cover image Across the Street

Across the Street

Georges Simenon. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt P, $18.95 (0pp) ISBN 978-0-15-103266-2

First published in French in 1945, the late Simenon's small gem of a novel is the claustrophobic tale of a solitary, unbalanced Parisian woman who lives vicariously through her neighbors, on whom she spies obsessively. Dominique watches through the shutters as one sick neighbor dies just after his wife is late in giving him medicine. Dominique weaves fantasies around the widow, her domineering mother-in-law and her secret mulatto lover, sending her anonymous notes that read, ``You killed your husband.'' Dominique's other obsession is her tenants, a young couple whose lovemaking she observes through a keyhole. These newlyweds occupy the room where Dominique had tended to her invalid, hard-drinking father, a retired general who died seven years earlier. Simenon posits Dominique's existence as a paradigm of the life unlived: ``a brief, unconscious childhood, a short adolescence, then emptiness, tangles of troubles . . . and then, so soon, at forty, the feeling of being old. . . .'' He invests Dominique with an unshakable dignity even as he probes her existential failure as one for whom the past and her fantasy life count at least as much as the present. (Oct.)