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L'Homme qui regardait passer les trains (1938)

par Georges Simenon

Autres auteurs: Voir la section autres auteur(e)s.

MembresCritiquesPopularitéÉvaluation moyenneMentions
9412117,103 (3.74)26
A brilliant new translation of one of Simenon's best loved masterpieces. 'A certain furtive, almost shameful emotion ... disturbed him whenever he saw a train go by, a night train especially, its blinds drawn down on the mystery of its passengers' Kees Popinga is a respectable Dutch citizen and family man. Then he discovers that his boss has bankrupted the shipping firm he works for - and something snaps. Kees used to watch the trains go by to exciting destinations. Now, on some dark impulse, he boards one at random, and begins a new life of recklessness and violence. This chilling portrayal of a man who breaks from society and goes on the run asks who we are, and what we are capable of. 'Classic Simenon ... extraordinary in its evocative power' Independent 'What emerges is the bare human animal' John Gray 'Read him at your peril, avoid him at your loss' Sunday Times… (plus d'informations)
  1. 10
    L'étranger par Albert Camus (thorold)
    thorold: Respectable bourgeois discovers absurdity of life and commits motiveless crime.
  2. 21
    Monsieur Ripley par Patricia Highsmith (thatguyzero)
  3. 00
    La neige était sale par Georges Simenon (UrliMancati)
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» Voir aussi les 26 mentions

Anglais (12)  Italien (4)  Espagnol (2)  Portugais (1)  Catalan (1)  Allemand (1)  Toutes les langues (21)
Affichage de 1-5 de 21 (suivant | tout afficher)
A novel about criminal psychology rather than a detective story. I enjoyed this, which has been lurking unread among my classic Pan collection for nearly three decades. A Dutch businessman, secretly resenting his stuffy, conventional life, is suddenly confronted with ruin, snaps, kills someone, and then tries to go to ground in central Paris, aiming to maintain a respectable anonymity while evading the police and with a diminishing stock of money. Simenon's protagonist (I won't call him "hero") is helped by some members of the Parisian criminal underclass, but is eventually undone by a random encounter with another, and by his own unravelling mental state. Despite the title, the watching of trains is rather peripheral to the action, though for Popinga they symbolize "the life beyond", and in the end he is inexorably drawn to the railway. The setting in mid 20th century urban and suburban Paris is lightly but convincingly drawn.

I was reminded of John Wain's "The Smaller Sky" (1967), in which a respectable businessman drops out and takes up residence in a large London railway station.

MB 27-viii-2021 ( )
  MyopicBookworm | Aug 27, 2021 |
Diese Buch ist ein moderner Klassiker. Ein normaler, angepasster Mann bricht aus seinem normalen, angepassten Leben aus. Er überwindet alle Konventionen, begeht Verbrechen. Vermeintlich ist er das erste Mal ehrlich zu sich und anderen.
Das 1938 publizierte Buch ist sehr bekannt und der Stoff interessant. Mir ist es allerdings schwer gefallen, es zu lesen. ( )
  Wassilissa | Apr 8, 2020 |
La sera di un giorno qualsiasi, Kees Popinga si appresta a fumare un sigaro. Kees Popinga è uno di quegli uomini cosiddetti normali che Simenon predilige e che sa raccontare come nessun altro. La sua normalità, come ogni normalità, è illusoria: un meccanismo che, appena s’inceppa, diventa capace di tutto. Ma non tutti, a quel punto, sono capaci di tutto. Kees Popinga sì.
  kikka62 | Feb 4, 2020 |


This captivating page-turner is not a Detective Maigret novel but one Simenon termed roman durs, meaning uncomfortable or hard on the reader. With The Man Who Watched Trains Go By, each chapter begins with a brief epigraph, for example, the epigraph for Chapter 1 reads “In which Julius de Coster the Younger gets drunk at the Little-Saint George, and the impossible suddenly breaches the dykes of everyday life.”

Here's my choice of epigram for the book itself: "The Case of Kees Popinga, or how upon hearing shocking revelations, a well-to-do bourgeois bean counter goes completely berserk."

The first pages provide the setup: One icy December evening in the northern Dutch city of Groningen, forty-year-old family man Kees Popinga walks down to the dock to check on a cargo delivery he scheduled himself in his capacity as head clerk of an esteemed shipping firm. The enraged ship’s captain blasts him because the shipment did not arrived. Nonplussed, Kees strolls by a nearby pub only to see through the window, to his amazement, his boss, Julius de Coster, drinking at a table.

