The Train 11/13/11
Georges Simenon was a Belgian born writer who had a prolific career. He's best known for his Commissaire Maigret series which spans 75 novels and 28 short stories. He also wrote many other stand alone pulp novels under a variety of pseudonyms.
As his Maigret series pretty much drowns out the other books, it's been difficult to find much information about The Train. I can tell you that it was first published in 1961 as Le Train and it was first translated into English in 1964. It has since been retranslated and reissued by Melville books; it was their review galley that I read.
Marcel Féron has a normal, unexceptional life as a radio repairman in the Ardennes region of France. He has a 4 year old daughter and a wife who is seven months pregnant. As Paris falls and Belgium is invaded, he realizes he and his family have to make their escape. They head for the trains. So does (nearly) everyone else.
When traveling to escape there's no time to think and little time to react. Féron takes the new facts of his life with the same calmness that he takes all other aspects of his life.
There's a detachment to Féron. He reports on the dangers on the train with the same quietude as he describes his morning routine at home. Féron is a hard character to read. He is very much akin to the protagonist in Banana Yoshimoto's The Lake but I just couldn't relate to him as well.
Comment #1: Thursday, December, 29, 2011 at 01:37:24
I recently read The Train and I thought it was really great. I just wanted to make a small correction to your review - the translation in the Melville House publication by Robert Baldick is the original 1964 English translation. It sort of maintains a mid-1960's feel.
Comment #2: Wednesday, January 04, 2012 at 21:35:13
Thank you for the information and for the link to your review.