Monday, December 13, 2010

The Absurd Monsieur Monde

We recently read a terrific book by the prolific (and heretofore unknown to us) Georges Simenon, called Monsieur Monde Vanishes. The plot, basically, is that a well-to-do middle-aged man (the owner of a family firm) simply vanishes one day, leaving behind his wife and family for the pleasures of living a more down-to-earth life. As the author puts it: "He...felt so envious of those who take no heed for the morrow and know none of the responsibilities with which other men burden themselves!" He assumes a new identity and spends several months living this way, with a relatively menial job and hand-to-mouth existence, before eventually returning to his family.

Perhaps not surprisingly, some reviewers took the story at face value (or, more accurately, at an extremely superficial level), concluding that Mssr. Monde returned to his family because that was the only place to find true contentment. But nothing could be further from the truth! Instead, Mssr. Monde realized the contentment he sought ("taking no heed of the morrow") was not to be found in changing his external conditions, but rather came from within. Thus, while he returned to his family and job, he did so sans his own internal baggage (as Jack Nicholson might ask: "Is there any other kind?")

We found the story interesting for two reasons. First, it is a terrific exposition not only of someone discovering the absurd, but also of how to apply it to one's life (the section after he returns discusses his easy manner and lack of worry), and second, as noted above, we could only shake our head at the reviewers who simply refused to see the underlying message, instead cramming it into their preferred narrative that family is what really matters.

No comments:

Post a Comment