Happy New Year!
Maigret of the Month: Le chien jaune
To start off the New Year I'm initiating a new feature, which I hope many of you will participate in. My plan is to dedicate each month to a specific Maigret title, and present related material via the Forum, where everyone can react and contribute. I'm hoping we can (re)read the story together, talk about it, and collect our opinions and observations, background and related material whatever and then I'll arrange it onto a single page for that title, resulting in an "Annotated Maigret".
(I've been maintaining a "Maigret Enclopedia" for many years, from which I've been able to produce lists like "References to Latin America" or "Fingerprints" or "Francs" as we've seen in the Forum from time to time. I've started to gather some of these together and to add them to the newly renamed "Reference" page, but I'd like to begin an expansion of the "Plots" pages into a richer resource than just a brief outline of each story.)
To begin, let's look at "Le chien jaune", one of the first Maigrets, published in 1931, the year the series was inaugurated. Literally "The Yellow Dog", it also appears in English as A Face for a Clue, Maigret and the Concarneau Murders, Maigret and the Yellow Dog. I wonder how they came up with "A Face for a Clue" as the title for the first translation? Whose face was it that gave the clue, Emma's?
Richard Vinen's introduction to the new Penguin edition, "The Yellow Dog" is a fine and interesting anaylysis. Marcel Aymé's preface to the French edition is more of an introduction to Maigret than to Le chien jaune.
There are two translations, the first by Geoffrey Sainsbury, published in 1939 in the UK, 1940 in the US, and the newer one by Linda Asher, published in 1987 by Harcourt. Here's the bibliography entry.
As usual, there are some "strange" translations in the Sainsbury version. Looking briefly at Chapter 1, for example, in the opening paragraphs Sainsbury adds a new line: "The hotel was at the corner where the quay joined the Place Jean Jaurès." And when M checks for strychnine in the Calvados bottle, in the Sainsbury translation "there were no white grains to be seen," while in fact in the original French (and the Asher translation) , "il ... aperçut quelques grains du poudre blanche," "he ... saw a few specks of white powder." I'd say you're best to stick with the Asher translation if you're not reading the French.
What is Maigret doing in Concarneau? He was temporarily posted to Rennes "to reorganize its mobile unit." You can see Rennes on the map, west of Paris. Continue west all the way to the coast at Brest, and the little red dot south of Brest is Concarneau, not far outside of Quimper. Distance from Paris is 341 miles (549km), Rennes 122 miles (197km), Quimper, 17 miles (27km).
Here's an enlargement of that area:
(Both of these are adapted from Michelin maps published in the mid-50s.)
I haven't located a good city map of Concarneau, but it would be interesting to follow the action on one from the 30s...
There's a brief online English Summary of Concarneau history, etc., at Concarneau, the blue city. Other online sites about Concarneau are Concarneau - découvrez La Ville Bleue, Concarneau La Ville Bleue, Concar.net, and Concarneau.
Unfortunately, Guido de Croock hasn't done Le chien jaune on his Maigret's Journeys in France site yet, or I'm sure we'd have a wealth of detailed information about this setting.
The second Maigret film (after La nuit du carrefour) was Le chien jaune, in 1932, with Abel Tarride.|
In Chapter 1 Maigret hardly speaks at all, and when he does, it's always a question:
"Did the operation go well?"
"And the dog?"
"Has the waitress been here long?"
"She didn't go out last night?"
"What's the matter?"
"What makes you think?"
"You always drink Pernod?"
That's it for today... more coming all month long. Please feel free to contribute anything related to Le chien jaune / The Yellow Dog, especially this month. Of course, the normal Forum activities will continue as usual. Your comments, suggestions and opinions regarding this "Maigret of the Month" feature are solicited and welcome...
Maigret of the Month: Le chien jaune - 2
Great idea about the forum, Steve.
Le chien jaune was the first Simenon I read in French, and possibly the first I ever read, although I knew of Maigret from the Rupert Davies series on BBC in the 60s.
In the autumn of 1969, Professor Glanville Price of the University of Stirling set Le chien jaune for first year students to improve their French vocabulary, so at 8.30 every Tuesday morning we would sit in a seminar room while he quizzed us to see whether we'd actually looked up the words we didn't know.
He was a fierce little Welshman, and woe betide you if you'd been lazy.
However, I learned a lot from him, including the urban nature of the glottal stop (now widespread in Britain -- and elsewhere?), and how to pronounce the "u" in "tu", which, if I remember correctly, involved blowing out a lighted match!
I re-read Le chien jaune last year. It seems to me one of the most densely plotted of the Maigrets, with a lot to enjoy.
