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Lettera al mio giudice von Georges Simenon
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Lettera al mio giudice (Original 1947; 1990. Auflage)

von Georges Simenon

Reihen: Non-Maigret (57)

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nbsp;nbsp;nbsp;nbsp; For forty years Charles Alavoine has sleepwalked through his life. Growing up as a good boy in the grip of a domineering mother, he trains as a doctor, marries, opens a medical practice in a quiet country town, and settles into an existence of impeccable bourgeois conformity. And yet at unguarded moments this model family man is haunted by a sense of emptiness and futility. nbsp;nbsp;nbsp;nbsp; Then, one night, laden with Christmas presents, he meets Martine. It is time for the sleeper to awake.… (mehr)
Mitglied:Gianfranco.Salmeri
Titel:Lettera al mio giudice
Autoren:Georges Simenon
Info:Adelphi (1990), Perfect Paperback
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Brief an meinen Richter : Roman von Georges Simenon (1947)

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Originally published in 1947, Georges Simenon’s compelling existential tale, Act of Passion, is one of the very few of his five hundred novels written in the first-person. Although assuming the form of a lengthy letter penned in a jail cell by condemned prisoner Charles Alavoine, for our ease of reading Alavoine’s letter has all the usual punctuation for dialogue and takes the form of a conventional novel.

Also fortunate for readers is how this New York Review Books (NYRB) edition includes a keenly astute Introduction by film critic Roger Ebert. And since Act of Passion is one of the author’s “hard novels,” a psychological study of character rather than detective mystery, I’ll focus on what I perceive as key moments and conflicts in the life of the narrator.

Charles Alavoine, a man Roger Ebert deems as entirely encased within himself, devoid of any capacity for empathy. Charles is a country doctor, his mother’s choice (either doctor or priest), a career he himself considers no more than a job; indeed, Charles would much rather be outside in the fields.

Of course, a French novel of a country doctor by the name of Charles married to a beautiful wife (actually, his second wife) will have inevitable associations with Flaubert’s Madame Bovary. I suspect an entire essay could be written comparing the two novels but I will refrain from making any further parallels beyond noting these obvious similarities.

“From my bench I could see the jurors scowling and wrinkling up their foreheads, sometimes jotting down notes like detective story readers whom an author, without seeming to do so, has switched on to a new track.” What a great Simenon line – from an author of many dozen Detective Maigret stories. Anyway, Charles has the distinct impression he has broken through to the other side, “I have enormous advantage for I have killed” - claiming the man he is writing to, the Examining Magistrate, is the only person he would like to comprehend the underlying reasons for his murder, reasons expressing his own profound wisdom of the true workings of the world. "It would be so much easier if you too had killed!"

But there’s the rub. How much wisdom and understanding does Charles Alavoine, in fact, possess? For starters, as Roger Ebert remarks, Alavoine is a fetishist: “His eye for specifics is that of a fetishist: he remembers a street, a café, a room, a train, how the light fell – and always the lonely Alavoine is at the center. The accretion of details suggests the mind of a masturbator re-creating scenes of past erotic intensity. It is possible to imagine Alavoine reading over his own pages and feeling aroused.”

Moreover, after the premature death of his docile first wife delivering her second daughter, Charles has to deal with the stunning Armande, a gorgeous blonde who initially enters his household as his daughter’s nurse but eventually completely takes over. And Armande’s domination is total, including, in effect, forcing Charles into marriage and holding Charles's mother under her powerful thumb. How much does Armande’s perfectionism and control (nowadays our term for such a personality is “control freak”) have on pushing Charles Alavoine to hook up with young barfly Martine from the Belgian city of Liège (nice touch, Georges, since Liège is also your native city), the woman Alavoine falls in love with and eventually strangles?

Charles also writes of the terrible emptiness he feels, how he alone realizes just how indifferent the universe is to our fragile human desires. An all-pervasive uneasiness forces Charles to conclude he is wasting his life. But then it happens: Martine awakens in him a furious desire - not only a sexual desire but also a desire to "find his shadow.” Ah, the mention of finding one's shadow opens the novel up to a thoroughly Jungian interpretation, the shadow referring to the unconscious, dark aspects of personality.

However, there’s a price for his newfound passion. Charles is so totally bound to Martine, wants to melt into her, such that he has "awakened the phantoms" and thus loses psychic control, even to the point where he hates all other men who so much as approach her. He desires Martine and demands the world completely accommodate his desire. Big problem. A force, a passion, has been given to him, a man who up until this point in his life “didn’t even have a shadow.” We hear echoes from Jean-Paul Sartre’s “No Exit that "hell is other people” when Charles rages against what he labels “the Other,” when he rages against an entire society he deems a suffocating net. And there are times when Charles's rage, his phantoms, boil over - he physically assaults Martine.

