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by Georges Simenon

Why are Emile and Marguerite Bouin still married? They cannot stand each other. This is evident from the moment we meet them, isolated and wordless before a beautiful fire. Their only correspondence is an occasional invective jotted on a scrap of paper--this discreetly flicked across the room to the recipient's lap.

A bizarre situation to be sure, but ideal for Simenon. Taking marriage born of a desperate need for companionship and following it to its devastation eight years later, Simenon patiently makes hate almost as alluring as love.

Download The Cat epub
ISBN: 0241022592
ISBN13: 978-0241022597
Category: Literature
Subcategory: Contemporary
Author: Georges Simenon
Language: English
Publisher: Hamish Hamilton; 1st UK Edition 1st Printing edition (September 14, 1972)
Pages: 156 pages
ePUB size: 1417 kb
FB2 size: 1172 kb
Rating: 4.8
Votes: 884
Other Formats: mobi lit mbr txt

The less said the better to enchant readers to this colorful account of the cold war between Emile and Marguerite. They are 73 and 71 when the book starts and have not spoken for years. They communicate and pester each other in writing and follow each other’s every emotion and movement very closely. Emile married her after his retirement at 65 and moved in with her. Both had recently lost a spouse, are childless and financially secure. So what could go wrong? And why do they stay together, sleep in the same bedroom like Siamese twins, when early on, things turn sour and deteriorate further? After all, they knew beforehand they differed in class and temperament. What kicks off this drama is Emile’s bringing his beloved cat Joseph along. Everything else is told from Emile’s perspective…
Stupendous novel written in 1966 when Simenon was 63, and the best of the 12+ GS novels (of which only 2 Maigrets) I’ve read so far. Conclusions about GS himself so far? He may well—as experts say-- have written his best novels in the 1950s. GS already used flashbacks expertly during his most productive years (early 1930s) and has gradually perfected the technique to dizzying heights in “The Cat”. This reader is less sure about another expert opinion, that GS focuses more on emotions than on events. Events do shape emotions, but in this book about an older couple, long-lost memories and anxious dreams crop up, raising their ugly heads, becoming Events themselves, clouding and confusing aging minds. Technically, plot wise, and emotionally a brilliant novel, not to be missed. Highly recommended.
A widow and a widower marry each other when he is sixty-five and she is sixty-three. Did they marry for love or to escape the loneliness of their upcoming old lives? That’s the dramatic question posed in this Simenon psychological novel, one of his best, I think. It is eight years into this marriage and their conversations have dissolved into passing notes to each other. He has taken in a cat which has become his love. She can’t stand the beast. She has taken in a parrot, placed it in a big cage in their so-called living room. Their relationship is dwindling fast. Then, he finds his cat dead in the basement, apparently poisoned. In retaliation he injures her parrot, which she takes to the vet, but unfortunately it can’t be saved. She brings the bird back stuffed and puts it back in the cage. Now what happens? You’ll have to read the book to find out. And you’ll be glad you did.
The Cat was first published in 1967 as Le Chat. It has been translated into English by Bernard Frechtman. This book has been seen as another autobiographical one, based on the 40 year second marriage of Simenon's mother Henriette, but more (in this interpretation) about the relationship of Simenon and his mother, who remained apparently indifferent to him all her life. Emile Bouin and Marguerite Doise have both lost their spouses, and live opposite one another in a cul de sac once owned by Marguerite's father, a biscuit manufacturer fallen on hard times. They decide to remarry, for companionship's sake. They are both in their seventies. Emile moves into Marguerite's house, and soon the incompatibilities in their personalities begin to manifest themselves. Emile is working class, unpretentious, has simple tastes, is methodical and practical. Marguerite is middle class, affected, hypochondriac and fussy. Matters come to a head over the pets the two have, Marguerite a parrot and Emile a cat. The cat dies and Emile believes Marguerite has poisoned it. He retaliates by attacking the parrot, who becomes ill and dies. Marguerite has it stuffed and keeps it in the lounge room as a perennial reproach to her husband. Soon the couple devise separate housekeeping arrangements, and communicate only by notes. With considerable mastery Simenon evokes the past details of these two lives through reveries and flashbacks, and in the process evokes a distant way of life with astonishing conviction and realism. Over the entire book Simenon casts a tone of gentle melancholy, of sadness at the ways people cut themselves off from one another. Three years after the book was published Simenon's mother died, and intimations of this may have affected the highly intuitive Simenon while he was writing. Though Emile can make contact with others, and for a while moves in with the earthy, rather wise tavern keeper Nelly, who resembles in many ways his working class former wife Angéle, Marguerite is more limited. They both realise that she needs him, and that however poor it may be, they do have a relationship, and that this is better than no contact at all. They continue to exchange notes, Emile continues to write "The Cat", until one day Marguerite dies. A horrifying tale, and somehow unendurably wise.