Now I'll have to read it again!
Richard Vinen's introduction is interesting, though you can hear the sound of political axes being ground.
How right-wing was Simenon? There is plenty of evidence which makes it seem likely that his sympathies did lie on the right, but at the same time his irreligious libertinism points to a rejection of his early influences.
I suspect that Simenon was fairly apolitical, even to the extent of being politically naive. Pierre Assouline's biography, particularly when it deals with the war years, supports this reading of his character.
I don't have access to Geoffrey Sainsbury's translation at the moment, but from the first chapter I would say that Linda Asher has done a fine job.
There are, however, a couple of points that need to be teased out.
Firstly, le chien itself. Simenon describes it as recalling both le mâtin et le dogue d'Ulm. Asher translates this as "both a mastiff and a bulldog", but the dictionaries I've consulted translate dogue as mastiff (perhaps dogue d'Ulm is a particular type of mastiff?) while mâtin is described as a hunting hound. In Britain, foxhounds and beagles are the most common type of hunting hounds, and no doubt in France they use all sorts of dogs for hunting, but surely not a bulldog?
a dogue d'Ulm is apparently a kind of dogue Allemand
| Asher translates "...his huge head calls to mind both a mastiff and a bulldog," so while the dog may not have resembled a bulldog so much, maybe his head did...
dogue Allemand, aka: dogue d'Ulm,
dogue anglais, dogue danois...
Sainsbury skirted the issue in his translation: "...its large head had something of a mastiff about it."
Secondly, Servières says he was directeur de la Vache Rousse à Montmartre. Asher translates this as "the manager of the Red Cow". This suggests that he ran a bar or perhaps nightclub, and while this might account for Mme Servières' shady background, alluded to in Vinen's introduction, my dictionary gives a secondary meaning of directeur as 'editor'. Given that Servières works as a journalist, surely this is a better reading. "The Red Cow" might have been a magazine, perhaps one like the satirical and semi-pornographic magazines that Simenon contributed some many pieces to in his apprenticeship as a writer. Might the word "red" have political connotations? Or does La Vache Rousse contain a cultural allusion?
From the looks of Simenon's punctuation, it seems more likely to me to be a club. The original looks like this:
J'ai été longtemps directeur de la Vache Rousse, à Montmartre... J'ai collaboré au Petit Parisien, à Excelsior, à la Dépêche...
It seems like Simenon used italics to indicate the names of the newspapers or journals, and none of the others indicate a district of Paris...
Sainsbury apparently thought so too. He 'translated' this section as: "For many years I ran a cabaret in Montmartre. The Vache Rousse I dare say you know it."
Simenon set many of his books in seaside ports, and his descriptions are very atmospheric. He would of course have been very familiar with such settings from his sailing exploits, and his birthplace, Liège, on the Meuse, was itself a major port.
The opening pages capture the scene with sensual intensity, using visual and aural imagery to present the scene vividly to the reader.
In particular, the use of the present tense lends an almost cinematic immediacy to these pages, as if we are witnessing events as they occur. I suspect that Simenon used this technique frequently.
Finally, I was intrigued by the reference to Pernod being described as l'imitation d'absinthe or mock absinthe. I did a little research and found that absinthe was banned in France in 1915 due to fears about the effects of wormwood and the immense consumption of the drink contributing to social problems. The firm of Pernod-Fils (now Pernod-Ricard) closed down for five years before reopening with a wormwood-free recipe. I've only tasted Pernod once, and that was enough!
Maigret and his pipes
1/3/04 In response to Bob Kerr's recent question, my impression is that Maigret's pipe smoking is mentioned 'all the time' in the stories, but that Maigret himself hardly talks about it.
|That seems to be true. The Sherlock list, as published in the Summer 2000 edition of "Pipes & Tobacco" magazine, consisted of 72 quotes. I have scanned through the three Maigrets I have, and mention of Maigret packing his pipe, lighting his pipe,smoking his pipe, etc. are numerous.
|"Maigret Takes the Waters"|| 23 times.|
|"Maigret Hesitates" || 21 times. |
|"Madame Maigret's Own Case" || 13 times.|
That is 57 times in only three books, compared to the 72 references cited from 44 Sherlock stories, and most of those were of no more significance than the Maigret ones.
Best wishes for the New Year,
Maigret and the Broken Pipes
I have found an interesting set of pipe examples, though. Situations where M becomes so upset that he bites clean through the stem of his pipe. Here's what I have:
In three cases, faced with Tiburce de Saint-Hilaire in GAL, thinking of Mme Blanc in ENF, and on the phone long distance with Joseph Daumale in NEW, it seems that M is almost incredulous, infuriated by the depths to which these people have sunk without any apparent feeling of self-reproach. In the other two he seems more to be furious with himself, feeling he had let something bad happen.
|M stopped, and suddenly clenched his jaw so hard that the stem of his pipe broke clean in two between his teeth.
