‘The Widow’ by Georges Simenon – Tacky People, Terrible Acts

‘The Widow’ by Georges Simenon (1942) – 152 pages    Translated from the French by John Petrie

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‘The Widow’ is a tough little French psychological novella, one of which George Simenon called his “romans durs”. This is noir fiction with a hard-on, not a detective story, but rather a story about some nasty people in the French countryside.

The refrain of ‘The Widow’, a sentence that is used repeatedly in the novella, is “Every person condemned to death shall be decapitated.”

First, I will describe the opening of the story which sets the stage for the later awful events.

A young man named Jean walking in St. Armand near Paris gets on a red bus, standing room only. Since the bus is going to Montlucon, he will go there. The widow Tati Corderc, a farm lady, is also on the bus bringing home an incubator for raising young chickens on the farm. The widow is aged forty-five, “short and broad, rather plump”. She makes eye contact with Jean on the bus and sizes him up immediately. She gets off the bus, and Jean gets off at the next stop, walks back, and helps her carry the incubator.
As they return to the widow’s farm, she notices her niece Felicie walking away from the widow’s house with some ham from off the widow’s table.

“She’s a little slut. That’s what she is! Sixteen years old and got herself a baby already.”

The widow hires Jean as a farm hand. Soon she brings Jean up to her bed, but tells him she must also sleep with her old tomcat of a father-in-law in order to not get thrown off the farm.

Although now Jean is sleeping with the widow, soon he starts watching out for the slutty niece Felicie, much to the widow’s distress.

51uPOhPD+dL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_Jean is not just any young man out of nowhere; he has his own back story. He just got out of prison after spending five years in there for murder.

So we have here a volatile situation to say the least.

From what I have read about Georges Simenon, he was pretty much a tomcat himself. He knows the territory.

If, like I do, you like to read wicked stuff about nasty people, you probably will like ‘The Widow’ a lot.

Thanks to JacquiWine for bringing this raunchy little novella to my attention.

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Grade: B+

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4 responses to this post.

  1. I’m so glad you liked this one, Tony – and thanks for the shout-out, much appreciated. I never seem to tire of these stories about the darker side of human condition either (as long as they don’t involve cruelty to children – that I find hard to take).

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    • Hi Jacqui,
      You guided me to the right path; I hadn’t even considered reading Georges Simenon before your review of ‘The Widow’.
      I’ve been attracted to the old noir movies for some time,and now I’m finding noir novels just as fascinating. I like stories of the dark side except those involving guns. Gun violence is so cold, immediate, senseless, messy, it just destroys any sense of continuity in a story.

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  2. It does sound great. I have an unread Simenon but if I take to that I may well consider this to follow. Great set-up, absolutely classic.

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