Brief thoughts on Monsieur Monde Vanishes by Georges Simenon

My first Georges Simenon [or, as the coolest kids refer to him, just Simenon (like Madonna?)], and I liked it immensely: Monsieur Monde Vanishes, about Monsieur Monde who walks out of his life seemingly the very moment he wakes up from his droning existence, and what he did while he disappeared.

What compels people to leave? I could count the ways. But for Monsieur Monde, “There was no inner conflict, no decision to be reached, indeed nothing was ever decided at all.” He simply leaves. He withdraws 300,000 francs from his bank accounts, and just walks out of his life.

And the reader isn’t even privy to the entirety of his existential condition. Yes, we know he’s well-off, having salvaged the family business from his spendthrift father—but he feels like he’s just going through the motions. He hardly knows his son—and they live in the same house and work in the same office. His daughter appears in his life (and in the narrative) when she asks money from him, or when she’s raging that he couldn’t be found to ask money from. And his wife. When he wakes up in the morning, he allows her to pretend that he thinks she’s still sleeping.

It’s easy for us to feel that he’s unhappy, sure. Or, at least, that he’s resigned to his life being this way. But Simenon never stuffs motivation down my throat. For that, alone—me, having sat through countless workshop hours listening to chastisement about agenda and motivation—I like this book.

He was a man who, for a long time, had endured the human condition without being conscious of it, as others endure an illness of which they are unaware. He had always been a man living among other men and like them he had struggled, jostling amid the crowd, now feebly and now resolutely, without knowing whither he was going.

During his disappearance, he tries out new identities, if only by way of trying out new clothes (ready-made this time, egads). Oh, he’s adorable with his earnestness. And with his solitude, too. Monsieur Monde is clearly a hero, what with this new, necessary adventure before him. Yes, I liked him immensely, too.