Talking to Tiburce de Saint-Hilaire in Chapter 11, the conclusion. [1930-GAL]
|At that moment the Chief Inspector bit on the stem of his pipe so hard that he broke it and the bowl dropped onto the floor.
At the end of Chapter 8, on discovering that Else Anderson was not in her room. [1931-NUI]
|His jaws clenched so tightly that at one point the stem of his pipe snapped between his teeth.
During the telephone conversation with Joseph Daumale, end of Chapter 9. [1946-NEW]
|There was a sharp little sound. It was the stem of M's pipe breaking under the pressure of his bite. The bowl fell to the floor.
Interviewing Julien Baud about finding Antoinette Vague's dead body in Chapter 5. [1968-HES]
|He did not utter a word the whole way there, and he bit down so hard on his pipe that he cracked the ebonite stem.
Chapter 4, M had the feeling he'd overlooked something important... In the car, on the way to interviewing Mme Blanc, the concierge. [1968-ENF]
Value of French Francs
1/4/04 With regard to the French Francs listing newly added to the Reference page, at the Insee site you will find the exact value of French Francs from 1901 to 2002 in euro
taking into account price increases, "nouveaux francs" in 1960, etc.
Maigret of the Month: Le chien jaune - 3
Is this cute little puppy on the dust jacket of the Harcourt edition supposed to represent the 'monster' that had everyone so upset?
La Vache Rousse
As far as La Vache Rousse is concerned, the punctuation issue did occur to me later, after I'd posted.
In Chapter 3 when Maigret phones Le Phare de Brest (which Asher translates beautifully as the "Brest Beacon"), he asks to speak to the directeur, reinforcing the idea that Simenon used it in the sense of "editor".
However, in Maigret's notes in Chapter 3, he refers to Servières as journaliste à Paris, sécretaire général de petits théâtres, which lends force to La Vache Rousse being one of those.
Although Servieres is described as being proud of his journalism, he might have been trying to impress Maigret in another way when he introduced himself. I'll go along with La Vache Rousse being a petit theatre.
Jerome has forwarded a link to a large detailed map of Concarneau. Here's a reduced version on which I've added an "A" to mark the location of the Admiral Café, "B" for les Sables Blancs, the White Sands, where the Mayor's house and Dr. Michoux's was, and "C" for Cabélou Point, the old fort where Léon was camping.
And from here you'll find more maps of Concarneau, including the downtown area.
The Linda Asher translation was first published in the USA in 1987 by Harcourt Brace Jovanovich as a hardback book in a dust jacket entitled "Maigret and the Yellow Dog" (ISBN 0-15-155564-8). In 1988 the same translation and title was published in the USA as a paperback with a mainly typographic front cover by Harvest/HBJ (ISBN 0-15-655157-8). This translation was reissued in 1995 in the USA by the same publisher with the same title and ISBN, but with a more pictorial cover.
In 2003 Penguin Books in the UK published this Maigret novel, but under the title "The Yellow Dog", the translation being by Linda Asher (ISBN 0-14-118734-4).
The earlier translation by Geoffrey Sainsbury, in comparison with the author's French text, has many additions, omissions and alterations. Linda Asher's translation is much closer to what Simenon has written, but at times is too clipped, too staccato. However her translation is the one to read to appreciate Simenon's narrative.
Rupert Davies' TV series and "Maigret Sets a Trap"
1/5/04 To clarify this presentation indicated by David Wilkins (12/30/03), I have checked my records. The novel "Maigret sets a Trap" (Maigret Tend un Piège) was not adapted for any of the BBC Rupert Davies "Maigret" series. On Monday the 10th of December 1962 the scheduled presentation was "The Amateurs". This was based on "Maigret and the Lazy Burglar" (Maigret et le Voleur Paresseux), written in 1961. This transmission was postponed for that particular evening, but went out a week later on Monday the 17th of December 1962 at the same time, 9.25 to 10.15 p.m. The entry in the BBC's magazine "Radio Times" for the 17th of December acknowledges the postponement, but does not give an explanation.
The adaptation was by Donald Bull and the guest stars were Mervyn Johns (Inspector Fumel), Georgina Cookson (Mrs. Wilton) and George Pastill (Bellini).
