Georges Simenon’s notebooks circa 1960

The book I am reading/listening to at the moment, “When I was old” by Georges Simenon, is interesting insofar as it is based on private notebooks that Simenon wrote in 1960, 1961 and were never intended for public consumption.

He tells us the primary purpose was to write them for his children. It also gave him a pressure/stress free opportunity to simply write for writing’s sake, rather than under the pressure of writing a novel which he did with at a prodigious rate.

The fact that they give me an insight into French/Belgian life of a writer just before I was born is fascinating. Because when you read what Simenon did on a daily basis around this time, his attitude to life, his wife, family, household, drink, women, sex you get real sense of time, place, and context.

If it was a straightforward memoir or autobiography I do not think it would be as compelling. But the notebooks, maintained on a daily basis, give a worm’s eye view of his life.

Simenon’s writing method is intriguing, too, as he describes the way he went about writing an average of 12 novels per year-one a month-for much of his writing career. He also describes the pressure and anxiety it caused him and the constant feeling of not being able to pull it off this time.