Le chat by Georges Simenon (Presse de la cité, 1967)

Reading Le chat and instantly reminded of what a great writer Simenon is. In a few pages, he immerses us in the dynamics of a couple who find comfort in hating each other. She’s killed his cat; he retaliates with her parrot. She has the parrot stuffed as a colourful and constant reminder of his crime. They’re separated by class, in a world they no longer recognise as their own, constantly comparing their relationship to a previous, happier marriage, and on the cusp of their own extinction – which each fervently wish for the other whilst not quite knowing what they’d do with themselves subsequently. Simenon taps into all the senses: the taste of particular dishes and wines, the difference between sex standing up or a roll in the hay, how people smell each other, the pleasure and agony of different sounds; the corner in which sights can remain hidden; what people say, what people mean and how people understand. Simenon evokes the pleasures of a trip to the country; the geography of a Paris that feels like a village, a different one depending on what period of their lives the protagonists are remembering. There are masterful fluid shifts in narrator and the narrative is structured quasi circularly, beginning the story after the incident with which the novel ends. I found it brilliant and interestingly different from the Granier Deferre film where Gabin and Signoret are so great. 

José Arroyo

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