Charles recognizes he is, at times, possessed by his rage. He also realizes there are other times his obsession for Martine becomes overwhelming. But what about his own ignorance? Throughout his letter, Charles claims a capacity for unique awareness and a rarefied understanding.

Alas, by my eye, one of the key philosophical issues of Simenon’s novel: Charles can detect when he is in the grip of rage, of anger; likewise, he can identify those other times when he is filled with greed, of the need to make Martine his own. But how about his pervading ignorance, his lack of compassion and empathy? Such a lack can be much more pernicious, insidious and destructive since it is all inclusive; in other words, it doesn’t have an edge - he is continually snared in its grip.

And how much of our own life can we detect in Charles Alavoine? In the spirit of French existential novels written in first-person, such as Camus’s The Fall and Jean-Paul Sartre’s Nausea, Simenon's Act of Passion is a work of probing life-and-death questions, one I highly recommend.


"I burst into a rage, your Honour. Not only against Armande. Against all of you, against life, as you understand it, against the idea you have of the union of two beings and the heights of passion they can attain." - Georges Simenon, Act of Passion ( )
  Glenn_Russell | Nov 13, 2018 |
Frankrig, ca 1946
En læge, doktor Charles Alavoine, er blevet dømt for mord. Efter at have begyndt afsoningen skriver han et langt brev til undersøgelsesdommeren Ernest Coméliau, som behandlede sagen.

??? ( )
  bnielsen | May 12, 2018 |
Simenon è sempre ….. Simenon!

L’ennesimo libro su una ossessione amorosa? Si, ma è scritto da Simenon. E la differenza diventa subito evidente. Simenon è sempre immenso nello scrivere, rimango sempre rapito dalla sua incredibile capacità narrativa.

Charles Alavoine, un medico che viveva una vita scialba e incolore, dapprima nella campagna e poi in una cittadina della provincia francese, incontra Martine, donna con un passato strano, forse torbido, e fatto di fallimenti in serie e però docile e malleabile. Un incontro casuale, ma che è sconvolgente nella vita del medico. Una vita portata avanti senza lampi di felicità e fatta assecondando la corrente che lo sospinge a sopravvivere più che a vivere, senza un senso al suo agire. Senza oltretutto rendersi conto che viveva la una vita scialba.
“Per anni e anni, insomma, avevo vissuto senza accorgermene. Avevo fatto tutto quello che mi avevano detto di fare con scrupolo, meglio che potevo: ma senza cercare di conoscerne il motivo, senza cercare di capire.”
“Perché? Continuavo a fare i gesti di ogni giorno, ma non creda che fossi infelice; avevo soltanto l’impressione di girare a vuoto.”
Dapprima sposa una donna del suo paese, che muore presto di parto, una gravidanza fatta solo per accontentare lo “status” di buon padre di famiglia che deve avere tanti figli. In seguito sposa Armande, vedova piacente e di certa classe che vive nella cittadina in cui si trasferisce per affermarsi come medico di città e non più di campagna. Armande pur essendo una donna bella e intelligente, che lo rende oggetto di una certa invidia sociale, è però una donna fredda, attaccata alle apparenze della società, che vive i doveri del matrimonio come un qualcosa a cui si può e vuole soprassedere. L’importante per lei è dominare la vita che la circonda e impossessarsi dei beni sotto il suo controllo. Rendendo Charles sempre più un uomo infelice, succube e incapace di farsi valere.
“È terribile pensare che siamo tutti uomini, tutti destinati, chi più chi meno, a portare il nostro fardello sotto un cielo sconosciuto, e che non vogliamo fare il minimo sforzo per capirci a vicenda.”
“Era lei che m’impediva di essere libero, di vivere una vera vita da uomo. La osservavo, non la perdevo mai d’occhio: tutto ciò che diceva e ognuno dei suoi gesti mi confermavano nella mia idea.”
È l’incontro con Martine che gli rende evidente il suo stato di vita incolore e scialba. La passione che lo possiede, letteralmente, lo porta a mollare la sua famiglia per rifugiarsi con lei a vivere una nuova vita. Fregandosene delle apparenze e del conformismo sociale.
“C’era un uomo che non poteva agire diversamente, punto e basta. E non poteva perché a un tratto, dopo quarant’anni, era in gioco la sua felicità, quella di cui non si era mai preoccupato nessuno, nemmeno lui, una felicità che non aveva cercato, che gli era piovuta dal cielo e che non doveva lasciarsi sfuggire.”
È quindi, ripeto, l’ennesimo libro che ci parla di una ossessione amorosa? Certo. Ma questo è stato scritto parecchi decenni fa, quindi non è un precursore ma quasi. Poi è scritto da Simenon, e la differenza la vivi dentro di te leggendo il romanzo. I personaggi sono delineati con poche parole, ma dense di significato e che fanno capire tutto. Ogni aspetto psicologico dei personaggi è chiaro e incontrovertibile, non ci sono possibili interpretazioni dell’agire dei personaggi.
Però dopo aver letto un po’ di romanzi di Simenon, e avendone ammirato lo stile e la presa che hanno sul lettore, mi viene da notare anche alcuni aspetti negativi, a mio parere, dello scrivere di Simenon.
I suoi racconti e i suoi personaggi sono tutti senza speranza. Vivono una vita senza senso e senza la ricerca di questo. Tirano avanti la loro vita senza il desiderio che questa abbia una speranza. E se compiono un delitto non sanno neanche loro perché lo hanno fatto. Lo compiono perché gli capita di farlo, ma possono tranquillamente essere sia colpevoli che innocenti. Anche nei libri che hanno il commissario Maigret come protagonista i personaggi sono così. Compiono il male indifferentemente da come potrebbero compiere il bene. Maigret ha però la capacità di affrontare le indagini con questa consapevolezza e disincanto sull’animo umano.
In questo romanzo i protagonisti non sembrano uomini, ma bestie che vivono di istinti poco più che primordiali. Tanto che qui il medico scatena una violenza inaudita e senza senso verso l’oggetto della sua ossessione, una donna oltremodo totalmente condiscendente al suo volere. Ed è forse proprio per questa bestialità che ad un certo punto della lettera al giudice il protagonista dice:
“Vedo ancora quei due scimpanzé, maschio e femmina, che si tenevano abbracciati e ci guardavano con occhi simili a quelli con cui io guardavo voialtri durante il processo, signor giudice.”
Ovviamente non dico come finisce il racconto, aggiungo solo che tutto il libro da molto da pensare e da riflettere su tanti aspetti della esistenza umana. ( )
  SirJo | Sep 4, 2017 |
Originally published in 1947, Georges Simenon’s compelling existential tale, Act of Passion, is perhaps the only one of Simenon’s over five hundred novels written in the first-person. Although assuming the form of a lengthy letter penned in a jail cell by condemned prisoner Charles Alavoine, for our ease of reading Alavoine’s letter has all the usual punctuation for dialogue and takes the form of a conventional novel. Also fortunate for readers is how this New York Review Books (NYRB) edition includes a keenly astute Introduction by film critic Roger Ebert. And since Act of Passion is one of the author’s “hard novels,” a psychological study of character rather than detective mystery, I’ll focus on what I perceive as key moments and conflicts in the life of the narrator.

