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Tropic Moon

3.68  ·  Rating details ·  665 ratings  ·  85 reviews
Newly translated for this edition.

A young Frenchman, Joseph Timar, travels to Gabon carrying a letter of introduction from an influential uncle. He wants work experience; he wants to see the world. But in the oppressive heat and glare of the equator, Timar doesn't know what to do with himself, and no one seems inclined to help except Adèle, the hotel owner's wife, who take
Paperback, 134 pages
Published August 31st 2005 by NYRB Classics (first published 1933)
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Average rating 3.68  · 
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Apr 06, 2018 rated it really liked it
Recommended to Hanneke by: Tristan
Joseph Timar, 23 years old, from a good bourgeois family in provincial France, lands at Libreville, Gabon, to take up a job at a timber company. The job had been arranged by his distinguished uncle, a well-known politician. That the uncle is such a well-known person certainly opens doors for Timar, but it does nothing to elevate his loneliness or make him a popular person with the woodloggers, the only white people in the area who frequent the hotel where he is staying. The hotel is run with a c ...more
Glenn Russell

Tropic Moon - Georges Simenon’s first novel set outside Europe, one of what the author termed his romans durs, hard novels, but with Tropic Moon, not only is the story tough on the main character but also tough on the entire French colonial system, or more precisely, brutally tough on the French colonialists in Africa.

It’s 1933 and we’re in Gabon, West Africa, right along the equator in the ramshackle coast town of Liberville. We follow Joseph Timar, age 24, full of courage and enthusiasm, rece
This roman durs of Simenon is an atmospheric, anti-colonial fable, set in French Gabon in the early 1930s or late 1920s. Many of the colonists seem to have been shipped out as punishment for crimes committed in France, they dream of amassing a million or more Frances, travelling home and blowing the lot on various nonsense. In Gabon they murder, rape, and steal from the locals most of whom are nameless and when they do speak or sing it is in languages the central character does not understand. W ...more
Apr 03, 2020 rated it liked it
I would rate this work by Simenon as 2.5 stars.

Basically I liked his vivid description of people and the environment in which events took place. But I don’t think I “got it”. I do not understand the ending. For me to tell you why I did not understand it would be to reveal events in too much detail so as to constitute a spoiler. And I don’t like to reveal spoilers. 😊 I imagine after posting this review I can run to my GR friends who are Simenon fans and ask them about the ending.

Basically Joseph
Dec 23, 2019 rated it liked it
It is not the whiskey, or the mosquitoes, or the oppressive heat, or even his raw youth which is the young Frenchman's undoing in colonial Gabon. Nor is it his conscience, although he acts to stop an injustice. No. The French have a saying for what happens to Joseph Timar. Cherchez la femme. That is what shatters him.

Yet all the rest is here too, that Africa, even as Timar repeats as a bell tolling, It doesn't exist . . . It doesn't exist.
Sarah Mcgrath
Nov 03, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A sort of French version of Heart of Darkness, a study of increasing madness and a criticism of the colonial system. I could almost feel the oppressive heat. Fascinating.
May 30, 2016 rated it really liked it
A deliciously compressed little colonial nightmare. Less apocalyptic in tone than that other- more culturally entrenched - literary work of anti-colonialism Heart of Darkness, but infinitely more insidious. One can almost sense the moral and physical putrefaction rise from the pages, slowly invading the system like a tropical fever.

My first of Simenon's romans durs, and it won't be the last.
Friederike Knabe
Oct 12, 2011 rated it really liked it
Reading an early Simenon mystery today is as much entertainment as it is a trip into the past. This in especially true for Tropic Moon ("Coup de lune"), originally published in 1933, one of three novels set in Africa. It was also an early example of Simenon's "romans durs" - psychological dramas rather than a Maigret-type detective story that Simenon has been famous for. Having traveled and worked in several countries in Africa for much of 1932, Simenon's personal exposure to the harsh realities ...more
Jan 29, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Okay, I am entirely unsure how this Simenon escaped me for so long, especially considering there is little I love more than mental/metaphysical/physiological unraveling deep in the swarthy throes of hostile geography... that we MUST confront such intensity even though we know it's only going to lead us to madness, malaria, parasites both metaphorical and too squirming through the intestines perhaps shuck comfort just to come out of the slime with a story to tell...we should always g ...more
You know that feeling when you are slightly hungover - clammy, mild smell of off spirits about you, small headache behind your eyes that's threatening to erupt - and you are stuck somewhere claustrophobic, overly warm, and inescapable. Such as a meeting room or a bus. No windows can be opened, the heating is too high, there are too many people in the space, you just have to make it through before you pass out or succumb to building nausea that wasn't there before you stepped into this space, and ...more
Roger Brunyate
May 01, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: africa

