The Train, by Georges Simenon, published by MelvilleHouse under the Neversink imprint.
The Neversink Library champions books from around the world that have been overlooked, underappreciated, looked askance at, or foolishly ignored. They are issued in handsome, well-designed editions at reasonable prices in hopes of their passing from one reader to another - and further enriching our culture.
"I was by no means the only reader of books on board the Neversink. Several other sailors were diligent readers, though their studies did not lie in the way of belles-lettres. Their favourite authors were such as you may find at the bookstalls around Fulton Market; they were slightly physiological in their nature. My book experiences on board of the frigate proved an example of a fact which every book-lover must have experienced before me, namely, that though public libraries have an imposing air, and doubtless contain invaluable volumes, yet, somehow, the books that prove most agreeable, grateful, and companionable, are those we pick up by chance here and there; those which seem put into our hands by Providence; those which pretend to little, but abound in much."
-- Herman Melville
That is how I felt when I began reading this book last night and knew I couldn't sleep until I'd finished it. I'd picked up this book purely by chance.
But The Train is not a detective novel, like the Simenon's Maigret books. It's what's known in French as a "roman dur," or a "hard novel," and it's brilliant.
This existential novel has as its antihero a French radio repairman from a small town near the Belgian border who, upon hearing the news of the German invasion of Belgium and Holland, believes he is fated to escape his pleasant bourgeois existence. For a time he does just that.
This novel is about the responsibility of an individual for his actions, in this case as shocking and tragic as the banality of evil.
Please read this book.
I haven't read the book in French, but the translation seems a bit odd at times. Trust me, it doesn't matter.