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The Widow [Paperback]

By Georges Simenon & Paul Theroux (Introduction by)
Our Price $ 11.01  
Retail Value $ 12.95  
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Item Number 426225  
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Item Specifications...

Pages   152
Est. Packaging Dimensions:   Length: 7.99" Width: 5.01" Height: 0.37"
Weight:   0.4 lbs.
Binding  Softcover
Release Date   Mar 25, 2008
Publisher   NYRB Classics
ISBN  1590172612  
EAN  9781590172612  

Availability  0 units.

Item Description...
The Widow is the story of two outcasts and their fatal encounter. One is the widow herself, Tati. Still young, she's never had an easy time of it, but she's not the kind to complain. Tati lives with her father-in-law on the family farm, putting up with his sexual attentions, working her fingers to the bone, improving the property and knowing all the time that her late husband's sister is scheming to kick her out and take the house back.

The other is a killer. Just out of prison and in search of a new life, Jean meets up with Tati, who hires him as a handyman and then takes him to bed. Things are looking up, at least until Jean falls hard for the girl next door.

The Widow was published in the same year as Camus' The Stranger, and André Gide judged it the superior book. It is Georges Simenon's most powerful and disturbing exploration of the bond between death and desire.
“These books…are not mysteries…They are hard, blunt, frequently punishing studies of human beings driven by circumstance and personality to the ends of their tethers, forcing them to extreme measures…They are acute, compact, remarkably varied, and as lapidary as great pop songs.” —Luc Sante, Bookforum

"As the New York Review of Books Classics series publishes Simenon after Simenon at a rate the novelist would envy, it's tempting to read them all in a lump, as an extensive, though still partial, psychological portrait of the writer." -The Nation

“Georges Simeon is not only a master of suspense, he knows also how to probe so deeply into the minds of his characters as to reveal with remarkable fidelity the more evasive of human motives.” –Cleveland Press

Marked by a brutal and earthy realism…Extremely readable.” –Eerie Times

“Strong, terrible, splendid stuff her, by one of the world's strangest, most notable talents.” –Houston Chronicle

“Simenon's novels of suspense…unfold with a relentlessness, a sense of compulsion, that is as chilling as the deeds to which his people are driven by the quirks of character within them…One of the greatest and most prolific of the modern French creators of fiction, the author is notable for the clean economy of his writing style.” –Philadelphia Inquirer

"If I hadn't read Ticket of Leave (The Widow), I couldn't have written The Stranger." –Albert Camus.

“[A] psychological masterpiece” –St. Petersburg Times

“[Further] examples of M. Simenon's ability to grasp entirely dissimilar milieux and to demonstrate the universality of the tragedy to be founding both of them...There is a harsh, almost Biblical intensity to M. Simenon's catalogues of punishment: he is a believer in original sin.” –The New York Times
Georges Simenon (1903—1989) was born in Liege, Belgium. He went to work as a reporter at the age of fifteen and in 1923 moved to Paris, where under various pseudonyms he became a highly successful and prolific author of pulp fiction while leading a dazzling social life. In the early 1930s, Simenon emerged as a writer under his own name, gaining renown for his detective stories featuring Inspector Maigret. He also began to write his psychological novelsbooks in which he displays a sympathetic awareness of the emotional and spiritual pain underlying the routines of daily life. Having written nearly two hundred books under his own name and become the best-selling author in the world, Simenon retired as a novelist in 1973, devoting himself instead to dictating several volumes of memoirs.

Paul Theroux was born in Medford, Massachusetts, and published his first novel, Waldo, in 1967. He has published novels and travel books, his latest being The Elephanta Suite. He divides his time between Cape Cod and the Hawaiian Islands, where he is a professional beekeeper.

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More About Georges Simenon & Paul Theroux

Register your artisan biography and upload your photo! Georges Simenon (1903-1989) was born in Liege, Belgium. He is best known in the English-speaking world as the author of the Inspector Maigret books. His prolific output of more than four hundred novels and short stories has made him a household name in continental Europe.

Georges Simenon lived in Paris. Georges Simenon was born in 1903 and died in 1989.

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Reviews - What do our customers think?
Nasty, brutish, and short  Nov 28, 2008
This novel, published the same year as The Stranger and eerily similar, is more psychologically astute and more worthy of reading twice. Simenon creates a pastoral idyll with subtle hints of deep dischord, then builds effects until you know something terrible is going to happen, and sustains and builds this suspense until at last there is murder... on the next to last page.
"[G]oing on to a narrow place  May 15, 2008
where there was no way to turn aside either to the right hand or to the left." Numbers 22:26

Georges 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 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"). NYRB Books is reissuing Simenon's hard novels. "The Widow" is their latest release. NYRB chooses its Simenons wisely. "The Widow" is a fine book.