Simenon, the author of over 100 stories featuring Inspector Maigret, did not abandon his skills as a crime writer when writing his serious novels, or romans durs, of which Tropic Moon (1933) is one of the first. There is the same laconic straightforward style, the same ability to capture the atmosphere of a setting in a few sentences, and the same interest in those dark areas that lie outside the law. There is a murder here, quite early on in the book, but Simenon's focus is not on who comm
Jan 30, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
1933 novel where action is centered in Gabon, West Africa. I was drawn to the book for this reason as my son served there in the Peace Corps. I was imagining my son's first reactions to the land and people when he first arrived as the young man in this novel makes his arrival from France.
Well...that didn't last long. This French dude was a drunken mess whereas my son went to assist in the efforts to educate about AIDS.
Apparently Simenon wished to draw attention to the failure of colonialism, or
Sep 06, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: france, africa, simenon
A well-connected young man with a weak character goes to Gabon to make his fortune in the Colonies. The young man, Joseph Timar, takes up with Adele Renaud, an innkeeper whose husband dies -- right around the same time that she is suspected of the murder of a black named Thomas. Tropic Moon is the first of Georges Simenon's romans durs to be set outside of France.

Despite being warned by his politico uncle back in France to beware of partnerships, he takes up with Adele to run a lumber concession
Apr 17, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: africa
Fever dream colonialism. Completely malarial. Better than Joseph Conrad and all your Apocalypse Nows. Even better than Fitzcarraldo (I always found the backstory better than the movie: Kinski shooting into the tent, the Peruvian natives offering to kill Kinski, Herzog not realizing they disassembled the boat before dragging it over the mountain). The intro compares it to Dr. Destouches's writings about Africa in Journey to the End of the Night, and yeah, I'd say that's about where it belongs in ...more
Scott Munden
Jul 18, 2017 rated it really liked it
Even by Simenon's high standards, this is a mesmerizing novel. A literal reading tells the story of Joseph Timar who leaves France for Gabon with a prospect of a job. The job falls through and Timar is left in a state of limbo amongst Libreville's inhabitants. The tone of the novel becomes increasingly feverish with every turn of the page. In the end, I had to ask myself if Timar ever was in Gabon or was it all a fever dream experienced within some French asylum. The ambiguity is quintessential ...more
May 04, 2015 rated it liked it
Shelves: travel-the-world
A young Frenchman goes to Gabon (a French Colony in the 30s)to work in his family's company. He reaches Libreville, but is prevented from going further into the interior where the factory is located (at first) The book reminds me of Paul Bowles The Sheltering Sky, where foreigners are irrevocably changed by spending time in Africa (in a bad way). What bothered me about the book is that he didn't care about the locals much, in fact didn't seem to really notice them. ...more
Bud Smith
Jul 18, 2018 rated it really liked it
Tropic Moon was not nice, was ugly, and skin crawling, but that's worth something. It's pulp fiction setup is transcended here, without any tricks, just by the skill of the author, who writes with a clarity to be admired. A book without heroes. A book about the sliding away of the mind. Over all, well written, I did care at page 1 and I did care at the end. This novel got Simenon banned from the west Africa french colonies.

In french the title is Moonburn or Moonstroke and while Tropic Moon is a
Jul 30, 2008 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: ..close-of-empire trainspotters..
More chronicles of the breakdown of meaning at the edges of empire. Brings to mind other expatriate novels from Maugham in Malaya & Orwell in Burma, to Burgess in his trilogy called The Long Day Wanes, or Lowry with Under The Volcano. And Conrad, of course, whose Heart Of Darkness would surely have been familiar to Simenon.

