Simenon’s Paris

Het parijs van Simenon

In the beginning of this year I was surprised to receive the book  ‘Simenon’s Paris’ through my letterbox. A very special book by Frederick Franck and the famous writer George Simenon, dating from 1969. It’s a big, slightly yellowed book with a drawing made by Franck on the cover. I had never heard of the book until a few days earlier. Francine Verbeek had asked me if I was interested in the book because she bought it twice by accident. Before I knew, she had already send me the book. I know Francine due to Etsy. She has a webshop with beautiful watercolor paintings of animals and had been inspired by the work of Franck and Edwards as well.  Even though she had asked me, the book came as a surprise.

At first the book brought back lots of memories. The name ‘Simenon’ reminded me of high school, when I had French lessons together with four friends. We sat in the back of the classroom close to each other. We really wanted to learn French. One of them lives in France permanent, one stays there a lot with family and one lived and worked in Paris when I wrote my book about Zen drawing. That friend was the reason that I went to Paris to draw. Our French teacher on contrary, was famous for his uninspiring lessons and regularly fell asleep. While he slept we fantasized about the future and hung out the window that gave us very nice view on Delft from the fourth floor. We called it ‘the window of freedom’ since it gave us light and fresh air. We had French lessons late in the afternoon, and saw other children cycle home through that window.  I don’t remember why, but we did have lots of fun about the book ‘La pipe de Maigret’, a book we were obliged to read. Seeing the name ‘Simenon’ immediately reminded me of that window and my sleeping teacher.

When I explored the book, I immediately noticed the beautiful drawings of Paris by Franck. Some of them even have colored accents. So pretty and such a coincidence that I went to Paris as well to draw! It even had drawings of the Place des Vosges. (I wrote about my drawing experience there in my book). It even became more accidental, when I spoke to my dear friend Willem Radder, who had introduced me to Franck’s work and had helped me writing my zen drawing book. He appeared to have read all Simenon’s books when he was young! He immediately understood why Franck should have been a great admirer of Simenon’s work: Simenon was a genius-observer that never had any judgements about the characters in his books.

The book ‘Simenon’s Paris’ has been initiated by Frederick Franck. He didn’t see Simenon’s books as detectives or novels, but as ‘love letters from Europe’. He read his books when he was homesick and his craving for Europe became unbearable. The idea of making his book started by coincidence too, when he was drawing in Paris and a passerby exclaimed: “But sir, that’s purely Simenon what you are drawing!’.

In the book, Franck brings passages from Simenon’s books together with his drawings of Paris.  He sees it as a homage ‘to the magician that brought European shapes alive, when he was so much in need for it’. The drawings aren’t illustrations, but serve as a bouquet of flowers for Simenon. The foreword has been written by Franck while he sat in Simenon’s study, in the company of his (at that point 65 year old) hero. There seem to be lots of parallels between their lives. Both were born in the same area and were in love with Paris. This is also why the book feels like a personal and intimate document full with beautiful drawings of which I will show some.

 

franck kleuren simenonfrederick franck dame frederick franck illustratie frederick Franck Simenon 1

It should be noted that Frederick Franck’s wife (later widow) Claske Franck-Berndes, translated Simenon’s quotes from French. Two weeks ago I heard that Claske died on the 7th of March at the age of 94.  Her memorial and photograph can be found here.

It was a coincidence that inspired Franck to write the book about Simenon and it was a coincidence that made me write my book about Franck’s work. Coincidence brought me to Paris and now it brought paris back to my home. I have the book in Dutch, but I just saw identical secondhand English versions on the internet. If you are a fan of Francks drawings (0r Simenon or Paris), you should definately try to find a copy.

 

 

frederick franck lantaarns

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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