- Series: New York Review Books Classics
- Paperback: 224 pages
- Publisher: NYRB Classics; Tra edition (June 10, 2005)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1590171497
- ISBN-13: 978-1590171493
- Product Dimensions: 5 x 0.5 x 8 inches
- Shipping Weight: 8 ounces
- Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,054,272 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The Man Who Watched Trains Go By (New York Review Books Classics) Paperback – November 7, 2005
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“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
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 ›
Once Simenon establishes this premise, this novel becomes an interesting character study, with the foxy and megalomaniacal Kees locked in a game of wits with the police, who seek him for a single blundering act, which first expressed his newfound rapaciousness and rage.
In my edition of THE MAN WHO WATCHED TRAINS GO BY, Luc Sante provides an interesting introduction, which is filled with both insight and spoilers. Read it after you've finished. Then, you'll find the amazing insight that this Simenon novel is actually a comedy, with the bourgeois Kees never getting too far from his comfy roots.
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 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
Kees Popinga, Dutch factotum in Julius de Coster the Younger's shipping firm for 17 years, lives proudly in the nicest and cleanest development in Groningen with his wife he... Read morePublished on May 28, 2009 by John Sollami
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