Rupert Davies "Maigret - The Trap"-"lost" episode
1/8/04 Well, my diary did not lie. I have just had correspondence from the BBC to say that on December 10 1962 "The Amateurs" was scheduled and itemised in the Radio Times. However, due to the illness of one of the cast members the recording was late and the episode tranmission had to be postponed until the following week. "The Trap" went out instead!!!
The BBC has it in their archives and I am off to London later this month to view it... I cannot believe that after 41 years I am about to see my favourite episode again. I asked if there was any news on the release to video/DVD but the department could not speak for that.
Maigret of the Month: Le chien jaune - 4
In what year does it take place?
The image is a tourism poster for Concarneau from 1930.
I am rereading "Le chien jaune," and the first sentence of the book is interesting : "Vendredi 7 Novembre. Concarneau est désert." ("Friday, November 7. Concarneau is empty.") I wondered in what year the action took place.
An Excel spreadsheet provides an easy way to find all the 7th November Fridays in the 20th century. The possible years would be 1924 or 1930. There is also a 7-Nov-1913, but absinthe was still allowed at that time, as Roddy wrote. After 1930, the next Friday 7th November is 1941, and that is too late. I think that we can safely say that the action is taking place at end of the year 1930.
I looked at previous discussions related to Maigret's age (by Forest and Drake) but did not see "Le chien jaune" in the list. If the action took place in 1930 that would make Maigret 43 years old. In the age study, I saw that "M Gallet died on June 27, 1930". That's possible since in "Le chien jaune" Maigret had just been assigned to Rennes for a month. He must have arrived in Rennes around the 7th October. 1930 was a busy year for Maigret!
To complete the year study, the second sentence says it is "onze heure moins cinq" (10:45)
and the third that "c'est le plein de la marée" (the tide is full - high tide). At www.concarneau.org/meteo you can input a date and get the tide schedule. The 7 November 1930, the tide was at its lowest at 11:23! Simenon used boats a lot and must have known from books the tide schedules. Was he correct?
And here's another element to date the story: in Chapter X, Maigret asks about what happend four or five years before to the boat La Belle-Emma and Léon tells in his story that everyone at that time was smuggling alcohol. In the USA, Prohibition was from 1919 to 1933 that would make the year 1930 a good one, as Léon's arrest would have taken place in 1925: during Prohibition. The other possible date, 1924, would have made the arrest of Léon in 1919, just at the start of Prohibition. Could it be possible?
One last point. Today in France, the 11th November is a bank holiday for the end of the first World War: l'arministice, Armistice Day. In the book, as the story spreads over 5 or 6 days, we should see Tuesday the 11th and have some celebration, but nothing is mentioned in the story. I do not know when the 11th November became a bank holiday in France, perhaps after 1924 or 1930. That could allow us to choose which year 1924 or 1930 is the best possible year for the book.
Maigret's Broken Pipes
1/9/04 Thank you for that collection of "Broken Pipe" quotes from various Maigret books not exactly the type of inspirational pipe smoking lines we pipe smokers like to see, but it does give some insights into the physical attributes of Maigret. He obviously possessed his own teeth, and they were housed in jaws resembling a rabbit trap.
I much prefer the sentiments expressed by the creator himself, Georges Simenon, in the interview he gave to Lanzmann in the "Lui Magazine" 1967 article where he express a sentimental attachment to the pipes that have been given to him by his wife, and others. He tells us his pipes give him relaxation, and confidence. He declares that he is not a collector of pipes, "I'm just an ordinary consumer" he says, (with over three hundred pipes). Indeed, a pipe smoker to be admired, and envied.
Maigret of the Month: Le chien jaune - 5
Chapitre 2 Le docteur en pantoufles
Maigret teases Leroy on his scientific methods; Leroy thinks Maigret "ignorait la valeur des investigations scientifiques". I think the Forum has looked at this before, but I was interested to read (in Patrick Marnham's biography, The Man who wasn't Maigret) that Simenon himself had attended lectures on forensic science:
In later life Simenon denied that he had ever done any serious research into police methods before writing his Maigret books, apart from spending the odd afternoon with some friends in the Paris CID. In fact in 1920-21 the young reporter enrolled as an extra-mural student and attended a series of lectures at the University of Liege on the new science of forensics.... Simenon's attendance ... would have made him, for a brief period, better informed than many policemen. (Marnham, pp 59-60)
Obviously he felt that the interest in novels arises from characters rather than from clues, unlike many of his contemporaries or indeed some present-day crime novelists. No one would read Agatha Christie or Patricia Cornwell for their human interest.
With regard to the political ideas in Richard Vinen's introduction to the new Penguin edition, the pharmacist who analyses the poisoned bottles would like to blame it on anarchists. Does anyone know how active anarchists were in the 1920s and 30s in France? Were they responsible for outrages like poisoning the drinks of the bourgeoisie in towns like Concarneau, or is Simenon indulging in a little social satire? (By the way, I'd agree with Jerome's placing of the novel in 1930; also, Vinen makes the point that there is no reference as expected to Armistice Day in the novel.)
I like the descriptions of the half-built houses and hotel on Michoux's plots of land, as well as of the false elegance of Michoux's house.
A small puzzle: Michoux is a doctor, but people interested in buying his plots are directed to Monsieur Ernest Michoux. Maigret says in his notes on the case that Michoux and his mother are "trading on dead husband's name", but I don't think that fully explains it.
I'd never fully realised the importance of being able to tutoyer in French until I compared the French and English versions of Maigret's conversation with Emma in this chapter: By referring to Emma as tu, Simenon conveys the concern and sympathy Maigret feels for the girl, but this is lost, or at least less visible, in the translation; maybe the translator could have put in "my dear" to compensate.
Chapitre 5 L'homme du Cabelou
Maigret asks the young police officer who captured the giant of a man what people think about the arrest of Dr Michoux.
He replies that the ordinary people aren't too concerned, might even be pleased because he was part of the crowd who drank too much, treated the town as if they owned it and exploited poor young women.
The middle-class people are, however, appalled.
Maigret's sympathies are always with the underdog, the lower class, though he himself, as the son of an estate manager who served an aristocrat, might be said to be bourgeois and he leads a bourgeois existence.
Simenon seems to an extent to have shared these sympathies, though of course he himself became very wealthy (and of course acted on occasion like Michoux and his associates).
As Assouline states in the opening chapters of his biography, Simenon hated the social attitudes of the Christian Brothers whose school he attended, "especially their peculiar penchant for holding the state schools up as a bogeyman and for harping on class divisions. This may well have been the leavening of a powerful conviction that never left him: that humility is the greatest of all human values." (Assouline pp 4-5).
Simenon indeed seems to have despised the high-born and the rich. In "Maigret Meets a Milord", he portrays the English Lord as a dissolute brute, and later, in "Maigret and the Millionaires", for example, he shows them as leading empty, meaningless lives.
Towards the end of his life, Simenon seems to have deliberately eschewed the trappings of wealth, putting his valuables into storage and moving from his Epalinges mansion to live very simply and humbly in a small shady house in a quiet street.
Assouline asserts that this was "the final demand of the anxiety and insecurity that had never left him: a house, a neighborhood, and furniture as cramped and ugly as those of his childhood." (Assouline, p386)
While accepting this as likely, I wonder if another reading is not possible: that having experienced everything to excess, and finding little of value, Simenon finally chose the most simple existence possible.
In the exhibition in Liege last year there was short but very touching video clip which showed an old and feeble Simenon returning to his home from a walk. As he enters, his companion Teresa tenderly helps him take off his coat. Simenon looks distracted, unwell, tired. This extraordinary man, who has experienced more in his lifetime than perhaps any other of his generation, is now almost completely dependent on the love and care of his sole companion. Nothing else matters.
Checking through the invaluable Maigret bibliography on this site, and comparing it with my collection, I came across a couple of points which might be of interest to other collectors.
In the 1950s, Penguin often bundled two Maigrets together in one volume, perhaps because of their short length, and brought it out under a different title. Two from my own collection which are like this are Maigret Travels South, comprising "Liberty Bar" and "The Madman of Bergerac", and Maigret Sits it Out, containing "The Lock at Charenton" and "Maigret Returns".
Penguin seem to have been following (perhaps republishing) Simenon's hardback publisher in the 1940s, as I found out when I came across a volume on offer on eBay entitled Maigret and M. l'Abbe. This caused me some headscratching until I found out it's a compendium volume containing the Maigret novel, "Death of a Harbour Master", and a non-Maigret, "The Man from Everywhere" (Le relais d'Alsace).
I'd be interested to know if anyone has come across any other of these volumes, apart from book club editions. I know a lot of non-Maigret Simenons have been published as two-in-one editions, and of course there are the omnibuses as well.
I've also been trying to track down the gaps in my collection. A gift token at Christmas has helped me to buy some at Amazon, but even there some are proving difficult to trace, having "limited availability" (Amazon-speak for "we haven't got it").
The ones I'm still looking for are as follows:
Maigret at the Coroner's
By the way, well done to Penguin for issuing several titles which have long been unavailable. I have to say, though, that the American Harvest editions are cheaper on Amazon.
Maigret and the death of a Harbour Master (the one on eBay was too expensive!)
