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Les Inconnus dans la maison (1940)

par Georges Simenon

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3531156,628 (3.76)23
"Dirty, drunk, unloved, and unloving, Hector Loursat has been a bitter recluse for eighteen long years - ever since his wife abandoned him and their newborn child to run off with another man. Once a successful lawyer, Loursat now guzzles burgundy and buries himself in books, taking little notice of his teenage daughter or the odd things going on in his vast and ever-more-dilapidated mansion. But one night the sound of a gunshot penetrates the padded walls of Loursat's study, and he is forced to investigate. What he stumbles on is a murder." "Soon Loursat discovers that his daughter and her friends have been leading a dangerous secret life. He finds himself strangely drawn to this group of young people, and when one of them is accused of the murder, he astonishes the world by taking up the young man's defense."--BOOK JACKET.… (plus d'informations)
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Simenon. 't was even geleden dat we hem nog lazen. We maakten ooit kennis via Maigret (natuurlijk, wie niet?), maar ontdekten via 'de bananentoerist' dat hij een heerlijk schrijver was en bovenal een sterk ontleder van de menselijk ziel.

Onbekenden in huis ligt middenin de policiers en de eerde psychologische romans die Simenon schreef. Het is in zijn pure vorm een who dunnit opgebouwd rond de moord op een onbekende in het huis van een vereenzaamd advocaat. Maar de uitwerking is dat allerminst.

Sinds zijn vrouw hem in de steek liet, leeft advocaat Hector Loursat als kluizenaar en heeft hij zelfs amper contact met zijn dochter, hoewel die bij hem woont. Maar de moord brengt daar stilaan verandering in.
Onbekenden in huis is dan ook eerder de morele en feitelijke heropstanding van een man die zich teruggetrokken had uit de samenleving dan een moordraadsel. Het is indrukwekkend hoe Simenon zijn hoofdpersoon voorzichtig, schichtig en onwennig weer laat openbloeien. Dat hij met de verwondering van een kind weer naar de wereld en de mensen om hem heen kijkt, zorgt ook voor een zinvolle blik op de moordzaak. Het pleidooi in de rechtbank is strak en fris uitgewerkt maar het is vooral heerlijk hoe Simenon je doodsimpel om de oren slaat met plotse zinnen zoals:

"Een verre claxon drong door de laag van stilte heen, hen eraan herinnerend dat er om hen heen een kleine stad bestond, waarvan elke bewoner dacht dat hij het leven kende."

Heerlijk leesvoer! ( )
  GertDeBie | Mar 22, 2021 |
The pleasures of this book come from subtle moments - an elegant piece of description, the natural interplay of diction between the main character's inner world and the world around him.

Georges Simenon may be a writer's writer. Certainly, a lot of what I liked about this novel was the economic way he was able to use language to convey two distinct and interesting storylines: one psychological, the other within the constraints of the genre.

I've read Paul Theroux compare Simenon to Camus (http://entertainment.timesonline.co.uk/tol/arts_and_entertainment/the_tls/articl...), and I have to admit I like the comparison. Where Camus steeps his reader in dark brooding and bottomless existential angst, Simenon is a little like the people's philosophy. The moments of angst in this book, occur as a matter of realism in the pragmatic portrayal and haunting dilemmas of Loursat, the main character.

I really like this author. I recommend him to anyone who likes genre fiction or philosophical considerations. ( )
  Adrian_Astur_Alvarez | Dec 3, 2019 |
The pleasures of this book come from subtle moments - an elegant piece of description, the natural interplay of diction between the main character's inner world and the world around him.

Georges Simenon may be a writer's writer. Certainly, a lot of what I liked about this novel was the economic way he was able to use language to convey two distinct and interesting storylines: one psychological, the other within the constraints of the genre.

I've read Paul Theroux compare Simenon to Camus (http://entertainment.timesonline.co.uk/tol/arts_and_entertainment/the_tls/articl...), and I have to admit I like the comparison. Where Camus steeps his reader in dark brooding and bottomless existential angst, Simenon is a little like the people's philosophy. The moments of angst in this book, occur as a matter of realism in the pragmatic portrayal and haunting dilemmas of Loursat, the main character.

I really like this author. I recommend him to anyone who likes genre fiction or philosophical considerations. ( )
  Adrian_Astur_Alvarez | Dec 3, 2019 |
Loursat has been satisfied for the past 18 years with waking up well into day, pulling a few more bottles of wine up from the basement, walking around one block, eating a silent dinner with his 20 year old daughter and going back up to his warm study to read and drink until he feels he can sleep again. His is a member of one of the most respectable families in Moulins, he has money, and was gifted in his profession as a lawyer. He had always been studious and reclusive, so when his wife left him alone with his daughter for another man he was content to withdraw and treat every day the same.

One night something different happens and he must leave his study. On investigating, he discovers his daughter is at the center of a gang of young men and engaged in behavior shocking to the prewar town. When his daughter's boyfriend is accused of the crime Loursat, inexplicably drawn in, announces he will defend the boy in court.

