Friday, May 21, 2010

THE CLOCKMAKER, Georges Simenon


What are some of the problems you have dealt with often and expect to deal with in the future?

One of them, for example, which will probably haunt me more than any other is the problem of communication. I mean communication between two people. The fact that we are I don’t know how many millions of people, yet communication, complete communication, is completely impossible between two of those people, is to me one of the biggest tragic themes in the world. When I was a young boy I was afraid of it. I would almost scream because of it. It gave me such a sensation of solitude, of loneliness. That is a theme I have taken I don’t know how many times. But I know it will come again. Certainly it will come again.

The Clockmaker, Georges Simenon

Dave Galloway is a watch repairman in Everton, New York. His orderly life is turned upside down when
his 16-year-old son, Ben, runs away from home to elope. Both Ben and the girl are teenagers.
(Dave’s wife had abandoned him as well, when Ben was just one year old.) Ben has been Dave's sole interest in life but now wants nothing to do with his father.

Ben has stolen a gun, robbed his girlfriend's father, and killed a man for his car. While a manhunt goes on, Dave inexplicably poses for news photographers and answers any question put to him. He is ineffectual in his actions until it is too late, not getting the advice he badly needs.

Ben expresses no remorse for his crime, seems proud of his actions, in fact. While the trial is underway, Dave tries to make sense of Ben’s crime. This section of the novel tells the back story of Dave's actions or inactions in the past. He find similarity in what Ben has done and acts of both he and his father. Their actions are those of men who are submissive or whipped until they fight back in a destructive way. Dave's apparent closeness to his son is predicated on such "acting out" rather than on desire for marriage and family.

This book was made into a film where it's setting was change to France, much like Red Light of a few years ago. The New York setting never sat right and I wonder why Simenon felt like he had to set some of his books in the U.S. But other than that, this was a brilliant study of a man swallowed up by the society he lives in and unable to communicate his isolation.


Joe Barone said...

Simenon is one of my favorites. It has been a long time since I've read him. His books got shorter and shorter, but I always enjoyed them.

I don't remember this one. I'll probably look it up. Thanks.

Richard R. said...

Simenon is one of my favorites, too, but this doesn't sound like a book I'd want to read - sounds too depressing. I'll stick with the Maigret books, thanks.

Charles Gramlich said...

Not sure how I missed this one.

Anonymous said...

Patti - Thanks so much for sharing this! I like Simenon very much, 'though I've never read this one. It sounds compelling, though - very compelling. I also really like the quote you included about communication.

Barrie said...

I've only read his Maigret books. Which I loved. I wonder why the title of this one was changed from The Watchmaker to the Clockmaker?

Evan Lewis said...

This sounds a far cry from the shoot-em-ups I've been reading lately. Could be just what I need.