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Dirty Snow (New York Review Books Classics) [Paperback]

William T Vollmann , Georges Simenon , Marc Romano , Louise Varese
4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
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Book Description

4 Aug 2011 New York Review Books Classics
Nineteen-year-old Frank Friedmaier lives in a country under occupation. Most people struggle to get by; Frank takes it easy in his mother’s whorehouse, which caters to members of the occupying forces. But Frank is restless. He is a pimp, a thug, a petty thief, and, as Dirty Snow opens, he has just killed his first man. Through the unrelenting darkness and cold of an endless winter, Frank will pursue abjection until at last there is nowhere to go.

Hans Koning has described Dirty Snow as “one of the very few novels to come out of German-occupied France that gets it exactly right.” In a study of the criminal mind that is comparable to Jim Thompson’s The Killer Inside Me, Simenon maps a no man’s land of the spirit in which human nature is driven to destruction—and redemption, perhaps, as well—by forces beyond its control.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 272 pages
  • Publisher: NYRB Classics; Rep Sub edition (4 Aug 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1590170431
  • ISBN-13: 978-1590170434
  • Product Dimensions: 20.4 x 12.2 x 1.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 98,803 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

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Product Description


Simenon ought to be spoken of in the same breath as Camus, Beckett and Kafka. (Independent on Sunday)

No surprises are offered or expected, but once started, this haunting story is almost impossible to put down. (Daily Mail)

A compelling period thriller, but its real achievement is to force us to engage with an abject like Frank - a figure most would rather sweep off our streets. (Times Literary Supplement)

About the Author

Georges Simenon (1903-1989) was born in Liège, Belgium. In 1923 he moved to Paris, where under various pseudonyms he became a highly successful author of pulp fiction. In the early 1930s, Simenon emerged as a writer under his own name, gaining renown for his detective stories featuring Inspector Maigret. He also began to write his psychological novels, or romans durs. He wrote nearly two hundred books under his own name and became the worldwide best-selling.

Marc Romano is a writer living in New York City.

Louise Varese (1891-1989) was an American biographer and translator, and was married to composer Edgard Varese.

William T. Vollmann was born in Los Angeles in 1959 and attended Deep Springs College and Cornell University. He is the author of many works of fiction, long and short, including The Royal Family, You Bright and Risen Angels, Whores for Gloria, and The Rainbow Stories, as well as an ongoing series of seven novels, collectively entitled Seven Dreams: A Book of North American Landscapes, about the collision between the native populations of North America and their colonizers and oppressors. (Four volumes have been published so far: The Ice-Shirt, Fathers and Crows, Argall: The True Story of Pocahontas and Captain John Smith, and The Rifles.) Vollmann has also written two works of non-fiction: An Afghanistan Picture Show, which describes his crossing into Afghanistan with a group of Islamic commandos in 1982, and Rising Up and Rising Down, a treatise on violence. He lives in California.

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Customer Reviews

4.4 out of 5 stars
4.4 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
By Christopher H TOP 1000 REVIEWER
Those already acquainted with Simenon's gritty "romans vers" (hard stories) will quickly recognise this book as sitting among the darkest novels he wrote. The hard stories usually centre on a seachange event in the life of one of three potential characters: it might be a figure from the criminal underworld (like the hoodlum in his novel "Home Town"), an unremarkable middleclass person (the storeowner in "The Hatter's Ghosts"), or a figure in the seamy side of politics (the anarchist in "The Green Thermos").

"Dirty Snow" focuses on the 19 year old Frank Friedmaier, probably the nastiest figure in Simenon's fiction. In the book we follow him as he commits his first murder, undertakes a despicable robbery of an elderly woman who helped raise him, and plan and set in motion the rape by a friend of a young girl who has a crush on him. In addition to these crimes, Frank is mixed up in prostitution (his mother Lotte runs a brothel), and seemingly in blackmarketeering - because the other major factor driving the novel is that we are in provincial France during the German Occupation. Frank himself isn't brutal or a bully. This narcissist just lacks a completed personality. Much of the way through he experiences no emotions, let alone any empathy for anyone.

Matters are helped along by the circumstances of the Occupation, which results in a fluidity in policing: the Germans are in charge, and the French police are turning a blind eye to many crimes (a detective regularly drops by the brothel for talks with Lotte - her customers are mostly German officers, and people do want to know if they reveal any secrets). This leads to the implied developing complications of the book. Might Frank's murder of a German officer be excused by some as an act of resistance?
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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
By Leonard Fleisig TOP 1000 REVIEWER VINE VOICE
doubt only of thought. Soren Kierkegaard

Frank Friedmaier, the protagonist of Georges Simenon's novel "Dirty Snow" seems to have no doubts about his life. In fact he seems to be more a creature of base animal instinct than of anything resembling thought. If he has doubts about anything they are not evident. But his words and deeds bespeak an unconscious despair so profound that the reader can feel it with every page.

Simenon was nothing if not prolific in both his literary and public life. Born in Belgium in 1903, Simenon turned out hundreds of novels. Simenon's obsession with writing caused him to break off an affair (he was prolific in this area of his life as well) with the celebrated Josephine Baker in Paris when he could only write twelve novels in the twelve month period in which they were involved. Although perhaps best known for his Inspector Maigret detective novels, Simenon also wrote over a hundred novels that he referred to as `romans durs' (literally "hard novels"). "Dirty Snow" is one of Simenon's hard novels and to call it noir is an understatement. "Dirty Snow" is darker than noir, devoid of any light or optimism. In the hands of Simenon it is an absorbing (entertaining seems an inapt word) look at the darker side of life.

Frank Friedmaier lives in his mother's brothel in a small apartment building. The brothel is in an unnamed city in occupied France during World War II. Frank divides his time between the brothel and a local bar inhabited by an assortment of shady characters that include low level criminals, women of `easy virtue', and the occasional German soldier. When he returns home at night he camps down with whichever one of his mother's employees suits his fancy. What follows may best be described as nasty, brutish, and short.
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By tram22
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
More Raskolnikov than Maigret, Simenon's character must sate his urge to kill a man - because he needs to know what it feels like:
"For Frank it was a question of killing his first man and breaking in Kromer's Swedish knife.
Nothing more.
The only problem was that he would have to stand there in the crusted snow ... and feel his right hand slowly stiffening in the cold. He had decided not to wear a glove."
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars There's more to Simenon than Maigret 6 Sep 2012
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Simenon is perhaps the most under-rated novelist of the 20th century. I love his Maigret books and can never understand why they always seem to be out of print - I have re-read my collection over and over again.

But there is a lot more to Simenon than Maigret. His writing is incredibly simple, misleadingly so. Beneath the simplicity a whole world of feeling and action seeths and boils. His characters are often unpleasant and vicious, as in the character of Frank in 'Dirty Snow'. There is just a hint of redemption for Frank, but not much. We follow him on his downward spiral - and he starts pretty low down as it is. Yet we are fascinated, drawn inward and onward, spellbound by Simenon's writing - based,as it would seem, on a remarkable knowledge of our darkest inner workings.

There's no fun here and little in the way of humour; instead one feels gripped by the throat until finally the last page releases us to emerge into the fresh air once again. A great book.
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1 of 6 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A.K.A. Stain in the snow 20 Sep 2009
By Zepfan
Just to warn Simenon fans that this book is the same novel available as The Stain in the Snow. (The titles are translated from the original French)
Whilst I love Simenon's Maigret series of books, this novel is more of a psychological journey into a bleak emotional landscape, and an even bleaker protagonist. Its a dark read. Think Greene's Brighton Rock, only not as good.
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