Vente à la bougie - 2
La maison du juge
La maison du juge (Maigret in exile) is a novel written in 1939 or early 1940, also in Nieul-sur-Mer. Maigret investigates a murder in the village of L'Aiguillon-sur-Mer. This time he is stationed in Luçon because of a conflict with his superiors. Luçon is a small town in the Vendée.
The region is obviously very well known to Simenon. A few years later he will even live there for some time, in La Faute-sur-Mer a village right next to L'Aiguillon.
In La Maison du Juge a suspect of a murder in the house of a retired judge flees by boat and is later on seen in the inn of Pont-du-Brault.
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In the middle of the marshes
"There are people who saw him sail away with his boat in the direction of Pont-du-Brault." (5)

During a telephone conversation with an operator we learn the following:
"- Hello, Miss... Is there a telephone in Pont-du-Brault? You're telling me there is only one house there? An inn? ..." (5)
La nuit du
carrefour
La guinguette
à deux sous
L' inspecteur
Cadavre
Les larmes
de bougie
And later on in a conversation with a lieutenant of the Gendarmerie (6):
" - Lieutenant!... Will you come in for a moment?... For sure you know Pont-du-Brault I suppose... What a kind of place is that?
- It lies over there, far in the back, in the middle of the marshes. There is a canal, it runs from the back of the bay 10 km inland, to Marans... You probably would find nothing there but a small shack every three kilometers or so." (5)
Vente à la
bougie - 1
Vente à la
bougie - 2
Marais Poitevin
La maison
du juge
This description corresponds strikingly well with the description of the location "Pont-du-Grau" in Vente à la bougie.
Pont-du-Brault lies 17 kilometers East of L'Aiguillon as the crow flies, right on the border of the departments of the Vendée and the Charente-Maritime, in the middle of the "Parc Interrégional du Marais Poitevin" a 96.000 hectare natural reserve.
The only entry on this location we could find was in a governmental enactment:
Mon ami
Maigret
Maigret à
Vichy
l'Affaire
Saint-Fiacre
L'Auberge aux
noyés
Le notaire de
Châteauneuf
"La réserve naturelle sur le domaine public fluvial de la Sèvre Niortaise est comprise entre la limite du domaine public maritime et l'ancien pont du Brault (limite de la réserve naturelle)." (7)
We also could find that, today, on that location, there must be locks between the different canals that descend from the town of Marans and the marshes up-country into the estuary of La Sèvre Niortaise, (Les Ecluses du Brault).
M.Gallet, décédé
Le charretier de
"La Providence"
Chez les
Flamands
Strange?
Of course it is a bit strange that Maigret, being stationed in Nantes, more than 100 km away, has to investigate this case. Remember that when he will take on the case in nearby L'Aiguillon, in La maison du juge, a novel written later the same year, he is stationed much closer, in Luçon, only 20 km away from Pont-du-Brault.
Attempts to assess this kind of anomalies in Simenon's work will often lead to no end. Repeatedly the author is disordered and tangled when it comes to consistently using places or characters in his various works. He was even known to mix up names of characters in his early work.
Although it is not very likely, Pont-du-Grau could be situated somewhere else in the Vendée. The marshland in that region is so extensive that it could actually be hundreds of different places, all fitting the rather dim description in the story. A possibility would be "Le-Grand-Pont" a location near to Beauvoir-sur-Mer at only 60 Km from Nantes.
We would not go as far as Michel Lemoine when he states in his article "Lieux sans nom et noms de lieux inventés" (8)
"La nouvelle se déroule dans un hameau vendéen dit le Pont-du-Grau qui déforme sans aucun doute le réel Pont-du-Braulté.."
"The short story proceeds in a Vendean hamlet called Pont-du-Grau which is without any doubt a deformation of the real Pont-du-Braulté.."

But let us emphasize that Pont-du-Brault is still the best choice for the location that stood model for Pont-du-Grau
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I want to thank Mme. Isabelle Dossin from the "Parc Interrégional du Marais Poitevin" for her kind co-operation in finding the applicable documentation.
Images
From top to bottom:
- Map by:Route 66, Route Europa 2000, Copyright Route 66 Geographic Information Systems B.V., Ede (NL). Adaptation by G. De Croock .
- Photo Le Marais Desséché: site Marais Poitevin. Ce document provient du site Internet du Parc Interrégional du Marais Poitevin : www.parc-marais-poitevin.fr". copyright - collection Parc Interrégional du Marais Poitevin.
- Photograph: Bateau-Marais Copyright: Michel Lagarde on: http://www.vendee.com/photos/photos.htm and http://www.la-vendee.net/vendee-images/vendee.html
- Photograph of the lock at "Le Brault": from the brochure "Le Marais Poitevin et l'Europe" - copyright - collection Parc Interrégional du Marais Poitevin.
- Photograph of the area of Beauvoir-sur-Mer, close to "Le Grand-Pont"
Notes
(5) Georges Simenon, La maison du juge, 1939. Excerpt translated in English by G. de Croock out of the Dutch edition, "Maigret en het huis van de rechter", vertaling Halbo C. Kool, Bruna Pockethuis b.v., Utrecht, 1984.
(6) Gendarmerie (Fr.) = comparable with State Troopers in the US.
(7) Décret no 96-613 du 9 juillet 1996 portant création de la réserve naturelle de la baie de l'Aiguillon (Vendée). (The natural reserve on the river's public domain of Sèvre Niortaise lies between the limit of the maritime public domain and the old bridge of Brault (limit of the natural reserve)) Decree No 96-613 of bearing 9 July 1996 creation of the natural reserve of bay of L'Aiguillon (the Vendée). Alain Juppé, Par le Premier ministre : Le ministre de l'environnement, Corinne Lepage. Fait à Paris, le 9 juillet 1996.
(8) Lieux sans nom et noms de lieux inventés, Michel Lemoine. In Traces 10, publication of the University of Liège (Belgium). Travaux du Centre d'Etudes Georges Simenon, 1998. p.159.
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La nuit du carrefour - 1, - 2
La guinguette à deux sous - 1, - 2
L' inspecteur Cadavre - 1, - 2, - 3
Les larmes de bougie - 1, - 2
Vente à la bougie - 1, - 2
La maison du juge - 1, - 2, - 3
Mon ami Maigret - 1, - 2, - 3
Maigret à Vichy - 1, - 2
l'Affaire Saint-Fiacre - 1, - 2
l'Auberge aux Noyés - 1, - 2
Le notaire de Chéteauneuf - 1, - 2
M.Gallet, décédé - 1, - 2, - 3
Le charretier de "La Providence" - 1, - 2
Chez les Flamands - 1, - 2