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April 2, 1973

The Muse and the Martini

JAMA. 1973;224(1):35-38. doi:10.1001/jama.1973.03220140021004

Georges Simenon started keeping notebooks when he was nearing 60 and feeling gloomy. The notebooks were published ten years later under the title When I Was Old. By this time he had stopped feeling gloomy and stopped keeping notebooks. It is too bad about the latter. The notebooks tell a lot about writing. They also tell a lot about drinking. Simenon had vast experience with both.

Simenon is a great and honest writer. Some European critics believe he deserves the Nobel Prize. Most Americans think of him as a detective story writer, the creator of Inspector Maigret. This is unfair. Fewer than half of his several hundred novels are about Maigret, and the best "Maigrets" are fine novels, not who-doneits at all. John Raymond, a literary critic for the London Times, calls Simenon the greatest storyteller of our day. Gide, Hemingway, and other famous writers have praised him extravagantly. Because