Georges Simenon, creator of the French detective Inspector Maigret and the most widely published author of the 20th Century, has died at his Swiss home in Lausanne, it was announced today. He was 86.
Simenon died Monday night, his family said, and a private funeral was held this morning in Lausanne after cremation.
No cause of death was given, but Simenon had been ailing for some time.
Ashes Buried Under Tree
The author stipulated that his ashes join those of his daughter and favorite child, Marie-Jo, under a 250-year-old cedar outside his house. She committed suicide in 1978 at age 25.
"I don't fear death, but I fear causing trouble by my death to those who survive me," Simenon once said. "I would like to die as discreetly as possible."
Jean Richard, the French actor who played Inspector Maigret in dozens of television films over 23 years, said of Simenon: "For me, he was the greatest popular French author without comparison. He was the new Balzac."
The Soviet press agency Tass eulogized Simenon in a brief obituary as a "master detective story writer." Maigret, the contemplative Paris policeman, is a favorite of millions of Soviets.
Simenon, who was a native of Belgium, wrote 80 books featuring Maigret, the compassionate, pipe-smoking Paris chief inspector who seeks to understand criminals rather than condemn them.
While best known for the immensely popular "Maigrets," he personally preferred the 132 "non-Maigrets," psychological, sometimes nightmarish, novels about people in crisis that put his name into literary encyclopedias.
His books were translated into 55 languages, including Chinese, Armenian and Yiddish, in 40 countries.
About 50 biographies have been written on Simenon.
Apart from writing, which he called "forced labor," Simenon said he spent most of his life "obsessed by a frantic sexuality."
In two 1977 interviews, he said he had slept with 10,000 women, sometimes at the pace of three a day, "to learn the truth" about "The Woman."
His fortune is estimated in the hundreds of millions of dollars, and a battle could develop over it. His will, he told the Belgian newspaper Le Soir in 1978, would be "so precise that many people will be shocked."
Memoirs Published in 1981
In 1981, his "Intimate Memoirs" came out, which he said would be the last to be published during his lifetime.
It was sparked by the suicide of his daughter and tells a tempestuous story of despair and happiness, of love and sex, of luxury and the longing to return to what he calls "the little people" of his home country.
Simenon was repeatedly said to be a candidate for the Nobel Prize in literature, but that recognition never came.