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Crae Burnet who said his writing was influenced by having read tons of Simenon books growing up While just getting started with Dirty Snow I noticed that the character names were Germanic sounding than French The book is set during WWII while German forces occupied various parts of Europe In one of Burnet s novels he has the story take place in a French Swiss border town so I wondered if the French or so I thought Simenon also set his stories on the border Nope This one is set in Belgium and now that a friend kindly let me know that this is Simenon s home country things have clicked for me a full three days after finishingIn our group discussion I pondered if writing all of those crime stories over the years is what led Simenon to go further into the human psyche with his other novels ssentially looking at the why behind certain crimes or certain mindsets A hopeless or abusive upbringing can indeed mold monsters I like looking behind the curtain too and for our group book discussion I dug up some general info on author Simenon It s true that he was living in Nazi occupied France during the war but he was also later accused of having conspired with the Germans He was Culture and Enchantment eventually cleared of all the chargesIn this story two men are accused of doing separate acts neither has done Like Simenon was not guilty neither were they The book was published in 1948 and I cannot help but see some of the author smotions and sense of irony in this particular story Secondly the reas Ladies and gentlemen watch carefully Here s Frank a young punk who lives in his mother s brothel in occupied France He lies drinks steals does black market business with the German officers commits murder just for fun Yes feel free to touch him he fucks his mother s girls very night while treating them like shit and is also trying to seduce the 16 year old virgin who lives across the hallAre you still watching you may check that there is nothing up my sleeve and now using only sparse descriptive prose I will transform him into a universal symbol of human suffering and redemption that will remind you of L Etranger King Lear and Crime and Punishment but still has a character all its ownSir I understand your scepticism You don t think it s possible but ABRACADABRA The audience stare in disbelief A lone voice from the back asks plaintively Bloody hell how did Simenon do that Dirty Snow a withering parade of apathy it languishes and ventually disintegrates in a desolate gray landscape of inscrutable uncertainty A perfect summer beach read Eighteen year old Frank the fiercely vacant antihero is a callous arrogant thug He commits increasingly depraved acts determined to prove that he s an D DAY Through German Eyes 2 emotionless killer who doesn t give a shit about anything This desire of course reveals that he isn t uite as indifferent as he likes to think he is It takes him a while to figure this out By the time he does it s too late Or wasn t it alwaysAll in all a seductively bleak tightly written descent intoxistential malaise Baroque Personae emptiness and despair Frank had done what he wanted to do He had rounded the cape He had looked at the other side He hadn t seen what hexpected to see Who cared In his afterword to this novel William T Vollmann opines As technology and corporatism impel us and to treat one another like things loyalty and decency approach irrelevance Democratic Art except between intimates and sometimesven then Dirty Snow is certainly a book that compels a reader to feel much the same as WTV does about what happens to the human soul in the trash compactor crush of Money and Civilization but there are many books that tell This Story So Why story So why this oneSimenon s particular genius is giving us a protagonist loathsome yet relatable and portrayed with a subtlety that belies his horrific actions Frank is like the rest of us his need to count to be known recognized isn t anything new Simenon puts us in the mind of a creature that by the Did the Greeks Believe in Their Myths? end of the story we find real discomfort in just how human a monster can be The snow falls where it wants when it wants whether mankind wishes it or no In thend all we can do is make it filthy In the world of novel writing Georges Simenon was the Mozart of the novel He uit school for good as a teenager never participated in a writing workshop never nrolled in a writing program and a teenager never participated in a writing workshop never nrolled in a writing program and attended a writing class With his innate Codependent Forevermore: The Invention of Self in a Twelve Step Group ear for language and dialogueye for detail and feel for storytelling all he needed was four dozen freshly sharpened pencils lined up on his desk and a Do Not Disturb sign to hang on his door And presto a first rate novel written at fever pitch in two weeks