Synopses & Reviews
For forty years Charles Alavoine sleepwalks through his life. Obedient to his domineering mother's wishes, he trains as a doctor, takes a plain unassuming wife, opens a medical practice in a quiet country town, and settles into an existence of impeccable bourgeois conformity. After his first wife dies in labor, he remarries; children arrive; he becomes a family man and a cornerstone of the community. And yet at unguarded moments Charles is haunted by a sense of emptiness and futility, by the suspicion that real life is elsewhere. Looking for answers in his past, he spends more and more time recalling his depressive, suicidal father, and a youthful rendezvous with a prostitute who for a few hours gave him “the sensation of infinity.”
Then, one night at a provincial railway station, laden with Christmas presents for his wife and children, he encounters Martine, an enigmatic young woman helplessly adrift in the world. Their ensuing liaison precipitates a spiritual awakening in Alavoine-and sets the stage for his tragic disintegration. Like Camus's The Fall, Georges Simenon's thriller is at once a devastating personal confession and an indictment of modern society's empty and deadening moral codes.
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.
Then, one night, laden with Christmas presents, he meets Martine. It is time for the sleeper to awake.
About the Author
Georges Simenon (1903–1989) was born in Liège, Belgium. He went to work as a reporter at the age of fifteen and in 1923 moved to Paris, where under various pseudonyms he became a highly successful and prolific author of pulp fiction while leading a dazzling social life. In the early 1930s, Simenon emerged as a writer under his own name, gaining renown for his detective stories featuring Inspector Maigret. He also began to write his psychological novels, or romans durs
—books in which he displays a sympathetic awareness of the emotional and spiritual pain underlying the routines of daily life. Having written nearly two hundred books under his own name and become the best-selling author in the world, Simenon retired as a novelist in 1973, devoting himself instead to dictating several volumes of memoirs.
Louise Varèse (1891–1989) was an American writer and translator. In 1969 she was designated a Chevalier de L’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres by the Republic of France in recognition of her translations of Baudelaire, Sartre, Proust, Michaux, and Bernanos, among other writers. She and her husband, the composer Edgard Varèse, were close friends of Georges Simenon during his years in the United States, and she translated some fifteen of his novels.
Roger Ebert has been the film critic of the Chicago Sun-Times since 1967. He won the Pulitzer Prize in 1975. From 1976 through 2006 he co-hosted a weekly film-review program on American television. He is the author of many books, including the 2011 memoir, Life Itself.