I've sometimes thought of the arc of a person's life as one that consists of a series of narrowing options. On the day we are born the options available to us seem limitless. But the decisions made for us and the decisions we make every day serve to winnow out our options. It struck me, as I read "The Widow" that a typical Simenon story presents us with characters whose options seem so constrained to them that their actions, often desperate and violent, appear inevitable. "The Widow" is no exception. Tati is a middle-aged widow, living in a small village in a house owned by her aged father-in-law. She has clawed her way up to this not quite middle-class existence and will endure hard work and the infrequent sexual demands of the father-in-law to maintain her rightful place in this home. Jean, is a murderer, recently-released from a French prison. Unlike Tati, he comes from a solid, relatively wealthy local family. They meet on a bus and Tati decides without hesitation that Jean will provide her with help around the farm. Jean sees Tati as someone who can provide him with food, shelter, and a bedtime companion. This mutually beneficial relationship works out fine for a while, until Jean discovers the attractive young girl (Tati's niece) that lives on the adjacent property. From that point on the relationship between Jean and Tati takes a turn for the worse and continues to deteriorate. In a very real sense the options available to Jean and Tati are so dramatically narrowed in such a short span of time that each feels that his/her actions are inevitable, almost commanded by fate. The conclusion, while predictable, is powerful not because of the actions that bring about that conclusion but because of the overpowering sense of fate that drives the actions. Reading "The Widow" was like watching a storm at sea. You can see it a long ways off, you know it is coming, yet when it arrives it still manages to knock the wind out of you.

Paul Theroux's "Introduction" was interesting and on point. Theoroux points out the comparisons often made between Simenon and his contemporary, Albert Camus. Their writing shares much in terms of the sense of alienation and despair that infuses their characters. Theroux notes that Simenon never seemed to suffer the agony of the writer and believed that the ease with which words spilled out of him and on to paper were held against him by the literary establishment. He didn't suffer enough for his writing to be accorded the highest accolade. I tend to agree with that point. I don't believe, however, that Simenon's writing surpassed that of Camus. I do think that the comparison itself is valid and that each is good enough to be discussed in the company of the other.

"The Widow" is a fine example of the craft of Georges Simenon. Highly recommended. L. Fleisig
"Vocation of Unhappiness"  Apr 1, 2008
NYRB is reissuing many of the so-called, "romans durs" ("hard novels") written in haste but with great aplomb by the immensely prolific (400 plus novels) Georges Simenion. Obvious parallels exist between this novel and it's contemporary, "The Stranger", written by Albert Camus. In fact, Andre Gide found it the better of the two novels, which (to the chagrin of Simenon) despite that endorsement, failed to win the Nobel Prize in Literature for him.

This brief novel is beautifully written. For example, "...the summer was spoiled. Every two days, every three days at most, a storm rumbled in the distance without even bringing a cooling shower. It could be felt far off in the air, somewhere in the direction of Morvan. The atmosphere was heavy. The rays of the sun, suddenly, seemed painted in oils." It also has the air of objective detachment that permeates, "The Stranger". As in that book, the protagonist of this one, Jean Passerat-Monnoyeur, commits a crime (in the closing pages, he murders "the widow", Mrs Couderc), but has little apparent motive; he, in essence, just "felt like it", in a phrase. The murder could not even pass as an impulse. There are implications of "predestination" throughout the book which become grating, as if Simenon was attempting to interject psychoanalytic elements into the otherwise spare story.

Unlike Camus' novel, however, the denouement seems clumsy and unexplained. Simeonon drops portentious hints of forthcoming violence, such as Jean repeatedly mentally reviewing elements of the French criminal code on murder; he's been there before, having killed a man over gaming loses. The second crime, the murder of Madame Couderc, could be construed as having been vaguely provoked by her jealousy over his dalliance with a neighbor girl. Because it is abrupt and therefore hard to fathom and given that it is not the culmination of a series of events, but rather a tenuous extension from them (beforehand, the jealous nagging was received with equanimity), the reader is left with the impression that Simenon was ready to move to another novel and simply chose to end this one with a jarring crime.

In summary, this is a good novel, certainly on par with his others in NYRB. Unlike Gide, I did not consider it first rank.

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