Wednesday, October 18, 2006

The Man Who Watched Trains Go By

by Georges Simenon

From the author of the Inspector Maigret mysteries (and a lot of other pulp fiction), a serious psychological drama — roman dur, or "hard novel," as the introduction calls it — that's part J.P. Sartre and part Patrick Bateman (of American Psycho), about ideas of freedom and (or, versus) control.

I have a tendency to dismiss mysteries as low-brow entertainment for people who want to seem high-brow by reading but really don't want to have to think very hard about what they're reading — beach books, if you will (which, mind you, have their place). This, on the other hand, this is freakin' literature. Of course, it's not a mystery itself, but I wouldn't have expected a mystery writer capable of this. It might be the literature-in-translation effect, or perhaps it's to do with the era in which it was written (you know, the era when grammar mattered) — whatever it is, this book oozes seriousness, not only in substance but in style as well. I don't mean to say it isn't captivating or isn't a pleasure to read, but it isn't the sort of thing you tear through con brio. Like Nabokov's writing, it's rich and deep, which, depending on your own style, could feel like slogging through mud or luxuriating in a mud bath.

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Ziomal said...
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