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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Despair is an expression of the total personality
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...
Published on 25 Oct 2006 by Leonard Fleisig

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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
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...
Published on 20 Sep 2009 by Zepfan


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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Despair is an expression of the total personality, 25 Oct 2006
By 
Leonard Fleisig "Len" (Virginia Beach, Virginia) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)    (TOP 1000 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: Dirty Snow (New York Review Books Classics) (Paperback)
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. There is no affection, not even feigned affection, just feral activity.

The book follows Frank's descent into increasingly lower levels of behavior. He decides the time has come to kill a man, lies in wait in some snow that had been dirtied by the day's activities, and then takes a knife to a German soldier and stabs him to death. He reveals his presence to a passing neighbor, the father of a young girl who Frank seems to like, just so that the neighbor will know that Frank has murdered the soldier. Frank is confident that the neighbor will keep the information to himself. Frank next plans a robbery. The robbery is successful but Frank soon finds himself in a German prison subject to repeated interrogations. By the end of the book Frank has completed a journey that has taken him on a journey through what Dante would have considered different layers of hel l.

The fascinating aspect of Dirty Snow for me lay in the narration. Simenon has pulled off a neat trick here. The narrator is Frank and we are privy to his innermost thoughts, such as they are. Yet it is the absence of thought and the inability to evince any feeling in a rational manner that grabs the reader. There are sections, particularly those involving the daughter of the neighbor who witnessed the killing, where you can almost sense that Frank would like to act on a normal level with normal emotions. He may come close but he always retreats. As Dirty Snow ends, in a courtyard in the prison, Simenon has Frank perform one simple act involving an article of clothing. It is an act that Frank has long observed of the other prisoners. His instinctive performance of that act brings Franks journey and the book to its inevitable end.

Dirty Snow is a fascinating, if dark, look at one small aspect of the human condition. I found it well worth reading. L. Fleisig
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Bleak, nasty, claustrophobic ... and utterly rivetting, 19 July 2012
By 
Christopher H (Keilor, Australia) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Dirty Snow (New York Review Books Classics) (Paperback)
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? Indeed, when Frank really gets into trouble it is because he is suspected by others of being a patriot, not, as the reader can plainly see, a self-serving small time criminal.

This bleak, nasty, claustrophobic novel is one of the best things Simenon wrote.

A few things need to be said of this edition.

First, the essay by William Vollmann is ridiculous in the extreme. He evidently knows little of Simenon's "romans vers", and is floundering much of the time. Comparisons abound in an effort worthy of a gushing undergraduate essay - Raymond Chandler, James Fenimore Cooper, Hannah Arendt (!), George Eliot, Anton Chekov, George Orwell, Ayn Rand, Andre Gide, Philip K. Dick and Albert Camus are all cited, before Vollmann asserts that the novel is actually a bildungsroman. Nonsense. (The best approach to Simenon's hard novels is Anita Brookner's essay in Red Lights (New York Review Books Classics).

Second, this is a well paced translation from the French. The book was originally translated by an American publisher in 1951 as The Snow Was Black. An alternate, rather plodding translation was made by a British publisher in 1953 as The Stain on the Snow. The present translation, "Dirty Snow", is a slightly revised version of the 1951 translation, and generally reads well.

However, potential readers should be aware that at moments fairly common words and expressions are converted into US terms. For example, fried potatoes become "French fries" (!), van becomes "small truck", footpath becomes "sidewalk", club sometimes becomes "bar", parcels becomes "packages", crumbed cutlets become "thick lamb chops", and so forth. The two terms that are most evident is the word "streetcar" for tram, and "green card" for the open pass Frank wangles from a German officer. Non-American English readers and French speakers may, like me, find these deliberate Americanisms quite annoying at times.

Otherwise this is the best version of this major work to appear in print in English.
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5.0 out of 5 stars 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, 16 July 2014
By 
tram22 (Belfast, Ireland) - See all my reviews
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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
By 
Frank Gordon "artsandflowers" (Yorkshire Dales) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Dirty Snow (New York Review Books Classics) (Paperback)
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
This review is from: Dirty Snow (New York Review Books Classics) (Paperback)
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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Dirty Snow (New York Review Books Classics)
Dirty Snow (New York Review Books Classics) by Georges Simenon (Paperback - 4 Aug 2011)
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