Lucille Frackman Becker
Georges Simenon, the most widely published author of the twentieth century, was born in Liège, Belgium, the older son of petit bourgeois parents. His mother, of mixed German and Dutch parentage, came from an unstable family undermined by alcoholism, a form of self-destruction ubiquitous in his work. His mother was the major influence on his life and work; she was at the heart of his fear of loss of identity through female domination. Her psychological inheritance determined his anxiety and his lifelong search for equilibrium. Writing was to be a way of purging these inner demons. While he revolted against his mother, he revered his father, the youngest child of a large Walloon family, who inspired his famous detective hero, Maigret.
Simenon's novels are inseparable from his biography. Even as a small child he listened, observed, and absorbed everything around him, particularly fascinated by the dark side of life. He perceived from the very beginning that the human condition was characterized by dishonesty, fear, and guilt, and these were to lie at the heart of his fictional universe. He used his prodigious memory as an encyclopedia, borrowing from it a name, a tic, a gesture, an atmosphere. Taking this as a starting point, he went beyond it, integrating it into a new reality, the novel.
He became a reporter in 1919 on the Gazette de Liège, a conservative Catholic newspaper, where he remained until December 1922. While his childhood provided the themes and characters and many of the plots of his novels, his experience as a journalist broadened his knowledge of people and different social milieux; the situations he encountered provided material for his novels. Journalism was also an excellent apprenticeship for the future novelist in other ways; it taught him to grasp the essential detail and to write quickly.
Determined to achieve success as a writer, he left Liège for Paris in 1922.