Maigret on Holiday
Maigret and the Loner
Maigret and the Toy Village
Maigret in Exile
Maigret and the Flemish Shop
Roddy's Want List
1/11/04 All except Maigret's Vacation were published by HBJ in America in paperback ten to fifteen years ago. Perhaps a look on Amazon's or Abebooks or Barnes & Noble's American sites might reveal them. every so often you find some that are still unsold, which is to say new. That's how I got M Hesitates last year, the only HBJ paperback I was missing.
Changes in French departments
1/11/04 I like the monthly Maigret it brings some interesting activity to the Forum.
On another subject, I was looking at the page Maigret - in France, outside Paris which Guido de Croock made for Maigret stories outside of Paris, and I saw that some of the towns are in departments like Essone (91) for "La nuit du carrefour" or "La guingette à 2 sous". The departments with numbers above 90 were created after the splitting of Seine et Oise department at the end of the sixties.
Here are the details (from splaf.free.fr/7578.html):
Perhaps the old department names should be shown on the list as well, since the stories took place before 1968. Seine et Oise had number 78 which is now the department number for Yvelines.
- 1964 (July 10): passage of the law for the reorganization of the Paris region and the creation of new departments.
- 1965 (February 25): decree of the application of the law to create the new departments within three years.
- 1968 (January 1): replacement of the department Seine-et-Oise, divided among the departments Essonne (198 communes), Hauts-de-Seine (9 communes), Seine-Saint-Denis (16 communes), Val-de-Marne (18 communes), Val-d'Oise (185 communes) and Yvelines (262 communes)
In "La guinguette à deux sous", chapter 5, we can find this example, for one:
"c'était la seconde fois qu'il fallait alerter toutes les gendarmeries de Seine et Oise" (It was the second time that the gendarmes of Seine and Oise had to be notified).
Maigret of the Month: Le chien jaune - 6
click to enlarge
1/15/04 Simenon, Concarneau, and the Yellow Dog
In the latter part of 1930, Simenon was moving around on the waterways of France, south of Paris, in his boat the Ostrogoth, with his wife Tigy, their maid/cook Boule (Henriette Liberge) and their dog, a Great Dane, called Olaf. This way of life had started in Paris during the spring of 1929 and was to last until October 1931 when Simenon sold the boat at Ouistreham (Calvados) in Normandy.
During the whole two and a half years of the trip Simenon was writing novels and short stories under pseudonyms, as well as those first, mainly, Maigret novels under his own name. It was a transitional period, completing contracts for his publishers of popular novels and building up a reputation as a writer of works for which he is now famous.
Some of the writing was done on board, but at times finding this unsatisfactory, he would moor his boat and find some temporary accommodation.
During November and December 1930, Simenon rented part of the villa "Ker-Jean", 11-15 Avenue des Sables-Blancs, northward along the coast from Concarneau (Finistère) in Brittany. Here he wrote the Maigret novel "Le Pendu de Saint-Pholien" (The Crime of Inspector Maigret / Maigret and the Hundred Gibbets), and some of the work that was published under pseudonyms.
Whilst living there, Simenon, Tigy, Boule, with their dog Olaf, explored Concarneau and its environment, which gave the author plenty of information about this town to use as the setting for two novels, "Le Chien Jaune" and "Les Demoiselles de Concarneau", the latter a non-Maigret work written in 1935 and translated under the title of "The Breton Sisters". Also the author took a number of photographs of the town, which are now in the Fonds Simenon in Liège.
Both novels are set in the month of November, which is precisely the time of year the author experienced whilst living in the area.
Simenon used some of the local names in both novels. The villa in which they were staying was at Sables-Blancs, the location of the homes of the mayor and Ernest Michoux in the "The Yellow Dog". The owner of the villa "Ker-Jean", a jeweller, was M. Albert Gloaguen, who had an address at 10, Quai d'Aiguillon, Concarneau. In the "Breton Sisters" a family's name is Gloaguen who live on the Quai d'Aiguillon, and this quayside is also mentioned in "The Yellow Dog". (Erroneously Simenon spells it Quai de l'Aiguillon). The Café de l'Amiral also features in both novels, as does the name Guérec.
Also it is reasonable to assume that including a dog as part of the storyline was influenced by Simenon having his own Great Dane with him.
In Paris on the 20th of February 1931 at the nightclub "La Boule Blanche" in Montparnasse, Simenon and his publisher Fayard launched the two Maigret titles "M. Gallet, décédé" (The Death of Monsieur Gallet / Maigret Stonewalled) and "Le Pendu de Saint-Pholien" (The Crime of Inspector Maigret / Maigret and the Hundred Gibbets), with the spectacular Bal Anthropométrique, an all night event, when guests were fingerprinted on entry.
