Georges Simenon – The bells of Bicêtre

A successful man is a victim of a stroke and wakes up in a hospital room: unable to relate to others because of a temporary paralysis, he is carried away by the sensations evoked by sounds and voices that reach his ears: the bells in the distance as well as the medical words that reassure him about his chance of recovery. However, he realizes at that point that he does not want to go back to his old active life again: the forced stay in that limbo of inactivity and silence showed him the futility and vanity of a life marked by the pace of a job that does nothing but thickening his wallet, and superficial social relations. From this new perspective, everything appears futile, and he discovers the pleasure of observing humanity around him. He pauses to reflect on himself as a man, as a husband, as a father, and remains mostly disappointed by the results.
In this novel Simenon paints a new portrait of a man on the run, who chooses to rebel at his initial forced immobility, then ends up choosing it. His is an original escape, which is not pondered to start with, but then becomes a conscious one of which he’s well aware of. This condition transforms him from actor to spectator in a “Pirandellian” play, that will lead him to face the inevitable return to the ranks again.
One of Simenon’s most original and interesting novels, that will appeal especially to those who love introspective readings.

Trasnlation by Silvia Accorrà (edited by Sabrina Macchi)