The Man Who Watched the Trains Go By (novel)

The Man Who Watched the Trains Go By, first published in English in 1938, is a crime thriller by Georges Simenon about a man's rapid descent into criminality and madness following sudden financial ruination. A film adaptation was released in 1952.

The Man Who Watched the Trains Go By (novel)
AuthorGeorges Simenon
Original titleL'Homme qui regardait passer les trains
LanguageFrench; English
GenreCrime fiction
Publication date
Media typePrint (Hardback & Paperback)
Pages210 pp (in 2006 Penguin edition)
Preceded byTropic Moon 
Followed byLiberty Bar 

Plot summary

Kees Popinga, a quiet, respectable Dutch clerk from Groningen becomes increasingly unhinged after discovering that his cynical employer has looted and ruined his firm and confides in him that he will fake a suicide in order to escape punishment. Popinga struggles with, and accidentally kills, his employer's mistress and hurriedly leaves town, eventually making his way to Paris. When he discovers that he is being trailed by a Dutch police detective the man becomes more and more delusional, seeing himself as a master criminal and certain that the woman he has become involved with, his former employer's mistress, is genuinely interested in him, rather than the bag of stolen money he has carried with him from the Netherlands.

Film adaptation

The book was adapted for the film The Man Who Watched Trains Go By (1952) starring Claude Rains and Märta Torén and directed by Harold French.


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