I had a few hours to kill last Saturday night before going to see the band This Is Not This Heat at the Chapel here in San Francisco, so I did what you do in such cases, which is to go to a library and take out a slim Georges Simenon novel. I picked up The Mahé Circle, which isn’t one of Simenon’s Maigret detective novels, but one of his even darker, detective-less books, the so-called romans durs (“hard novels,” as in hard on the reader). As a die-hard backpack-wearer who feels like he’s missing a limb on the rare occasion when he leaves the house with nothing over his shoulder, I prize books that fit in a jacket pocket (I also wanted a break from Neal Stephenson’s recent novel, Fall, which I started reading the day it came out, and I’ve been stuck at about 92% for weeks). Anyhow, chapter five of The Mahé Circle opens with this absolutely gorgeous bit of description:
Bells. Masses of bells plunging into a sky like the sea, making trembling circles there. The circles widened, collided, merged with each other, and then the bells, with the elegance of dolphins, began to plunge again.
While on the topic, should any of you be Simenon scholars, I have a question: The Mahé Circle was first published in 1946, but the English translation didn’t come out until 2014. Any explanation for the delay, besides the fact, of course, that Simenon wrote hundreds upon hundreds of books?
And while I spelled “Maigret” correctly up above, I hadn’t in the email edition of the This Week in Sound newsletter in which the piece first appeared. As penance, here is a handy reminder:
Magritte: Surrealist Maigret: Realist
Magritte: favored and painted hats Maigret: favored hats
Magritte: Belgian, born to Belgians Maigret: French, created by a Belgian
Magritte: René Maigret: Jules