Soon after this, in March 1931, the author took his boat along the river Essonne, south of Paris to Guigneville, near La Ferté-Alais, where in the Château/Hôtel "La Michaudière" he wrote "Le Chien Jaune" (A Face for a Clue / Maigret and the Concarneau Murders / Maigret and the Yellow Dog /The Yellow Dog).
But before he started writing the Maigret novel he explored the main plot in the form of a short story which he entitled "Sing-Sing ou La Maison des Trois Marches" (Sing-Sing or The House with the Three Steps). This short story was published in the weekly magazine "VU", N°. 158, 25 March 1931, illustrated with photographs by Germaine Krull. Being an astute businessman, Simenon frequently had many of his short stories and novels published in magazines or newspapers before they came out in book form. This meant that his work reached a wider reading public, as well as bringing in additional revenue.
Possibly, in this case, he might have wanted to put down his idea for the main plot quickly, to gauge how it would pan out as a novel, and how Maigret, who does not appear in the short story version, could be worked in to investigate.
In this short story, the plot is the same as the novel, one of betrayal, but there are fewer characters and their names are different, and there is no dog. Also there is no mention of the name of the town, although it is obviously by the sea. Part of the storyline takes place in the Grand Hotel, which has been in Concarneau for some considerable time. This forty-roomed hotel is located at 1, Avenue Pierre-Guéguin, which butts on to the Quai d'Aiguillon and the three windows of its end façade overlooks the Place Jean Jaurès. In the novel, which Simenon wrote soon after the short story, it is named the Hôtel de l'Amiral (the Admiral Hotel).
Basically having explored the main plotline in the short story, Simenon expands his idea into the novel, giving himself room to establish more characters with twists and turns in the narrative that brings in petty town jealousy, enmity, posturing and rivalry. Into the vividly portrayed atmosphere, conjured up both by the natural elements and the tension generated by certain individuals, he brings Maigret. The latter, at times, at his most brusque, not suffering fools lightly, dismissing a person or situation with a blunt oath, mentally, if not also physically, feels his way to the truth. His sympathy lies with only certain of the inhabitants, including the yellow dog of the French title that wanders through most of the novel like a mysterious symbol.
The printer's date in the first edition of the novel "Le Chien Jaune", published by Fayard, is April 1931, and it would have been put on sale soon afterwards.
When Jean Tarride made the film version of the novel in 1932, the exteriors scenes were shot in Concarneau, whilst the interiors were set up in the Billancourt Studios in Paris.
The Map of Concarneau (c. 1960)
Key to certain locations on the map:
No. 6 - Avenue Pierre-Guéguin.
The quayside next to the above is the Quai d'Aiguillon.
No. 7 - Place Jean Jaurès.
G - the Gendarmerie (Police Barracks).
H - the Hôtel de Ville (Town Hall).
George Simenon's short story, "Sing-Sing ou La Maison des Trois Marches"
(Sing-Sing or The House with the Three Steps), translated by Peter Foord.
L'il de Simenon
1/17/04 I saw while walking in Paris that the Galerie nationale du Jeu de Paume in Parc des Tuilleries has an exhibit about Simenon (Forum 12/31/03): "L'il de Simenon"
Du 13/01/2002 au 07/03/2004, présentation des photos de Georges Simenon provenant de ses reportages effectués essentiellement entre 1930 et 1938. There are 157 black and white prints of pictures taken by Simenon, as well as 6 original albums.
I went to the Simenon exhibition this morning, and it is something I highly recommend to anyone coming to Paris in the next month. The exhibition takes place from 13 January to 7 March 2004. It is small but very interesting. There are lots of pictures taken by Simenon between 1931 and 1936 during his travels to Africa, Eastern Europe and the Mediterranean sea. The pictures are printed from negatives kept at the "Fonds Georges Simenon" that lent some of the original albums Simenon did on each of his travels.
I saw some pictures from Concarneau taken in 1931 by Simenon. They show us how Simenon saw Concarneau and which parts he took pictures of and inspired him for "Le chien jaune". We can get a small insight of how Simenon looked at the places and compare the pictures with the Maigret books.
There is a book published on the exhibition : L'il de Simenon, textes de Valère Bertrand, Michel Carly, Catherine Clèment, Patrick Roegiers 22 × 27 cm, broché, 296 pages, 39 euros. Editeur : Omnibus. The book is a "must have" but is quite expensive. At the end of the book, there is information on Simenon's travels and also on the first page covers of the books published in the thirties. There are also some "souvenirs" like an umbrella and a tee-shirt with the profile of Simenon smoking a pipe (29,5 euros each) which are related to the exhibition. I bought the DVD of a talk between Simenon and Bernard Pivot : 141 min of conversation. I am looking forward to listening to it.
