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Monsieur Monde Vanishes (New York Review Books Classics) Paperback – July 31, 2004

4.3 out of 5 stars 19 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

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

Language Notes

Text: English, French (translation) --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Series: New York Review Books Classics
  • Paperback: 192 pages
  • Publisher: NYRB Classics (July 31, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1590170962
  • ISBN-13: 978-1590170960
  • Product Dimensions: 5 x 0.4 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (19 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #436,298 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

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Norbert Monde, a fourth-generation bourgeois Parisian businessman, "comes to his senses" on the afternoon of his forty-eighth birthday, withdraws 300,000 francs from his bank account, and promptly vanishes, abandoning his second wife, gay son, and money-grubbing daughter to their own devices. He surfaces in Marseilles where he is quickly drawn into a domestic crisis at a hotel and winds up living a new life among gamblers, drunks and prostitutes in Nice. He's happy, for a while, in realizing his lifelong ambition to be nobody other than a man in the street. But when his work at a nightclub brings his first wife, Therese, into his orbit, Monsieur Monde finds himself drawn back into the world of moral responsibility. Beautifully understated and impressively human, Simenon's take on the familiar "walking out on your life" tale is one of the better examples. In its empathy for the desperation of middle-class life, and for a man whose childhood values have fed into a lifetime of limited scope, it reminded me of that slim European classic, Patrick Suskind's novella "The Pigeon".
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One of the values of Amazon's recommendation software is that you are directed to authors with whose work you may not be familiar and who are not carried on the shelves of most bookstores. This is how I found Monsieur Monde Vanishes. It is an economical and very visual book even though the visuals are of mostly unremarkable venues: cheap hotel rooms, the back office of a nightclub, train stations, etc. The narrative value, however, lies partly in bringing such sites to life.

The largely passive Monde exits his successful life in Paris to allow another life in Nice to happen to him. In the end, this change enables him to return to his prior existence possessed of enhanced stature with his business, his wife and his son. The breaking of his life pattern, even though he is compelled to return to it, seems to give Monde additional power over his environment.

Read this book and get swept up in the rhythm of an unspectacular life that is likely different than your own in detail but not in method.
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When Belgian novelist Georges Simenon (1903-1989) neared his 70th birthday, he unplugged his typewriter and abruptly stopped writing. But one thing is certain: nobody could ever accuse Simenon of being a slacker, for after all, he authored over 200 novels under his own name (including dozens of crime novels featuring a detective, one Inspector Jules Maigret) and 300 novels under various noms de plume. So, in terms of sheer numbers, this novel, the subject of my review, is simply one of many. However, if “Monsieur Monde Vanishes” was Simenon’s one and only work of fiction, I wonder if the author would be considered a key existentialist and this book a classic study of identity and alienation.

On the topic of identity and alienation, one key text is Erich Fromm’s “The Sane Society” and it is this classic of social psychology I will quote below and pair with my commentary as a way of highlighting the wisdom nectar contained in Georges Simenon’s fine novel.

“By alienation is meant a mode of experience in which the person experiences himself as an alien. He has become, one might say, estranged from himself. He does not experience himself as the center of his world, as the creator of his own acts—but his acts and their consequences have become his masters, whom he obeys, or whom he may even worship.” ---------- Monsieur Monde turns 48 but will his wife, his son, his daughter, his business associates remember and wish him a happy birthday? Is Monsieur the center of his own world? Is he really alive? Monsieur recognizes the answer to all of the above is ‘no’; at the same time he also realizes it is time to make a quick exit from his comfortable, predictable, deadening upper-upper-middle class life and hit the road. And that is exactly what Monsieur does.
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For those, like me, who can read three or four Simenon books a week and never be bored, this was another winner.

With one or two sentences, Simenon takes one into the small villages and homes of France and then right into the minds of the characters who live there. It's really easy to understand the people in each book and somehow identify with them due to Simenon's fantastic ability to describe their emotions. I have about 150 Simenon books in my library and have another five which I just ordered from Amazon so I guess that will tell you how much I enjoy them.
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As author Larry McMurtry points out in his introduction to "Monsieur Monde Vanishes," Georges Simenon wrote this Maigretless short novel at about the same time Albert Camus had published "The Stranger." There are some parallels, certainly in the moods of the two books. That the French had recently experienced a traumatic military defeat at the hands of the Germans and were under Nazi occupation for more than four years could certainly have had something to do with the sense of alienation and detachment that are the central themes underlying both tales.

In "Monsieur Monde Vanishes," the story's protagonist, Norbert Monde, a man with a comfortable, upper-middle class life suddenly bolts from his marriage and professional responsibilities at the end of one ordinary workday and takes another identity and eventually begins to lead another life. Unfortunately for M. Monde, he is a magnet for others who are less fortunate or whose lives are less orderly. Through a series of encounters, his innate sense of responsibility (not shed with the old identity) pulls him back toward the accountabiity that he had hoped to be rid of forever. When he comes across the woman who was his first wife and his first great disappointment with life, in a state of crisis, the die is cast and Norbert Monde's vanishing act will soon be history.

The story speaks to virtually everyone's inevitable dissatisfactions with life, but makes no attempt to provide answers or comfort. Perhaps there are none to be had.

Interesting short novel. I have to admit that I prefer to have Inspector Maigret along for these crises de vie that are manifest in Simenon's writing.
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