Julius waves for him to come in, and, between swigs of brandy, breezily tells Kees in so many words that he, Mr. Pop-in-ga, is Popinga the Poopstick, prime stooge, a ninny so blind he couldn’t see how he, Julius de Coster, has been embezzling, stealing and cheating for years, not to mention having extramarital sex with former employee Pamela, an attractive young lady everyone in the company, including Kees Popinga, dreamed of going to bed with.

Furthermore, Julius goes on, since he made a bad investment in sugar, the company is now bankrupt and not only will Popinga lose his job but also his life savings, thus his house and all other personal properties. Lowering his voice, Julius also informs Mr. Pop-in-ga that this is the very night he, the well-respected Julius de Coster, will be faking his own suicide and fleeing the country.

Poor Mr. Popinga! Nothing like having your well-ordered, comfortable Dutch bourgeois world come crashing down in a heap of rubble. And how, we may ask, does our staid, conservative shipping clerk react to this disaster? The next morning, he makes his first radical decision: to stay under the covers in bed.

What! Not go to the office, Kees? Mrs. Popinga is shocked, to say the least. Oh, yes, new world, new man. We read: “The important thing was that he felt completely at ease. This was the real him. Yes – this is how he should have acted all along.”

So, for the first time in his adult life Kees Popinga has a taste of tranquility and joy, a state free from agitation and constant worrying, what he recognizes as “the real him” – and for good reason: many the spiritual and philosophical tradition maintaining such a combination of tranquility and joy is, in fact, our birthright, our true nature. As existential psychologist R.D. Laing observed: “Our 'normal' 'adjusted' state is too often the abdication of ecstasy, the betrayal of our true potentialities.”

And then we read: “Kees had always dreamed of being something other than Kees Popinga. That explained why he was so completely the way he was – so completely Kees Popinga – and why he even overdid it. Because he knew that if he gave even an inch, nothing would stop him again.”

In other words, it’s all or nothing.- once the thin shell of rigid identity is even slightly cracked, the entire edifice breaks down. It’s as if, in his own clerkish way, Kees Popinga grasps R.D. Laing’s insight: “The condition of alienation, of being asleep, of being unconscious, of being out of one’s mind, is the condition of the normal man. Society highly values its normal man.”

Kees Popinga finally rouses himself from bed, shaves, showers, dresses and, without telling his wife of his plans, leaves his house and family forever, having resolved to also leave behind his identity as a "normal man."

What follows when he travels to Amsterdam to have sex with Pamela (Julius de Coster bragged about how he set the luscious Pamela up in a particularly posh hotel) and then on to Paris is a truly odd series of events, a story Luc Sante in his Introduction to this New York Review Books (NYRB) edition calls both galling and comic.

This Georges Simenon novel is a penetrating exploration into the psychology of personal identity. How far can Kees Popinga the bean counter free himself from his habit of counting beans (the former shipping clerk continually, almost obsessively, makes entries in a small red leather notebook he happens to find in his jacket pocket)? And how far will the consequences of his actions (for starters, he quite unintentionally kills Pamela) launch him into madness? If you are up for a quizzical existential tale by turns humorous and infuriating, this is your book.


Georges Simenon in Paris. Frequently, the author would observe people on the street, pick out an interesting face, usually a man, and imagine him dealing with an unexpected event that would strip him of all comfortable social clothing and push him to the limit. ( )
  Glenn_Russell | Nov 13, 2018 |
This captivating page-turner is not a Detective Maigret novel but one Simenon termed roman durs, meaning uncomfortable or hard on the reader. With The Man Who Watched Trains Go By, each chapter begins with a brief epigraph, for example, the epigraph for Chapter 1 reads “In which Julius de Coster the Younger gets drunk at the Little-Saint George, and the impossible suddenly breaches the dykes of everyday life.” Here's my choice of epigram for the book itself: "The Case of Kees Popinga, or how upon hearing shocking revelations, a well-to-do bourgeois bean counter goes completely berserk."

The first pages provide the setup: One icy December evening in the northern Dutch city of Groningen, forty-year-old family man Kees Popinga walks down to the dock to check on a cargo delivery he scheduled himself in his capacity as head clerk of an esteemed shipping firm. The enraged ship’s captain blasts him because the shipment did not arrived. Nonplussed, Kees strolls by a nearby pub only to see through the window, to his amazement, his boss, Julius de Coster, drinking at a table.