Goodness what some writers wouldn t give to have a fraction of his talent After ten years of writing dime store potboilers Simenon decided to get serious and started writing his Detective Maigret novels A few years after pumping out detective novels again Simenon decided to become ven serious and thus began writing what he sometimes characterized as romans durs that is straight novels or hard novels meaning hard on the reader PD James termed these Simenon third phase books as dark novels or hard novels meaning hard on the reader PD James termed these Simenon third phase books as dark novels I like the sound of all three together straight hard and dark And let me tell you folks Dirty Snow is xactly that straight as in straight psychological study a mile away from detective fiction hard as in very hard on the reader and dark as in the deep recesses of the human psyche Simenon s novels are nearly always strict point of view narratives where readers see people and unfolding Conscience and Memory events only as the main character sees them With Dirty Snow the novel s main character is a burlyighteen year old by the name of Frank Friedmaier a despicable lout if there Pansy Vol. 6 ever was one The novel isn t written in first person but it s a close cousin inach and Edible Memory: The Lure of Heirloom Tomatoes and Other Forgotten Foods every scene it s as if we are standing directly behind Frank gazing over his brawny swinish shoulder Judging this novel set in an unnamed Europea. Ow opens he has just killed his first man Through the unrelenting darkness and cold of anndless winter Frank will pursue abjection until finally there is nowhere to goHans Koning has described Dirty Snow as one of the very few novels to come out of German occupied Fr. Corporate OccupationFrom time to time Georges Simenon has been Elizabeth I either accused of collaboration or praised for his resistance during the German occupation of France in WWII Dirty Snow suggests that a substantial middle ground which might be calledxploitative participation xists and could just be closer to the truth This region is inhabited by many particularly those of the permanent underclass who perceive occupation as another not terribly significant fact of life to be dealt with by the usual means crime Or precisely purposeless criminality For the protagonist Frank military occupation simply means increased opportunity Murder in particular is less problematic than during peacetime and one simply yearns to test one s mettle in such a permissive atmosphere In fact all relationships are worth less to Frank than they might have been otherwise with the naive girl who lives across the landing with the newly recruited prostitutes in his mother s brothel with his felonious pals All are xpendableBut aside from the momentary thrill of conuest none of Frank s actions are meant to advance any objective He already lives well with no financial concerns and no real worry about punishment He s on the way up in the underworld society which itself is Education in a New Society: Renewing the Sociology of Education entirely nihilistic Everyone has something onveryone lse so that veryone on closer view has something to feel guilty about In other words the only reason you don t betray other people is for fear of being betrayed by them The skill therefore is to be the first to betrayOn second or third thought could it be that most of us occupy this middle ground of The Baby Swap Miracle exploitative participation in the corporate society which itself acts as an occupational force in our midst Getting on for the sake of getting on Acting for the thrill of reputational advance Murder and other illegalities may be off limits but betrayal in the corporate world comes just asasily as it does for Frank in occupied territory Frank may merely be the apotheosis of the good corporate citizen 1 14 perhaps M sieur could I have a word pleaseYes what is it We notice that you recently finished reading Dirty Snow Would you care to answer a few uestions about itYes I would like that I think it might be useful to me than you can imagine Well first we have seen that you initially gave it 4 stars then changed it to 2 Why was that I think my initial rating was a result of not wanting to appear dim witted But after a considerable amount of thought I realized that I couldn t give it 4 stars based on the way I rate books And what is that My ratings basically are indications of the xperience I had reading a book and what I thought I was able to take away from that xperience They do not attempt to pass any kind of judgment on the worth uality whatever of the book at least not usually Based on this I realized that the proper rating for the book was no than 2 So you didn t njoy reading this bookCertainly not That s not to say that I found it totally uninteresting Why didn t you njoy itWell what s to njoy I suppose if one were a huge fan of noir one could find the xperience of reading this book very satisfying But my guess is that this Excommunication: Three Inquiries in Media and Mediation example of noir might be veryxtreme Wouldn t it be the case that in most noir novels there is at least one main character that we can relate to on some level I didn t find that here We ll ASK THE UESTIONS IF YOU PLEASE SO YOU COULDN the uestions if you please So you couldn relate to Frank in any wayLook I m a person who likes to think that he has uite a capability of empathizing with people But that is only possible when you can with people But that is only possible when you can something about the person s life attitudes beliefs desires that you Gender Justice either have directxperience with yourself or can you think imagine what having such Generations and Collective Memory experience would be like For me I can t find anything like that in Frank Frankly ho ho if I knew a person like Frank I would stay far away from him and if I couldn t do that I would probably try to figure out some way ofliminating him from my nvironment like you liminate poison ivy from your backyard You did admit that you found something interesting in the book didn t youYes The story line itself was certainly interesting From Notes to Narrative enough to keep me reading at least in the sense that I did continue to wonder what the outcome of this repellant chain ofvents would be I also thought the tale went up a notch in the third part of the book which recalled to me impressions I still had from reading Kafka s Trial long ago It s sometimes said that this novel is a magnificent tale about what it is like for a city to be occupied by a foreign army Any thoughts on thatThere is something to that much rings very true in that regard But many different stories could have been told that would not only include all those keen observations about foreign occupation but would at the same time not be so unremittingly unpleasant to read So you really have very little in the way of positive commentsSPOILER ALERT this paragraph onlyview spoilerAs I said I don t take myself to be a literary critic so I m not judging the book one way or another as literature Though having made that admission I do need to add that I found the Guitar Makers: The Endurance of Artisanal Values in North America ending of the book the SissyHolstpisode totally unbelievable To imagine a young woman having the feelings that Sissy has in the story is impossible unless one assumes that she is as dead to life as Frank himself is in which case they deserve God's Choice: The Total World of a Fundamentalist Christian School each other Of course Holst himself isually unbelievable in this context It strikes me as a deus Hard Bread (Phoenix Poets (Paper)) ex machina whichnables Simenon to nd the tale as he wants to hide spoiler The writer Georges Simenon was a Belgian I thought he was French author who was incredibly prolific in creating noir crime novels and other books that delved into the darkness of the human psyche He is considered by some as the father of the noir genre I nominated this book for a small reading group because of having read two outstanding novels by Graeme Ma. Nineteen year old Frank Friedmaier lives in a country under occupation Most people struggle to get by; Frank takes it asy in his mother's whorehouse which caters to members of the occupying forces But Frank is restless He is a pimp a thug a petty thief and as Dirty Sn. N city under World War II type foreign military occupation as hard on the reader would be understatement anyone opening the book s pages had better be prepared for a story that s tough to swallow actually on further reflection make that xtremely tough to swallow At various points in the narrative Dirty Snow reminded me of Anthony Burgess A Clockwork Orange random youth violence Yevgeny Zamyatin s We erie dystopia Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn s Gulag Archipelago state sponsored fear and Franz Kafka s The Trial nightmarish interrogations Likewise Albert Camus 1945 novel The Stranger written three year prior to Simenon s in the sense Dirty Snow is coated with xistential alienation as snow in the novel is coated with dirt and also is structurally similar to The Stranger in that it is divided into two distinct parts Frank living on the outside and Frank shut up on the inside My strong sense is if Georges Simenon didn t write all those potboilers and Detective Maigret novels and only wrote a few of his romans durs then Dirty Snow would be studied and discussed alongside such classics of xistentialism as The Stranger and Jean Paul Sartre s Nausea Now I can see why George Simenon thought himself worthy of the Nobel Prize and resented publishers and literati who labeled him a hack catering to the clamoring detective fiction loving rabbleIn the first chapter we learn Frank links sex with violence and feels inferior to other slightly older men