Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Pedigree by Georges Simenon

No doubt he would not remember everything. However henceforth, in the Rue Pasteur flat, there were two eyes and two ears more than before, and only time would make a final selection from all the sights, sounds and smells. Henceforth, when she threaded her way along the narrow pavements of the Rue Puits-en-Sock where so many tram accidents happened, when she went to buy fifty centimes' worth of chips, a couple of chops or half a pound of pudding, when she complained of this or that, or when, from the fruit market, she looked through the windows of the cafe for Felicie's bright, slim silhouette, Elise was no longer alone.

He wasn't playing. He was gazing at the wonderful mist of fine golden dust which was coming from the bedroom and which was as it were absorbed slowly, irresistibly by the damp air of the street. When his mother beat the mattresses, it was as if there were thousands of little animals spinning around, coming together and parting again, while there were some feathers which stayed for a long time suspended in space. Just now, there was also the circle on the ceiling, another sort of animal, a luminous, impalpable animal, which trembled in one corner of the ceiling and suddenly rushed across to the other wall when somebody touched the window, for it was just a reflection of the sun.

The universe grew bigger, people and things altered in appearance, certainties were born at the same time as anxieties, the world became peopled with questions, and a ring of chiaroscuro made contours less reassuring, extended perspectives to infinity.

In the days when the world had been simpler, Roger had questioned his mother unceasingly.

Nowadays, he kept quiet. When he was found with his thoughts far away, he pretended to be playing. He listened to what the grown-ups said among themselves; certain phrases, certain words haunted him for weeks, while others translated themselves as pictures which imposed themselves on him willy-nilly and which he later tried in vain to dispel.

His father, now that they were on their way home, knew so well what he was thinking that he murmured:

'You'd better not say anything, for your mother's sake.'

Then he added--and this touched Roger much more:

'She thinks she'd doing the right thing.'

That was all. There must be no more talk about that subject.

'What are you doing this afternoon?'

'I don't know yet.'

'Is there anything to read at home?'

'Some Eugene Sue.'

For Roger went twice a week to borrow some books from the municipal library in the Rue des Chroux (the one in the Rue des Pitteurs had gone up in flames the day the Germans had shot three hundred people) and from the lending library in the Rue Saint-Paul. He chose books he liked. In the evening, or on Sunday, Desire would read one of these books, haphazardly, and if his son took it back before he had finished it, he did not even say anything, just began another of which he might never know the end.

That was what the two of them were like.

--Georges Simenon, Pedigree


  1. I read a NYRB edition of Simenon's Dirty Snow. It was disturbing but I quite enjoyed it. The cover on this one is so compelling I think I may need to buy it.

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