Friday, June 01, 2007

Monsieur Monde Vanishes - Georges Simenon

First published in France 1952; first English translation 1967. 122 pages.

Wealthy and respectable, Parisian banker Monsieur Norbert Monde is celebrating his 48th birthday by realising a long held ambition: to become an anonymous man on the street. He withdraws a sum of money from his account and simply walks away - from his wife, his adult children and all the stressors of his life.

Travelling towards the sea with no fixed destination in mind, Monsieur Monde exchanges his hand tailored suit for a secondhand ready made one, drinks coffee in small bistros and takes lodgings in cheap, rundown hotels.

In one of these hotels he meets Julie, saving her from committing suicide and becoming her sometime lover. Julie finds them both work in a local nightclub: she as a hostess, Monsieur Monde to keep a secret eye on the clientele. Months pass, and Monde - who now calls himself Désiré Clouet - has lost weight and shed inhibitions.

But when he catches sight of his first wife in the club one night and then goes on to help her get her morphine fix, Monde realises the truth: the man on the street is the same as the man in the fine house. There is no escape from life, no escape from unhappiness, and certainly no escape from the past.

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