WORLD-OBITS-L ArchivesArchiver > WORLD-OBITS > 2005-07 > 1121078941
From: "Peter_McCrae" <>
Subject: SIMON; Claude Eugene Henri-6/7/2005-FRENCH
Date: Mon, 11 Jul 2005 11:49:01 +0100
The Daily Telegraph & the telegraph.co.uk
Claude Simon, the French novelist who has died aged 91, was one of the
foremost exponents of le nouveau roman, the "new novel" style of the 1950s
and 1960s which rejected the literary conventions of plot, narration and
Although his books - which contained little punctuation, jumbled chronology
and meandering description - did not command a wide readership, Simon was
awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1985, after the publication of Les
Georgiques (The Georgics), about three men's experience of war.
Those who could navigate their way through Simon's labyrinthine sentences
and extensive parentheses (even parentheses within parentheses, the longest
of which runs to 30 pages) were rewarded by rich and innovative writing that
has been likened to the work of Proust, Joyce and Beckett. And while his
style could be impenetrable, the novels themselves explored traditional
subjects. "Literature," Simon once said, "always deals with the same things:
love, death, the passage of time, hope, disillusion, man's sorrows."
Most of his 17 books were influenced by his participation, in 1940, in the
Battle of the Meuse, during the German invasion of France; as a cavalryman
defending French borders, Simon escaped certain death when the majority of
his comrades were massacred by shell-firing tanks. He was taken prisoner,
but later escaped from his PoW camp and spent the rest of the war working
for the French resistance at Perpignan in the south of France.
La Route des Flandres (1960, The Flanders Road) describes the French retreat
at Meuse, focusing on the death of a French captain through the eyes of
three other soldiers. It was, wrote one critic, "a deeply moving meditation
on war". It was written, like much of his work, in fractured sentences
entangled with dreams and memories. But Simon was dismissive of accusations
that he was, as he put it, "a difficult, boring, unreadable, confused
writer". Such complaints, he would say, had "always been levelled at any
artist who even to the slightest degree upsets acquired habits and the
established order of things".
Claude Eugene Henri Simon was born in Madagascar on October 10 1913. His
father, an officer in the French army, was killed in 1914 at the start of
the First World War. His mother died when Claude was 11.
Educated at Perpignan and at the Collège Stanislas, a Catholic boarding
school in Paris, Simon studied at both Oxford and Cambridge during the late
1930s, and travelled throughout Europe. In 1934-35 he served in the French
army before going to Barcelona in 1936 to fight on the Republican side in
the Spanish civil war. Later, however, he became disenchanted with the
On the outbreak of war Simon was recalled to his cavalry regiment, the 31st
Dragoons. He was deeply affected by his wartime experiences. "They sent an
entire division of horsemen against German armour," he said in 1985. "A
total butchery." He described the spectacle of horses pitted against tanks
as "more absurd than anything a novelist could invent".
After the war Simon moved to Salses, near Perpignan, where he had inherited
a vineyard. There he completed his first novel, Le Tricheur (1945, The
Cheat), which was followed by La Corde raide (1947, The Tightrope), Gulliver
(1952) and Le Sacre du printemps (1954, The Rite of Spring). These early
books were more traditional in form and character description, but with Le
Vent (1957, The Wind) he began to explore a style in which the structure of
a book revolves around a main event seen from different angles.
In L'Herbe (1958, The Grass), Simon made further use of flashbacks and
deliberately confused narrative in his depiction of the death of an old
woman. Later books also incorporated family tales, memories, 20th-century
history and autobiography, all relayed non-chronologically, often in a
stream of consciousness.
Simon, the first Frenchman to be awarded the Nobel prize for Literature
since 1964, when Jean-Paul Sartre turned it down, reacted to the
announcement of the award by saying that he would use the money to repair
the roof of his house. He died on July 6.
Simon's marriage to Yvonne Ducing, in 1951, ended in divorce. In 1978 he
married Rhea Karavas.
© Copyright of Telegraph Group Limited 2005.
|SIMON; Claude Eugene Henri-6/7/2005-FRENCH by "Peter_McCrae" <>|