who have committed murders thus Frank plans to murder his first man a fat officer in the army of occupation known as the Eunuch who is drinking in a bar murder him with a knife that very Fragments evening as something akin to a rite of passage We also come to understand Frank has an odd relationship with an older man his neighbor Gerhardt Holst a man we might infer is a father figure for Frank Frank waits in the snow of the back alley knife at the ready waiting for the Eunuch to walk out of the bar Just at that moment Holst walks down the alley Holst would never see him pressed up against the wall but Frank coughs to make sure Holst knows he is there Frank reflects Of course it wasn t because of Holst that he was going to kill the Eunuch That was already decided It was just that at that moment his act had made no sense It had been almost a joke a childish prank What was it he had said Like losing his virginity Let us recall how in traditional societies the rite of passage from boyhood to manhood does not happen in isolation but is a communityvent witnessed by older men Perhaps Frank yearns for such a communal passageThe plot uickly thickens I highly recommended this penetrating Foundations of Tropical Forest Biology: Classic Papers with Commentaries existential novel published by New York Review Books since there is a most insightful ten page Afterward written by William T Vollmann Afterward rather than Introduction is ideal in this case under the assumption one has already read Dirty Snow Vollmann critiues the novel in detail without risking giving anything away At one point Vollmann observes Here is Simenon s genius Frank wants to be recognized He wants to be known He scarcely knows himself or anythinglse worth knowing But if he can somehow stand revealed to the gaze of the Other then maybe he will achieve some sort of realization Don t you and I want to be real than we are And wouldn t it be convenient if somebody lse could help us get there I hope your literary appetite has been whetted Again highly recommendedGeorges Simenon The first cup of coffee Awake at 600 he prepares it himself and drinks it installed at his machine He gives himself until 900 to write a whole chapter He works only by lectric light This was my first Simenon book though certainly it won t be the last Dirty Snow is a stark noir novel set during the German occupation of France in WW II though the xact location and time period is never mentioned The anti Simenon s cstatically bleak Dirty Snow teeters on the fulcrum between four and five starness and only just barely comes to rest on the four star side A lot of hand wringing and soul searching went into this rating or at least two minutes worth but in the nd I concluded that the Only Uality Dirty Snow Lacks uality Dirty Snow lacks that ineffable something or other that makes a novel grab you by the balls and shout I m a five star book damn it Hearken to my greatness The first thing I want to say about Dirty Snow is actually something about two other books namely Sartre s Nausea and Camus The Stranger both of which you can safely chuck on the book burning pyre because Dirty Snow is the definitive fictional rendering of xistentialism Unlike its celebrated forebears Simenon s work is actually alive not just some nakedly abstract concept onto which character and plot are clumsily affixed The Protagonist Frank Is A Nineteen Year Old Asshole In A Frank is a nineteen year old asshole in a German occupied country during World War II The location is appropriately indistinct Like One Ticket To Texas everythinglse it s pointless Frank has no real friends and doesn t give a shit about anybody not his fretful mother Lotte who runs a brothel out of their apartment not Sissy the girl next door who s infatuated with him and not Kromer his partner in crime Not Helpmate even himself Entirely lacking in purpose Frank thieves and murders without moral compunction but his crimes are less profit motivated or purely sadistic than they are strange floundering assertions of self in an arbitrary and morally convoluted world The last fifty to seventy five pages of the book are a total downer to thextent that the whole fucked up punitive system of the occupation forces is basically a stand in for life in general We try to make sense of it all or to feel important or relevant in some small stupid way but hey guess what Spoiler We re all a big ol steamin pile of nothin Good night You ve been a lovely audience Second reading Frank Friedmaier is hell bent on destruction Son and chief procurer of the local brothelkeeper his mother Frank is nineteen. Ance that gets it xactly right In a study of the criminal mind that is comparable to Jim Thompson's The Killer Inside Me Simenon maps a no man's land of the spirit in which human nature is driven to destruction and redemption perhaps as well by forces beyond its contr.

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