Julius waves for him to come in, and, between swigs of brandy, breezily tells Kees in so many words that he, Mr. Pop-in-ga, is Popinga the Poopstick, prime stooge, a ninny so blind he couldn’t see how he, Julius de Coster, has been embezzling, stealing and cheating for years, not to mention having extramarital sex with former employee Pamela, an attractive young lady everyone in the company, including Kees Popinga, dreamed of going to bed with. Furthermore, Julius goes on, since he made a bad investment in sugar, the company is now bankrupt and not only will Popinga lose his job but also his life saving, thus his house and all other personal properties. Lowering his voice, Julius also informs Mr. Pop-in-ga that this is the very night he, the well-respected Julius de Coster, will be faking his own suicide and fleeing the country.

Poor Mr. Popinga! Nothing like having your well-ordered, comfortable Dutch bourgeois world come crashing down in a heap of rubble. And how, we may ask, does our staid, conservative shipping clerk react to this disaster? The next morning, he makes his first radical decision: to stay under the covers in bed. What! Not go to the office, Kees? Mrs. Popinga is shocked, to say the least. Oh, yes, new world, new man. We read: “The important thing was that he felt completely at ease. This was the real him. Yes – this is how he should have acted all along.”

So, for the first time in his adult life Kees Popinga has a taste of tranquility and joy, a state free from agitation and constant worrying, what he recognizes as “the real him” – and for good reason: many the spiritual and philosophical tradition maintaining such a combination of tranquility and joy is, in fact, our birthright, our true nature. As existential psychologist R.D. Laing observed: “Our 'normal' 'adjusted' state is too often the abdication of ecstasy, the betrayal of our true potentialities.”

And then we read: “Kees had always dreamed of being something other than Kees Popinga. That explained why he was so completely the way he was – so completely Kees Popinga – and why he even overdid it. Because he knew that if he gave even an inch, nothing would stop him again.” In other words, it’s all or nothing.- once the thin shell of rigid identity is even slightly cracked, the entire edifice breaks down. It’s as if, in his own clerkish way, Kees Popinga grasps R.D. Laing’s insight: “The condition of alienation, of being asleep, of being unconscious, of being out of one’s mind, is the condition of the normal man. Society highly values its normal man.”

Kees Popinga finally rouses himself from bed, shaves, showers, dresses and, without telling his wife of his plans, leaves his house and family forever, having resolved to also leave behind his identity as a "normal man." What follows when he travels to Amsterdam to have sex with Pamela (Julius de Coster bragged about how he set the luscious Pamela up in a particularly posh hotel) and then on to Paris is a truly odd series of events, a story Luc Sante in his Introduction to this New York Review Books (NYRB) edition calls both galling and comic.

For my money, this Georges Simenon novel is a penetrating exploration into the psychology of personal identity. How far can Kees Popinga the bean counter free himself from his habit of counting beans (the former shipping clerk continually, almost obsessively, makes entries in a small red leather notebook he happens to find in his jacket pocket) and how far will the consequences of his actions (for starters, he quite unintentionally kills Pamela) launch him into madness? If you are up for a quizzical existential tale by turns humorous and infuriating, this is your book. ( )
1 voter GlennRussell | Feb 28, 2017 |
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Nom de l'auteur(e)RôleType d'auteurŒuvre ?Statut
Simenon, Georgesauteur(e) principal(e)toutes les éditionsconfirmé
Birk, LindeTraducteurauteur secondairequelques éditionsconfirmé
York, DeniseConcepteur de la couvertureauteur secondairequelques éditionsconfirmé
Zallio Messori, PaolaTraducteurauteur secondairequelques éditionsconfirmé
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A brilliant new translation of one of Simenon's best loved masterpieces. 'A certain furtive, almost shameful emotion ... disturbed him whenever he saw a train go by, a night train especially, its blinds drawn down on the mystery of its passengers' Kees Popinga is a respectable Dutch citizen and family man. Then he discovers that his boss has bankrupted the shipping firm he works for - and something snaps. Kees used to watch the trains go by to exciting destinations. Now, on some dark impulse, he boards one at random, and begins a new life of recklessness and violence. This chilling portrayal of a man who breaks from society and goes on the run asks who we are, and what we are capable of. 'Classic Simenon ... extraordinary in its evocative power' Independent 'What emerges is the bare human animal' John Gray 'Read him at your peril, avoid him at your loss' Sunday Times

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