophobic air of "The Burrow" mingled with the inevitability of "The Trial." And, like most Simenon stories, the surprises of the last chapter are inherent in the chapters that preceded it.
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on May 21, 2013
Readers who want action in a novel should not purchase this book. The pace is slow because Simenon's approach is a slow reveal of the character of an 82-year old retired politician. Simenon's psychological novels--of which is one--are exceptionally well crafted.
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on February 18, 2013
Simenon was a writing machine.What is amazing about him was the quality of what he produced.This is a good novel,although not his best .It's a tight story about a formerly very powerful French politician who gradually realizes that not only is he no longer powerful , he is close to being a bird in a gilded cage. He accepts with good grace the reality of his situation.After all he recognizes he would have done exactly the same thing with someone like himself.One of the novels strengths is its realistic , unsentimental take on politics.It's about the big time.This is not the Sunnydale town council.Yet, the big timers show they can be every bit as venal as the small fry.Still, there are hints of vision which set people like the Premier apart from lesser mortals.He is someone who got things done and that is that.
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on August 26, 2015
Time wise, the novels of Georges Simenon often last only a few days, but his masterful use of memories and flashbacks provide unusual depth to his often driven, obsessed main protagonists. “The President” (1958) has been translated afresh and describes in painstaking detail the unbroken spirit and thought processes of a retired, but still feared French politician. He is 82 and is in a physically fragile state whilst his mind still works like clockwork. Surrounded by staff who look after his safety and wellbeing, he lives in a converted farm on the Normandy coast surrounded by books inside whose pages he has hidden his stock of incriminating material on former colleagues and rivals. He still rises at 5:30 on the off chance of being called to rescue the nation once more, to do his lifelong duty and take charge again. He served as a minister 22 times, eight of which as prime minister .
Written in 1957, before France finally became a stable political entity in 1959 under Charles de Gaulle, this is a compelling novel about French politics, rule by coalition, role of the press and blackmail. It is also a fine character study of a man without compromise, assuming full personal responsibility again and again, ready to do whatever is necessary to prevent France from sliding into chaos. Stunning finish. One question: why this title? After all, a job he cherished, but never attained. Great read, great author.
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on August 25, 2013
A real insight into how outside controlling factors take over a person's life, no matter the person's status or stage in life.
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on March 16, 2013
As with this other book "The train", this story weaves its tapestry around thoughts, musings, fears, & other emotions blended around the goings-on of a regular life of an old man, once important & powerful, but, in the current setting, reduced by disease & aloofness of a brilliant, & perhaps a trifle uncompromising, political career. It is the sort of story that takes you along, meandering on verge of some significant event but it is when you look at it from a distance, & not while you're in it, that the parts fit together & a complete picture, rather a telling one, emerges.

Good, entertaining story & remarkable characterizations.
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on December 29, 2013
I've enjoyed all of Simenon's non-Maigret novels. He has a way of capturing the personality of his characters and releasing it throughout the novel. He always keeps me interested.
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on September 1, 2014
I was very good descrtion of the life of an importan politician.

I like it.
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on October 9, 2015
Very convincingly written
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