'The Strangers in the House' is in part about the court case and the unraveling of the mystery of the Boxing Bar Gang, but it is more about the possibility of redemption for this lonely man and the chances he still has to come back to the world he thought he was too good for.

I haven't read much French literature, but there is a common thread between Simenon and his contemporaries Camus and Marguerite Duras. I feel like the images of 20th century French culture I have: the black and white films, the meaningful glances between strangers, and the damp rain sizzling on street lamps can't be everything; and yet, it is all I see. When I picked up Michel Houellebecq's 'The Map and the Territory' it was enthralling, but downright broody. So far, I'm OK with this since it is all done with such perfection, but there has been sunlight in France this past century right? ( )
  ManWithAnAgenda | Feb 18, 2019 |


First published in 1940, a Georges Simenon non-Maigret roman durs or “hard novel,” a penetrating psychological study of Hector Loursat, a man who was a brilliant attorney in his younger days, awakened from his eighteen-year hermit-like existence by a murder committed in his own house. And why had Hector Loursat been living like a hermit all those years? For one very simple reason: without any explanation, Hector’s wife suddenly vanished, leaving him for another man, abandoned him and their two-year old daughter Nicole, left them both and the city of Moulins for good.

Moulins. Located on the banks of the Allier River in central France, the atmosphere of this rainy French city with its cold air and wet streets, drab storefronts and even drabber courthouse, makes its presence felt on every page. "That evening Loursat stoked up his stove with special care, as the cold and the wet outside made the misty atmosphere indoors all the more luxurious. He could hear the patter of the rain and now and again the creaking hinge of a shutter that hadn't been properly closed and was caught by one of the sudden gusts of wind that swept along the street."

And its on this cold, rainy autumn evening the story's drama begins: like a crack of a whip but with more weight, more percussion, a sound not from outside but definitely inside, a sound prompts Hector Loursat, after draining yet another glass of Burgundy and putting his cigarette back in his mouth, to rouse himself from his comfortable den chair and venture through hallways, stairways and rooms he hadn't set eyes on in years.

Convinced the sound he heard was, in fact, the shot of a gun, Loursat makes his way to the other end of the house and knocks on Nicole’s bedroom door. Just then he catches the briefest glimpse of a disappearing figure, probably a man, stepping briskly down a set of stairs. Nicole, who is now a twenty-year old young lady, opens the door and asks her father what he wants. Without question, one of the most appealing and tender parts of the novel’s unfolding drama is how father and daughter come together to form a legal team in their efforts to solve the murder mystery.

Detecting the scent of gunpowder, Loursat climbs stairs, Nicole trailing behind, and searches the third floor until he switches a light on in one of the rooms and discovers two eyes staring at him. A man, a large man, in bed, half covered in bedclothes gurgles, no wails, and then slumps over dead. Nicole gazes at her father, as if the most shocking thing in the room isn’t the dead man but her father standing before her, calm and weighty.

A stranger in the house, shot dead, the event that shakes Loursat out of his routine of walling himself in his den day and night, drinking, smoking, reading poetry and philosophy, a routine only punctuated by meals with Nicole (eating only; in all those years he never really exchanged words with his daughter) and a daily walk, “the sort of walk you take to exercise a small dog, in fact he almost gave the impression of holding himself on a leash. The walk consisted of going around four blocks of houses, never more, never less.”

For me, in addition to all the vintage Simenon laser-sharp character studies, a fascinating read on two counts: First, the novel’s structure – Part One, Hunting down the clues and reconstructing the facts in the aftermath of the murder; Part Two, the court case itself. In the hands of Georges Simenon, this tried and true lawyer fiction formula packs a punch. Second, how his eighteen years as a recluse puts Hector Loursant in touch with his own teenage years, a loner studying poetry and philosophy, thus giving him great insight and feeling for the emotions of the young adults that formed the city’s gang associated with Big Louie, the murder victim. Turns out, Loursant's insights and feelings serve him well in his reentry into the world of action and his role as lawyer. A probing existential novel that will keep you turning the pages.


P. D. James in her Introduction to this New York Review Books (NYRB) edition of The Strangers in the House: "Simenon is brilliant at selecting the salient facts which bring alive a character or a place, inducing the reader to contribute his own imagination to that of the writer so that more is conveyed than is written." ( )
  Glenn_Russell | Nov 13, 2018 |
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"Dirty, drunk, unloved, and unloving, Hector Loursat has been a bitter recluse for eighteen long years - ever since his wife abandoned him and their newborn child to run off with another man. Once a successful lawyer, Loursat now guzzles burgundy and buries himself in books, taking little notice of his teenage daughter or the odd things going on in his vast and ever-more-dilapidated mansion. But one night the sound of a gunshot penetrates the padded walls of Loursat's study, and he is forced to investigate. What he stumbles on is a murder." "Soon Loursat discovers that his daughter and her friends have been leading a dangerous secret life. He finds himself strangely drawn to this group of young people, and when one of them is accused of the murder, he astonishes the world by taking up the young man's defense."--BOOK JACKET.

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