Longer--but lesser--Simenon: a gloomy, picaresque tale of doomed love (originally published in France in 1936), featuring...



Longer--but lesser--Simenon: a gloomy, picaresque tale of doomed love (originally published in France in 1936), featuring yet another Simenon quasi-hero who is led astray by an unworthy woman. Joseph (""Jef"") Mittel, young second-generation anarchist (he has reluctantly followed in his legendary father's footsteps), finds himself on the run with lover/comrade Charlotte. . .who has murdered her former employer/lover for supposedly ""political"" reasons. At Dieppe they sneak aboard a freighter operated by Capt. Mopps, an amoral Dutch gun-runner headed for Panama: Joseph numbly stands by--working as a stoker--while Charlotte promptly becomes Mopps' bedmate. But, after a miserable South American cruise (Mopps' gun-deal falls through), the lovers are back together again: Mopps, disturbed by his obsession with Charlotte, dumps her--and Joseph--in Colombia; they find wretched work in a jungle mining-camp; Charlotte is pregnant (but is the baby Joseph's or Mopps'?); they become fearfully involved in the case of a mad Belgian miner who has been murdered (a suicide verdict is sought by the powers-that-be); Charlotte barely survives an attack of typhoid; they dream of somehow getting back to relative civilization in the town of Buenaventura. And finally that dream comes true (along with the birth of Charlotte's baby). . . just when a letter arrives from Capt. Mopps: he's now in Tahiti, running a pleasure boat, and he invites the couple to join him. Will Joseph remember what happened before and decline this offer? Not at all. Ever rootless, he now yearns for Tahiti, managing to get his fame-of-three aboard a yacht headed there, And, inevitably, more misery awaits: Charlotte's infidelities, questions of the baby's paternity, and (despite a native girl's love) Joseph's descent into madness and illness. Despite the Conrad landscape and the Manon Lescaut outline: familiar Simenon themes--in a sturdy, atmospheric melodrama that lacks the lean, ironic shapeliness of Simenon at his best.

Pub Date: Nov. 30, 1982


Page Count: -

Publisher: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 1982