The Simenon roman durs are everywhere! Monsieur Monde Vanishes, along with one other, was lent to me by my basketball-watching buddy. He's an intelligent fellow with quite specific tastes and we have a bit of a cultural exchange going on. Some things have worked and some haven't, but we definitely share an appreciation for Simenon's cold, distant gaze at humanity.
Monsieur Monde Vanishes, is, as the title explicitly states, about a man who decides to just leave his life. He is a successful industrialist with a distant wife and a distant son. One day, he just doesn't go home after work, instead taking out some cash from the bank, selling his tailor-made suit for an off the rack (gasp!) and wandering around Paris until he finds a dreary hotel. He seems to equate the working and lower-middle classes with some kind of freedom or at least with having something that he longs for. It's never explicitly stated what drives him, because even when he does succeed in truly leaving his old life behind, he still seems disconnected, at least from other people. Yet he gains some satisfaction from his adventure and there is some internal change in him. Whether it is for the better or the worst is hard to say. It ends on a very dark, inhuman note.
It's a quick and interesting read, with a rich immersion into some great Paris milieux, such as a casino and a poorer class of hotel where he lives. It makes you reflect on success and what it means to be alive and with other people, but perhaps not in the most optimistic way. I think that this novel could probably be correctly called existential. It lacks the intensity and focus of some of my more preferred romans durs and so didn't blow my mind, but it was still a good book.
The book is part of that very nice line of New York Review of Books Classics trade paperbacks. Normally, I don't like the trade paperback format, but these have a somber tone and nice spacing so that I quite enjoy their look despite the annoying size. However, in the case of this book, I find the cover image to be inappropriate. Monsieur Monde is described as stout, with an almost boyish body. The tall thin guy on the cover looks to much like what a North American would expect a french businessman to look like.