THE NIGHTCLUB by Georges Simenon


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Early (1933) non-Maigret Simenon--a rather obvious but economical and sometimes touching variation on a familiar young-novel theme: son's rebellion against parental values. The son here is 19-year-old Jean Cholet, cub reporter for the Catholic newspaper in Nantes--he's living with his parents (hysterical mother, indulgent father) and expressing his independence by staying out late, getting drunk, and hanging around a licentious nightclub where he takes up with Lulu, a chanteuse of easy virtue. (Her socially-diseased state prevents their consummation, so enflamed Jean finds himself having quick, loveless sex with an obligingly casual courtesan in the next room.) There's worse to come, however: Jean's Moulin-Rouge lifestyle is expensive, so he agrees to sell valuable blank birth certificates while on his city-hall reporter rounds. And when touring Lulu takes off for Paris, he impetuously goes along (she's over her disease now), guiltily deserting his sick father--and soon he's down and out and disillusioned in grimy Paris: ""Now he knew that he was not born to drag out a wretched existence in Paris, or to be faithful all his life long to a girl like Lulu."" The solution to his predicament? His father's deus-ex-machina death, forcing him to return home--where Simenon packs too much into the theme-heavy final pages: the revelation that Cholet p≤re was himself subject to sins of flesh and greed; Jean's briefly violent reaction; and a final glimpse of Jean sinking down into the bourgeois quietude he's been rebelling against. Not quite convincing as social or psychological drama (though less dated than you'd expect), but the characterization has Simenon's customary sketchbook vividness, the scene-setting is sharp-focused, and a few of the tender father-son moments achieve an emotional conviction that's otherwise missing from this mildly interesting early work by a minor-key master.

Pub Date: Nov. 27th, 1979
Publisher: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich