An Essay by John Banville on the life and times of Georges
Simenon contains this passage:
“Most crime fiction, no matter how
“hard-boiled” or bloodily forensic, is essentially sentimental, for most crime
writers are disappointed romantics. William T. Vollmann, in an afterword to the
NYRB edition of Simenon’s greatest masterpiece, Dirty Snow,
contrasts him with Raymond Chandler, whose Philip Marlowe novels, despite their
elegance, wit and polished metaphors, seem now distinctly soft-boiled.
“Chandler’s novels,” Vollmann writes, “are noir shot through with wistful
luminescence; Simenon has concentrated noir into a darkness as solid and heavy
as the interior of a dwarf star.” Only Patricia Highsmith approaches Simenon’s
ability — indeed, his compulsion — to show the world as it really is, in all its
squalor, excitement and contingent cruelty, yet Highsmith’s characters are
paper-thin compared to the French master’s vividly multidimensional men and
Dirty Snow is one of my
favourite Simeon novels. I wrote about the novel in Friday’s Forgotten novels.