A dark but comfy comedy,
This review is from: Man Who Watched Trains Go by (New York Review Books Classics) (Paperback)
Kees Popinga lives a solid bourgeois life. He has a pleasant wife and two good kids, a good job, an above-average house, and many desirable possessions. Then, the shocked Kees, on a conscientious mission for his employer, spots his boss drinking alone in a seedy bar. There, the boss admits he is an embezzler and philanderer and about to fake his suicide, which will give him a second chance in life. While it doesn't exactly make sense, the passive Kees actually helps with the sham suicide, even though the boss's shenanigans have bankrupted the company where Kees has invested all his savings. But then Kees goes home and becomes filled with rage at the bourgeois life that his boss represented. He decides he has lived the life of a fool. And he decides that, from now on, he will take whatever he desires. He will no longer watch the trains go by.
Once Simenon establishes this premise, this novel becomes an interesting character study, with the foxy and megalomaniacal Kees locked in a game of wits with the police, who seek him for a single blundering act, which first expressed his newfound rapaciousness and rage.
In my edition of THE MAN WHO WATCHED TRAINS GO BY, Luc Sante provides an interesting introduction, which is filled with both insight and spoilers. Read it after you've finished. Then, you'll find the amazing insight that this Simenon novel is actually a comedy, with the bourgeois Kees never getting too far from his comfy roots.
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