A short and very brutal account of an innocent thrust into the dire circumstances of French Colonial Africa, sometime in the Thirties. What this most calls to mind with it's
Nov 20, 2010 rated it really liked it
Compelling novel about the evils of colonialism sans the obtrusive lecturing of Kingsolver' Poisonwood Bible. Although the introduction by Norman Rush discusses some similarities between Simenon and Graham Greene, I though this book was much closer to Orwell's Bumese Days. Captivating, sparse writing. Like Hemingway but less forced and more seamless. This is my first Simenon novel and it left me wanting more. ...more
Feb 06, 2014 rated it it was ok
This is a searing indictment of 1930's white colonial attitudes and behaviour towards the native black population in the French colony of Gabon. The murder mystery is so so and dated. What remains in the memory is the heat and the sweat and the callous, horrible treatment of black Africans by arrogant, cruel and corrupt white Europeans. ...more
Charles Dee Mitchell
Jul 24, 2011 rated it really liked it
Sex, murder, privilege, racism, and all the nastiness of French Colonial rule in Gabon circa 1930. The only thing that could make this book more satisfying would be if it was only 130 pages long. Wait -- it is 130 boozy, feverish pages long. A perfect afternoon read.
Less compelling... An early work...
Aug 22, 2020 rated it really liked it
A quick, harsh look at French colonialism (and broadly, colonialism in general) from the eyes of someone rushing into it thinking to make a name for themselves and then having their humanity peeled from them like a grape as they try to hold on to any kind of moral sense.
The plot is simple but tense. The setting is incredibly bleak, with its stripped resources, tedious inertness, and harsh blinding sun.
The central character seems to be a normal person thrown into a corrupt cesspool without any r
Craig Thompson
May 06, 2014 rated it really liked it
The two things I admire most about Simenon are firstly, his restraint; secondly, his empathy.

The prose is minimalist, simple, and direct. My high school English teacher would write "more succinct" on everything I'd write-- Simenon's style is just that. The mantra is in effect tenfold here.

Events are compressed into sentence shots, more jolting than calvados and pernot. It is a very immediate style. His staccato descriptive volleys, "Lunch. A stupefying snooze. Cocktail. Dinner..." (p.52) are ru
Mo Kerwin
Oct 13, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction, 1930s
book cover design for Georges Simeon's Tropic Moon

Tropic Moon is one of Georges Simenon's "hard" or serious novels. Set in the 1930s, it tells the story of a young man named Joseph Timar who moves to the then-French-colony of Gabon for a job.

My first thoughts stemmed from the title and the time period: tropical imagery inspired by bold and colorful travel posters from that era. However, the book is really about disillusionment with those romantic, exoticized ideas of Africa; the protagonist even reflects on the contrast between what people at h
Sep 22, 2013 rated it really liked it
Not as splashy or fun as most of the other Simenons I've read but it's clear that he is stepping nimbly (rather than lightly) through a very loaded and traumatic subject. I was very thankful for the excellent Norman Rush introduction to the NYRB edition, which aside from its insight into the linguistic anomalies, also gave some background on Simenon's own complicated relationship with French African colonialism. It was a much richer reading experience after essay than it would have been without ...more
Apr 13, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I read the New York Review Of Books edition, which has the translation by Marc Romano.
LE COUP DE LUNE was published in 1933, during the first prolific burst of Maigret novels. It is not part of that series, it being a stand-alone story of French colonial life. This novel, like most of Simenon's books, is brief, but then again, so was Joseph Conrad's HEART OF DARKNESS. Like that work, it packs a wallop. Graham Greene would explore much the same territory over the next few decades. Having read man
Aaron McQuiston
Nov 23, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: nyrb-classics
Georges Simenon seems to have the ability to grow any type of story out of very little. Even though we can look at the social context of the novel, the white stranger deep in Africa in a place where they treat the natives like clowns and women as objects to use. This is a shock to Joseph Timar who comes to Africa to work for a company, SACOVA. The hotel/bar owner, Adele and her husband own becomes a hub of the many mischief people. A boy gets killed and it changes Timar's adventure in Africa. Ti ...more
Aaron Martz
Aug 05, 2019 rated it liked it
This book felt like it was missing its second act. It started off great, with Simenon seemingly effortlessly dropping his protagonist right into the middle of a classic noir plot set in a boiling hot African town. The protagonist is one of only a handful of whites in a place that has begun to show hostility toward encroaching white colonialists, and he falls in love with an older white woman who owns the local watering hole along with her husband. That's classic noir, and Simenon doesn't miss a ...more
Oct 29, 2015 rated it really liked it
A feverish nightmare of a book, and totally unlike "Pietr the Latvian," Simenon's Inspector Maigret crime novel that I read immediately prior. This one concerns itself with the mental, moral, and physical disintegration of a young Frenchman, Joseph Timar, who travels to Gabon to work and experience the world beyond Europe. However, he is quickly undone by heat, sexual intrigue, alcohol, boredom, isolation, and illness. What becomes obvious is the cruel, offhand treatment of the African locals, a ...more
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NYRB Classics: Tropic Moon, by Georges Simenon 1 4 Oct 30, 2013 09:02PM  

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Georges Joseph Christian Simenon (1903 – 1989) was a Belgian writer. A prolific author who published nearly 500 novels and numerous short works, Simenon is best known as the creator of the fictional detective Jules Maigret.
Although he never resided in Belgium after 1922, he remained a Belgian citizen throughout his life.

Simenon was one of the most prolific writers of the twentieth century, capable

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