Georges Simenon

(1903—1989) Belgian-born French novelist

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Belgian novelist, creator of the detective Maigret.

Simenon was born in Liège, Belgium. At the age of sixteen he took a job as junior reporter on a local newspaper; his first novel was published under a pseudonym in 1920. Moving to Paris in 1922, he continued to write short stories and popular novels using a variety of pseudonyms; Pietr-le-Letton (1931) was the first novel to be published under his own name.

The Maigret stories, such as Les Inconnus dans la maison (1940) and Maigret et le clochard (1963), began to appear in the early 1930s. Commissaire Maigret of the Paris police judiciaire is a pipe-smoking detective whose method of solving crime relies not on scientific deduction, but rather on his intuitive grasp of the criminal's motives. This emphasis on the psychological, together with Simenon's skilful evocation of atmosphere, raise the Maigret novels above the level of ordinary detective fiction. They are read in translation worldwide and have been successfully adapted for television and the cinema.

Simenon was a prolific writer, producing at the peak of his career more than ten new works each year. At the same time, he maintained a consistent quality that caused him to be admired by established French novelists, such as André Gide. His enormous output of over five hundred works also includes many psychological novels, such as Chez Krull (1939; translated as A Sense of Guilt, 1955), La Neige était sale (1948; translated as The Stain on the Snow, 1953), and the semiautobiographical Pedigrée (1948). Trois Chambres à Manhattan (1946) is set in the USA, where Simenon spent ten years after the end of World War II. He subsequently lived in France and Switzerland, officially retiring in 1973. He was as proud of his reputation as a sexual athlete as he was of his reputation as a writer.

Subjects: Literature.

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