Le Commissaire Maigret
36 Quai des Orfèvres
The Maigret Forum This is not a static website. It changes almost daily. The Maigret "Forum," an open bulletin board for notices, opinions, information and discussion related to Maigret and Simenon, has become the most active feature of this site. It's where new books, websites, articles and features are first announced and displayed, and includes an indexed archive of the entire past Forum... back to 1997!
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Maigret, the fame of a Chief Inspector
Maigret, the fame of a Chief Inspector
by Murielle Wenger
The writing of the Maigret saga extends over more than forty years, presenting the Chief Inspector in 75 novels, with his investigations translated into a hundred languages. Such an accomplishment is not without its effect on the notoriety of the character, a fame that spans borders and generations of readers.
Simenon has amused himself by showing us, within the stories themselves, how the Chief Inspector has become a well-known figure. Throughout the saga he alludes to the fact that Maigret is well-known in his world, that he is recognized on the street, and that his name evokes a reaction in many people, and in a variety of environments. In order to consider Maigret's fame in his fictional world, there must, by definition, be a number of novels already published. And so it's only as the saga develops that the novelist can, little by little, put forward the idea that the Chief Inspector has become a character known to many, his celebrity having grown with the success of his investigations.
Maigret's renown is thus both that of a policeman, and as a fictional character. As Jean Fabre writes (Enquête sur un enquêteur, Maigret, Un essai de sociocritique), "Thus an internal legend is created (within the text) which greatly influences the external myth (Maigret seen by his readers)". But we can also reverse the proposition, and say that this "internal" legend is enhanced by the number of novels written – the more novels in the saga, the more the novelist can give authenticity to the fame of his creation.
Let me introduce myself, my name is Maigret
When the novelist first introduced his character onto the literary scene, he had to provide him with a formula allowing him to be situated within a precise framework, as a policeman. So at the beginning of Pietr le Letton [LET], the character makes his appearance with the words, "Chief Inspector Maigret, First Flying Squad". A rank, a context. Maigret appears as a Chief Inspector (and not simply as an inspector, or a plain detective), in the Brigade Mobile, the First Flying Squad, in what was then called the Sûreté. Later in the same novel, when he arrives at the scene of the crime, he merely announces "Police!", while in Le charretier de la Providence [PRO], when he presents himself to Colonel Lampson, he says "Judicial Police!". We know that Simenon, in his first novels, was not very clear about the functions of the various police services, and it was only after his visit, at the invitation of Xavier Guichard, to 36 Quai des Orfèvres, that his indications of Maigret's role became more precise.
In Monsieur Gallet, décédé [GAL], Maigret sometimes presents himself as Chief Inspector in the Flying Squad, and sometimes as Chief Inspector in the Judicial Police, but after Le pendu de Saint-Pholien [PHO], he only uses Police Judiciaire, "Judicial Police". Later, in Les caves du Majestic [MAJ] (the first novel of the saga in which Simenon brings his character back after the series of short stories written for the newspapers), Maigret describes himself as "head of the Special Squad of the Judicial Police", a formula that will be found again, as in Maigret, Lognon et les gangsters [LOG]: "Chief Inspector Maigret, of the Special Squad", or "Chief Inspector Maigret, head of the Criminal Squad" (Maigret et l'affaire Nahour [NAH]).
Look, it's Maigret!
At the beginning of the saga, Maigret is presented by his creator as being known, above all, to those he encounters in the exercise of his profession... on the one hand, by his colleagues and those working in the same sphere, within the milieu of the police, and on the other, by his "usual clients", those of the underworld. But little by little, the Chief Inspector is also recognized by all those he meets in the course of an investigation, particularly the barmen, bistro owners, and hotel staff, but also newsmen and taxi drivers...
A phenomenal author and his phenomenal character
Georges Simenon was by many standards the most successful author of the 20th century, and the character he created, Inspector Jules Maigret, who made him rich and famous, ranks only after Sherlock Holmes as the world's best known fictional detective. There is nothing commonplace about the life of Georges Simenon, and he and his works have been the subject of innumerable books and articles. The Maigret stories are unlike any other detective stories the crime and the details of unraveling it are often less central to our interest than Maigret's journey through the discovery of the cast of characters... towards an understanding of man. Simenon said he was obsessed with a search for the "naked man" man without his cultural protective coloration, and he followed his quest as much in the Maigrets as in his "hard" novels.
Although most of Simenon's work is available in English, it was originally written in French. Simenon was born and raised in Belgium, and while Paris was "the city" for him, the home of Maigret, he was 'an international,' a world traveler who moved often and lived for many years in France, the United States, and Switzerland.
Because he wrote in French, and for the most part lived in French-speaking countries, most of the books and magazine articles about him were written in French as well. Unlike his own books however, many of these have never been available in translation. Because Simenon lived to be nearly 90, and left a legacy of hundreds of books from which more than 50 films have been made, along with hundreds of television episodes there is much to collect, to examine, to display and discuss.
This site takes Maigret as its theme, and Simenon as its sub-theme. There is much here about all aspects of Simenon and Maigret, but not so much about Simenon's other, non-Maigret books. There are full texts of many magazine and journal articles, including many translated into English here, as far as I am aware, for the first time. In this way non-French-speaking Maigret fans can now share, in a time-compressed form, articles about Simenon and Maigret spanning more than 70 years, as well as a forum for discussion and contribution which...
Enough. There's a lot here. Enjoy your visit. Come back again, and feel free to contribute to the Forum. Corrections, comments, and suggestions are welcome.Steve Trussel
Bibliography: booklists etc.
This site, first opened on August 29, 1996 as "Inspector Maigret," has spread in various directions from its beginning as primarily a bibliography of editions in English. The "new look" reflects various aspects of this development, but the bibliography remains a central feature.Counting Maigret: statistics etc.
For the forty-year period from 1931 through 1972, a new Inspector Maigret investigation appeared at the average rate about 2.5 per year: 75 novels and 28 short stories, 103 episodes of what has been called George Simenon's "Maigret Saga."
Texts: Maigret on-line
Full-length texts - reviews and articles about Maigret and Simenon, as well as new translations of stories, articles, (and even a novel!) which have never appeared in English.
Index to the texts and articles on various pages.
Articles from the Simenon symposiums, journals, program listings, and other not-Maigret-only Simenon material.
Gallery: Maigret covers and photos
Maigret paperback covers, postage stamps, theme music, locations... more.
Plots of all the Maigret novels and stories.
Shopping for Maigret: books on-line
The one-button, quick-links to the main on-line book dealers are still available, for shopping for Maigret titles.
Maigret on Screen: films and videos
Various aspects of Maigret on film and video.
Maigret on the Web: Links
Links to the rest of the on-line world of Maigret on the Internet.
background photo: adapted from "Two models for Maigret,
Commissaires Massu and Guillaume." [Ph. Keystone]
"Quai des Orfèvres on the Cité Island at night" [Jean-Pierre Ducatez]
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