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The Man Who Watched Trains Go By (New York Review Books Classics) Paperback – November 7, 2005
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More About the Author
'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
Top Customer Reviews
Despair and negation predominate in Georges Simenon's "The Man Who Watched Trains Go By", a book that I considered to be darker than noir.
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"). As with many of his contemporaries such as Chandler and Hammett, Simenon's books were marketed and sold as popular, pulp fiction. Also like Chandler and Hammett, Simenon's books have stood up well over time. The New York Review of Books publishing division has reissued much of Simenon's books. They are well worth reading and "The Man Who Watch Trains Go By" is an excellent place to start.
The story's protagonist and narrator is Kees Poppinga. As the book opens Kees is seen and sees himself as a stolidly middle-class Dutch citizen living a life of relative comfort in the coastal town of Groningen. He is secure in his job as the manager of a ship's supply company. His sense of security is reflected in an attitude best described as smug and more than a bit conceited. On the surface, Kees' life seems well insulated from the harsher side of life. But Simenon shows us quickly that this appearance of security was really a thin veneer that could be washed away at a moment's notice.Read more ›
Although Simenon is most famous as the author of the Inspector Maigret mysteries, and there is certainly a police investigation in this book, the story is told from the point of view of the criminal, not the detective. There is no mystery here; Popinga leaves more than enough evidence to be identified easily, and he soon starts writing letters to the papers and the police. Even the term "on the run" is wrong; "on the walk" would be more appropriate, for Popinga remains icily calm. Although the press describe him as a madman, he has never felt more in control; it was his previous bourgeois life that was the lie, not this one.
Why does Simenon choose a Dutch protagonist and set the opening of his novel in the far North of Holland? As a French-speaking Belgian, it seems he despised the phlegmatic Flemish and Dutch temperament, and viewed their smug respectability as the death of the soul. For Kees Popinga, nearing 40, epitomizes the family values. He is a good provider, with a solid job; he has a good house in a good neighborhood, equipped with the most modern appliances; he has two perfectly-spaced children that he sends to good schools, and a wife who is so faceless that she is referred to from beginning to end as Mother.Read more ›
In this romans durs (hard novel), his second in his amazing writing career, Simenon exhibits extraordinary insight into the stresses and strains of his character's psychological demons. Popinga sees the collapse of his outward life as a great opportunity to live out the urges and impulses of his repressed inner life at last. In no time at all, he is gone, walking away from his fake proper self, letting all of it go: family, home, responsibilities, inhibitions--or is he?
In this time of failing businesses and psychological stress, one wonders how many Popingas are waiting to disappear from their current lives. What makes Simenon so interesting is how well he has captured the nihilism and repression that are intimately woven into our social networks.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
A complex tale of a man who leads a normal life until one day everything changes. This story is interesting in the way it shows us how by circumstance many of us can take a path... Read morePublished on February 4, 2013 by Andy Driggers
Kees Popinga lives a solid bourgeois life. He has a pleasant wife and two good kids, a good job, an above-average house, and many desirable possessions. Read morePublished on November 6, 2012 by Ethan Cooper
Kees Popinga is manager of the largest ship outfitter in Dutch Frisia. His house and furnishings are of the highest quality. Read morePublished on June 28, 2009 by Patto
Firstly, I must complain about this book cover!!!! Do these people actually read the books they are trying to sell? Read morePublished on October 5, 2008 by B.Friendly