Charles Alavoine, a man Roger Ebert deems as entirely encased within himself, devoid of any capacity for empathy. Charles is a country doctor, his mother’s choice (either doctor or priest), a career he himself considers no more than a job; indeed, Charles would much rather be outside in the fields. Of course, a French novel of a country doctor by the name of Charles married to a beautiful wife (actually, his second wife) will have inevitable associations with Flaubert’s Madame Bovary. I suspect an entire essay could be written comparing the two novels but I will refrain from making any further parallels beyond noting these obvious similarities.

“From my bench I could see the jurors scowling and wrinkling up their foreheads, sometimes jotting down notes like detective story readers whom an author, without seeming to do so, has switched on to a new track.” What a great Simenon line – from an author of many dozen Detective Maigret stories. Anyway, Charles has the distinct impression he has broken through to the other side, “I have enormous advantage for I have killed” - claiming the man he is writing to, the Examining Magistrate, is the only person he would like to comprehend the underlying reasons for his murder, reasons expressing his own profound wisdom of the true workings of the world. "It would be so much easier if you too had killed!"

But there’s the rub. How much wisdom and understanding does Charles Alavoine, in fact, possess? For starters, as Roger Ebert remarks, Alavoine is a fetishist: “His eye for specifics is that of a fetishist: he remembers a street, a café, a room, a train, how the light fell – and always the lonely Alavoine is at the center. The accretion of details suggests the mind of a masturbator re-creating scenes of past erotic intensity. It is possible to imagine Alavoine reading over his own pages and feeling aroused.”

Moreover, after the premature death of his docile first wife delivering her second daughter, Charles has to deal with the stunning Armande, a gorgeous blonde who initially enters his household as his daughter’s nurse but eventually completely takes over. And Armande’s domination is total, including, in effect, forcing Charles into marriage and holding Charles's mother under her powerful thumb. How much does Armande’s perfectionism and control (nowadays our term for such a personality is “control freak”) have on pushing Charles Alavoine to hook up with young barfly Martine from the Belgian city of Liège (nice touch, Georges, since Liège is also your native city), the woman Alavoine falls in love with and eventually strangles?

