Podcast Profiles: Author Georges Simenon, Creator Of Inspector Maigret (LRB)

London Review of Books’ John Lanchester talks to Thomas Jones about Georges Simenon, whose output was so prodigious that even he didn’t know how many books he wrote.

Georges Simenon - Maigret ReturnsTRANSCRIPT

Thomas Jones: Hello, and welcome to the London Review of Books podcast. My name is Thomas Jones, and today I’m talking to John Lanchester, who’s written a piece in the current issue of the LRB about Georges Simenon and his 75 Maigret novels, which Penguin have just finished reissuing in new translations. Hello, John.

John Lanchester: Hi Tom. Thanks for having me.

TJ: Thank you for joining me. And I thought we could begin where you begin your piece with Simenon’s ‘colossal output’, as you put it, and that nobody knows how many books he actually wrote, though it was probably more than four hundred, which is fewer than Barbara Cartland, but still puts the rest of us to shame.

JL: He didn’t half crack on, that’s true. Yes, he started as a young man in Liège, his home town in Belgium. And he got a job as a reporter on the local paper. I think he was not quite 16, which is properly strange. It’s like something out of a high concept kid’s TV show, you know, Georges Simenon – Boy Reporter, and very early on latched onto the idea of making money through writing.He began writing when he was 18, his first book came out when he was 19. He started writing every sort of potboiler, thrillers, romances, sort of semi-porn westerns, things like that, at an absolutely astounding rate of productivity. And his target was eighty pages a day, typewritten, and even on the assumption that the pages … I mean, a short page would be 150 words and it could well have been more, but it was 10,000 words a day, and he did that every single day. And then he’d write eighty pages, and then he’d go and be sick. Just from the physical and mental exertion and the strain. That was in the morning. And then he’d recover and do a bit of light reading and pottering about. And then the next day he did the same again, over and over and over for about seven years. And in that period, as you’ve mentioned, we don’t know exactly how many, because he forgot, and he had multiple pseudonyms. The main one being Georges Sim, which was how he was known when he began writing the Simenon novels. People thought that Simenon was a pseudonym because George Sim was so well known, but he seems to have written about 150 or more books in this seven-year burst. It  makes you feel peculiar even to think about what that must have been like.

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Art History: Rembrandt’s Portraits – “Love And Loss” At The National Gallery

A revealing look at Rembrandt’s most intimate portraits, on display in the locked-down National Gallery in London. The Guardian’s art critic Jonathan Jones reveals his favourite portraits, of vulnerable and unpretentious people the artist had known and loved. Jones asks what we can learn from these great masterpieces, especially during lockdown.

Health & Design: The New “Touchless Products” To Limit Spread Of Germs

The importance of touchless bathroom and kitchen products during the coronavirus pandemic is highlighted in this video interview with Patrick Speck from Grohe, as part of the brands takeover of Virtual Design Festival Today.

Speck is the the vice president of design consumer experience for the EMENA region of Japanese water technology brand Lixil, which is the parent company of bathroom and kitchen brand Grohe. Speck told Dezeen that following the coronavirus pandemic, the brand has seen an increased demand for products that limit the spread of germs and diseases.

“With the increased demand for hygiene we’re having right now, we know that to minimise the risk of spreading germs and also cross contamination, we need to reduce contact with any surface as much as we can,” Speck explained in the video. According to Speck, the solution could be touchless products such as faucets and toilets that rely on sensor technology.

Read more on Dezeen: http://www.dezeen.com/vdf

Arts & Culture: David Hockney’s “Lockdown Sunrise” And Other Masterpiece Dawns (Video)

David Hockney created a glorious depiction of a sunrise on his iPad in April and emailed it from his lockdown in Normandy to the Guardian’s art critic Jonathan Jones. He has made pictures from nature every day through this bitter spring as his artistic stand against despair – and what is more hopeful than the sun coming up? Jones describes how the picture reminded him of all the sunrises shut away inside the National Gallery, in London. From Bellini to Monet, Titian to Turner, a private view of some of the greatest masters’ sunrises

Food & Travel: “Bangkok’s Fresh Food Markets” (NYT)

From the New York Times (June 1, 2020):

Finding Euphoria in Bangkok's Food Scene - New York Times June 1 2020The aromas here are rich and pungent — smoked, cured, dried and fresh seafood, along with many forms of meat, both raw and cooked. The awnings over the stalls create a shadowy atmosphere that’s punctuated by thin streaks of dancing light.

Finding Euphoria in Bangkok's Food Scene - New York Photographs and Text by Louise PalmbergTimes June 1 2020
Photographs and Text by Louise Palmberg

Early this year, in search of inspiration beyond the food scene in New York (and not yet locked down by the spread of Covid-19), I spent two weeks visiting and documenting life among the fresh markets and street vendors in and around Bangkok.

It made for an unlikely itinerary since tourists in Thailand often spend only a day or two in the capital before heading south toward the country’s many islands.

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