The Mystery of Georges Simenon: A Biography


259 pages
Contains Illustrations, Index
ISBN 0-7736-0112-0





Reviewed by Lee J. McKenna


There could be no better biographer for the creator of Maigret than Fenton Bresler. He has proved worthy of his subject in this riveting tale of the life of Georges Simenon. Bresler is a lawyer and journalistic crime investigator of international stature. He reveals Simenon to us in a way that explains the enigma of that prolific writer; we will read Simenon henceforth with different eyes.

Simenon is a complex man who presents himself as “A Man Like Any Other” (title of his autobiographical memoirs). Just how untrue this is Bresler sets out to reveal by painstaking research through family, friends, and the author’s own words. Georges Simenon’s most glaring divergence from the path of the average man is his claim to have had sex with 10,000 women. Although his ex-wife and biographer later revised that claim to a mere 1,600, it is still a startling number. In the best of taste, Bresler explores the motivations of Simenon’s ravenous sexual appetites.

The family relationships of the man are carefully charted from the never-give-an-inch mother to the tragic suicide of his young daughter. Despite three wives (two in fact and one common-law), the relationships with his mother and his daughter are the most significant keys to understanding the man.

As Bresler expresses it, Simenon is “a magnificent receptacle” — the essence of all such vessels is that they are empty. This complexity of character is essentially presented as a hollow man. The study is no less fascinating for its sad conclusion.


Bresler, Fenton, “The Mystery of Georges Simenon: A Biography,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed June 25, 2024,