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Simenon, Le Coup de lune (1933)

imageimageSimenon in Africa

Main objectives of the two sessions

We will reflect upon the different and evolving meanings of such terms as discourse, exoticism, orientalism, anti-colonialism, and ethnocentrism.

We will focus on a specific author, Georges Simenon (1903-1989), and discuss his ambition to bridge the gap between low and high literature. In this respect, his trajectory as a novelist is indeed particularly exceptional as he started his writing career with the publication of potboilers but was, after his death, published in 'La Pléiade', the most prestigious of all French literary series.

We will explore Simenon's career as a journalist and assess the influence that this activity had on his work as a novelist. We will focus therefore on the links between 'l'Heure du nègre', a series of articles that he wrote for the Parisian weekly Voilà after a trip to sub-Saharan Africa in 1932 and Le Coup de lune (1933), a dark and pessimistic novel set in colonial Gabon.

We will approach the text via some of its closest intertexts such as Heart of Darkness (1902) by Joseph Conrad and Voyage au Congo (1927) by André Gide but also assess it against nascent anti-colonialism and the more modernist ethnographic discourses of the inter-war period.

Questions for seminars: see seminar tutors

Further reading for seminars & assessment

Pierre Assouline, Simenon (1996)Lucille F. Becker, Georges Simenon: Maigret and the 'Romans Durs' (2006)

René Caillier, Journal d'un voyage à Temboctou et à Jenné dans l'Afrique Centrale (1830), available on:'un+voyage+%C3%A0+Temboctou+.langEN

Benoît Denis, ‘Allez voir ailleurs si j’y suis. Hergé, Michaux, Simenon’, Textyles, 12 (1995), available on: (PDF Document) [please try several times as, for some reason, it will not open the first time]

Benoît Denis, ‘Hergé-Simenon, Thirties’, in N. Aubert, P.-P. Fraiture & P. McGuinness (eds), From Art Nouveau to Surrealism: Belgian Modernity in the Making (2007), pp. 110-27.

Pierre-Philippe Fraiture, La Mesure de l'autre: Afrique subsaharienne et roman ethnographique de Belgique et de France, 1918-1940 (2007), Chapter IV.

Jacques Lecarme, 'Les Romans coloniaux de Georges Simenon', Textyles, 6 (1989), available on: (PDF Document) [please try several times as, for some reason, it will not open the first time]

Christopher Shortley, 'Simenon and Crime Fiction Between the Wars', in Claire Gorrara (ed.), French Crime Fiction (2009), pp. 36-53.

Georges Simenon, 'L’Heure du nègre', in Francis Lacassin (ed.), Mes apprentissages. Reportages 1931-1946, pp. 379-385: the article, 'Un dimanche a Port Gentil'. This will be made available to students during class seminars.

See also:



Week 9 lecture

Week 9 handout

Week 10 lecture

Week 10 handout


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