Charles also writes of the terrible emptiness he feels, how he alone realizes just how indifferent the universe is to our fragile human desires. An all-pervasive uneasiness forces Charles to conclude he is wasting his life. But then it happens: Martine awakens in him a furious desire - not only a sexual desire but also a desire to "find his shadow.” Ah, the mention of finding ones shadow opens the novel up to a thoroughly Jungian interpretation, the shadow referring to the unconscious, dark aspects of personality.

However, there’s a price for his newfound passion. Charles is so totally bound to Martine, wants to melt into her, such that he has "awakened the phantoms" and thus loses psychic control, even to the point where he hates all other men who so much as approach her. He desires Martine and demands the world completely accommodate his desire. Big problem. A force, a passion, has been given to him, a man who up until this point in his life “didn’t even have a shadow.” We hear echoes from Jean-Paul Sartre’s “No Exit that "hell is other people” when Charles rages against what he labels “the Other,” when he rages against an entire society he deems a suffocating net. And there are times when Charles's rage, his phantoms, boil over - he physically assaults Martine.

Charles recognizes he is, at times, possessed by his rage. He also realizes there are other times his obsession for Martine becomes overwhelming. But what about his own ignorance? Throughout his letter, Charles claims a capacity for unique awareness and a rarefied understanding. Alas, by my eye, one of the key philosophical issues of Simenon’s novel: Charles can detect when he is in the grip of rage, of anger; likewise, he can identify those other times when he is filled with greed, of the need to make Martine his own. But how about his pervading ignorance, his lack of compassion and empathy? Such a lack can be much more pernicious, insidious and destructive since it is all inclusive; in other words, it doesn’t have an edge - he is continually snared in its grip. And how much of our own life can we detect in Charles Alavoine? In the spirit of French existential novels written in first-person, such as Camus’s The Fall and Jean-Paul Sartre’s Nausea, Simenon's Act of Passion is a work of probing life-and-death questions, one I highly recommend. ( )
  GlennRussell | Mar 22, 2017 |
Act of Passion is the most disturbing book I've read this year. It's one of Simenon's non-Maigret novels, ones he called romans durs. It's also rare in Simenon's novels because it's a first person story. Dr. Charles Alavoine after being found guilty of manslaughter (the act of passion in the title), writes a letter to the examining magistrate explaining how actually he planned the murder. The letter is his plea to be understood, and it's pretty obvious that someone who wants to declare how he planned murder is not the most easy character to read.

It's a book about a criminal's mind, and the story gets worse as it goes along as we approach the recap of the murder. Alavoine's view of women is quite horrid, and his crime is quite horrible as well. I couldn't stop reading in part because this book is such a contrast to the Maigret series and because I mistakenly thought the narrator would have a flash of insight.

A few things in the novel place it in 1947 for me: (1) the focus on psychoanalysis; (2) Alavoine's journey from the provinces to a larger city strikes me as particularly of the period; and (3) the mention of tubercular husbands..

It's not a pleasant book. Alavoine is not a sympathetic main character. And it's a book where the main character's rationalizations do not make sense to me either. I don't feel like a psychoanalyst, but I do feel like a gawker by reading this very unsettling book.

Finally, a couple suggestions for further reading: first an interesting conversation in the comments about recommended Simenon novels see Asylum, and this lengthy piece in Open Letters Monthly discusses the romans durs along with a spoiler-laden discussion of this particular novel.

I borrowed the book from the library.
  rkreish | Nov 24, 2014 |
keine Rezensionen | Rezension hinzufügen

» Andere Autoren hinzufügen (7 möglich)

AutorennameRolleArt des AutorsWerk?Status
Georges SimenonHauptautoralle Ausgabenberechnet
Birger HuseÜbersetzerCo-Autoreinige Ausgabenbestätigt
Christensen, Karen NyropÜbersetzerCo-Autoreinige Ausgabenbestätigt
Ebert, RogerEinführungCo-Autoreinige Ausgabenbestätigt
Kool, Halbo C.ÜbersetzerCo-Autoreinige Ausgabenbestätigt
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nbsp;nbsp;nbsp;nbsp; For forty years Charles Alavoine has sleepwalked through his life. Growing up as a good boy in the grip of a domineering mother, he trains as a doctor, marries, opens a medical practice in a quiet country town, and settles into an existence of impeccable bourgeois conformity. And yet at unguarded moments this model family man is haunted by a sense of emptiness and futility. nbsp;nbsp;nbsp;nbsp; Then, one night, laden with Christmas presents, he meets Martine. It is time for the sleeper to awake.

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