French title: Le Destin des Malou
Englished: Denis George, 1962
The Fate of the Malous – Georges Simenon
Call nobody happy till he’s dead. Just because a mogul like Eugene Malou is rich and respected doesn’t mean he’s going to slip away peacefully of old age. This novel opens with Malou blowing his brains out on the doorstep of the well-appointed manse of Count Adrien Estier, who can’t bail him out this time. The suicide triggers a family crisis mainly because also blown to bits is their lifestyle. Malou has left in family in financial straits.
Alain Malou, the youngest son, plays the shuttlecock between his mother, selfish and indifferent, and his sister Corine equally self-absorbed. Alain faces the prospect of making a living, an abrupt change from his previously carefree youth. He lands a job in a print shop after fleeing his sister and seeing his mother off to Paris.
In search of the backstory to his father, Alain looks up some of his father’s companions. They reveal his father’s fragile dreams. Alain comes to understand that his family’s peaks and valleys were caused by his father’s alternate booms and busts in the building business. He discovers that his father was probably not an upright man. But for all his mistakes, lapses of judgement, and sharp business practices, he was a man, especially in Simenon’s and his generation’s terms. That is, he was a risk-taker, damn the consequences. Plus, he was the only one in his family, with the unthinking son, selfish wife, and self-absorbed daughter that knew what love could be. The father’s death broke the family up, but they were never a family, emotionally cohesive, in the first place.
But the world of the present brings Alain to a fork in the road. Due to personal animosities, he is fired at the print shop. He realizes he has to leave the flat, dull, provincial town for Paris. And there he must strive to become a man, like his father.
This subdued novel examines an ordinary life. Doing so, it very typical of the roman durs – the hard novels that scrutinize characters in a liminal space, a transitional stage, usually brought on by a death but sometimes by a change of neighborhood or a new neighbor.
Other Non-Maigret Novels by Simenon