Welcome to Travel Readings
Melbourne: The Slap by Christos Tsiolkas
Books, Movies and Beyond…
Books, Movies and Beyond…: Washington, DC and New York
Books, Movies and Beyond…: Rome
Rio de Janeiro: Crimes of August (Agosto) by Rubem Fonseca
Istanbul: The Museum of Innocence by Orhan Pamuk
Liège (Belgium): Pedigree by Georges Simenon
Books, Movies and Beyond…: Lisbon
Books, Movies and Beyond…: Cambodia
Hyde Park, Chicago: Ravelstein by Saul Bellow
Paris: Flowers of Ruin and Suspended Sentences by Patrick Modiano
Books, Movies and Beyond…: Naples
Books, Movies and Beyond…: Tanzania
Sri Lanka: Running in the Family by Michael Ondaatje
Books, Movies and Beyond… : Venice
Dublin: The Dead by James Joyce
Books, Movies and Beyond: Iran
Santa Cruz, Bolivia: The Matter of Desire (Materia del Deseo) by Edmundo Paz Soldán
Books, Movies and Beyond: Syria
Djibouti: Passage of Tears (Passage des Larmes) by Abdourahman Waberi
Books, Movies and Beyond: Armenia
Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso: The Parachute Drop by Norbert Zongo
Bangkok: Sightseeing by Rattawut Lapcharoensap
Périgord, France: The Caves of Périgord by Martin Walker
Books, Movies and Beyond: Brussels
Naples: The Neapolitan Novels by Elena Ferrante
Books, Movies and Beyond: Rio de Janeiro
Tajikistan: Hurramabad by Andrei Volos
New-York: City on Fire by Garth Risk Hallberg
Israel and Palestine: To the End of the Land by David Grossman and Wild Thorns by Sahar Khalifeh
Books, Movies and Beyond: Bavaria and Southern Germany
Cape Town: Boyhood, Youth and Summertime by J.M. Coetzee
Books, Movies and Beyond: India
Blue Ridge Mountains: Cold Mountain by Charles Frazier
Books, Movies and Beyond: Algeria
Austrian Alps: A Whole Life (Ein ganzes Leben) by Robert Seethaler
Books, Movies and Beyond: Africans in America
Zimbabwe: The Last Resort by Douglas Rogers
Books, Movies and Beyond: Colombia
Belgian Ardennes: The All Saints’ Day Lovers by Juan Gabriel Vásquez
Côte d’Ivoire: Aya of Yop City by Marguerite Abouet and Clément Oubrerie
Japan: Haruki Murakami and Amélie Nothomb
Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York: The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt and The Rope and The Denial of Saint Peter by Charles Baudelaire
Books, Movies and Beyond: Cairo
Vancouver: What is Remembered by Alice Munro
Ghent (Belgium): War and Turpentine by Stefan Hertmans
Haiti: An Aroma of Coffee and Dining with the Dictator by Dany Laferrière and The Comedians by Graham Greene
Iceland: Jar City by Arnaldur Indriðason
Siena and Tuscany : Il Palio delle contrade morte by Fruttero & Lucentini and The English Patient by Michael Ondaatje
China : Wild Swans. Three Daughters of China, by Jung Chang
Amsterdam: The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton
Père Lachaise Cemetery, Paris
Former Soviet Union: The Unwomanly Face of War  by Svetlana Alexievich
Provence: The Horseman on the Roof by Jean Giono, La charrette bleue by René Barjavel, Madame de Sévigné and Ventoux by Bert Wagendorp
Moscow: The House of Government by Yuri Slezkine, The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov and Limonov by Emmanuel Carrère
Books, Movies and Beyond: Vietnam
Books, Movies and Beyond: The Wars in Vietnam

Liège (Belgium): Pedigree by Georges Simenon

We are in early October and the weather is still warm. Warm enough to get down the stairs of the Mont Saint-Martin without a coat and discover Liège coiled in its bowl.

We are walking on unequal and cobbled sidewalks. They are not very clean and they go along houses whose red bricks are blackened by time or maybe by the coal. We are going towards the Saint-Jacques Church for my grand-mother’s burial. We are passing by the factory on rue Trappé.

St Jacques Church

St Jacques Church


We are exchanging memories: the October Fair, its lacquemants and its shooting games, the visits to the philatelist, the weeks spent studying our exams at our grand-parents’ place, the shops and restaurants on rue Saint-Gilles. Eventually, we arrive in front of the Collège Saint-Servais.

legalopantlacquemant2Simenon finished his school years at Saint-Servais, but the neighborhood we are going through is not the one in which he grew up. He seems not to have appreciated – even to have hated- the Catholic bourgeoisie at Saint-Servais. He was also coming from a Catholic family, but a more modest one.


In Pedigree, he describes the two families, the maternal and paternal one, their origins, their secrets, their fears and their measured ambitions. He also tells the rivalries in their midst: the brother who is envied, the one who wants to show off, those who are looked down. It sounds like the song Ces Gens-Là by Jacques Brel, another famous Belgian (even if he was not from Liège).

Pedigree is, probably with Lettre à ma Mère (Letter to My Mother), Simenon’s most intimate book. According to literary history, he wrote it after a cardiac alert. Did he want to write down his childhood and adolescence memories before it would be too late? The exegetes of his work always find biographic reminiscences in his novels: a first or last name which is recurrent, this posture, this type of dress or this mannerism which are common to many characters in his work.  Pedigree is often the key which allows interpreting those links.


Simenon also writes about his first loves and his discovery of sexuality while on holidays during First World War on the hills of Embourg and Chaudfontaine a few kilometers from Liège. We know that his relationships with women were complex and multiple. The man who claimed to have had 10,000 women!  Where did this appetite come from or rather this eternal dissatisfaction, or this never appeased need to confide? The specialists will still conjecture for long, but it is likely that the source is close to the Meuse banks in Liège or the hills that surrounds the city.


Credit for featured image: Eric Dodémont

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *