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 home probably imagine and reality.
The reality is drunk, listless, and rather hopeless. What sticks out in my mind when picturing Timar’s existence in Gabon is the oppressiveness of the sun. When Simenon describes Timar putting on his sun helmet and walking through deserted streets in overwhelming heat, it almost gives the impression that the sun is actually behind all his troubles.
While the travel poster idea didn’t fit, the question of how people “back home” formed conceptions of distant places did seem relevant to the novel. Instead I looked to a more subdued form, cheap postcards printed with plain black ink. Instead of an exotic scene, though, the image only shows a shadow – representing, of course, the force of the sun.