I found also that there is a new audio version of "L'amie de Madame Maigret" -
1/18/04 In a posting earlier this year I was rather critical of the late Fenton Bresler's biography, "The Mystery of Georges Simenon", dismissing it as sensationalist.
However, having re-read it over the past week, I feel I would like to make some amends for this criticism.
It is in fact a very readable and well-written book, full of psychological insights and benefiting greatly from interviews carried out by the author himself with Simenon, members of his family and others who knew him personally.
The "sensational" aspect comes from Bresler's obsession with the sexual aspects of Simenon's character, to the extent that it becomes a little tiresome, but at the same time it must be admitted that one cannot underestimate the importance of this side of Simenon.
Bresler is particularly good on Simenon's early years as a writer, and he is very interesting about the genesis of the character of Maigret.
However, there is one passage in the book which needs to be looked at again, because it is so misleading about Simenon as the author of detective stories.
In all the books that he has written since Pietr-le-Letton, Simenon has never known the plot in advance. He has never known where the story will go from one chapter to the next; each chapter takes a day and each chapter he starts like the reader, not knowing what is to follow. If it is a murder story, he does not solve the mystery and discover the identity of the murderer one second before Maigret does: the two investigate the crime together, as it unfolds before them both. It is a unique partnership in the annals of detective fiction. (Bresler, p67, Stein and Day edition, 1985).
In this one hears the voice of Simenon, and no doubt that is the effect which Simenon would wish to achieve, but this is the Simenon whom Bresler describes as a "fantasist" who "will not always himself know what is true and what is false" (Bresler, p4).
Le Chien Jaune - 7
A close reading of Le Chien Jaune shows that Simenon knows from the beginning exactly where the story is going to go.
The first time the yellow dog enters the cafe in Chapter 1, it lies down at Emma's feet, showing that it knows her. Chapter 2 ends: "Maigret gave a start, not because of this news, but because he had just caught sight of the yellow dog, stretched out at Emma's feet."
The connection between Emma and the dog's owner, Leon, is therefore present from the start.
There is also the back-story of Emma and Leon being engaged to be married until they are separated by Leon's voyage and subsequent arrest, for which Michoux and his associates are responsible.
This novel is tightly plotted. On the day he began the first chapter, Simenon knew how it was going to develop and how it was going to end. Perhaps some later Maigrets are more spontaneous, less planned, but I don't think a single one of them is written in the way Simenon wanted Bresler to believe.
Peter Foord's interesting and enlightening posting supports this idea that Simenon carefully prepared his books.
Places of Maigret
1/18/04 Many serious Maigret fans have mentioned here the difficulties they experience in finding the places where Maigret actions were supposed to take place. Some of these difficulties were, for example, inconsistency between the name of the restaurant and the street (the named restaurant did exist but not on the named street), or inconstancy of distance between a locations (the named place existed, but not as close to other named place).
Unlike some of contributors in this forum, I am nor surprised by these inconsistencies. As we know from several Simenon biographies, he wrote very fast and rarely or never edited his work, so he did not bother to double-check with maps or bus or train schedules for factual accuracy.
It definitely does not effect my enjoyment of Maigret stories.
Maigret of the Month?
1/18/04 My name is Yara and I live in France. For school, I'm reading Maigret et son mort. I would like to know if this book has already appeared as book of the month. If the answer is yes, could you send this to me?
Thank you already,
The Maigret of the Month feature has just started. My plan is to start with the earliest published Maigrets, from 1931. Here's the schedule for the first six:
Rupert Davies "Maigret" - The Lost Episode - "The Trap"
Well, here I am back from my trip to London to view "The Trap". What a great service I received. I was guided to a viewing room where the video was all set up and paused at the first frame... I pressed start and sat back to enjoy "The Trap". It was as good as I remembered and the quality was not at all bad... perfectly adequate in fact. I spent 53 minutes revelling in the classy acting and production values I remembered so well. It was just as I had remembered... no anticlimaxes... pure joy! The adaptation was by Margo Bennett and even though Mme Maigret (Helen Shingler) was not in it, her framed photograph was on Maigret's desk. This production predated, of course, Jacqueline Hill's apprearances in "Dr Who"; Sonia Dresdel was perfect as the domineering, son-fixated Mme Moncin; Aubrey Woods perfectly caught the character of the mother/wife-dominated Moncin.
All in all my trip was worth the effort and all for less than £10.00
Perhaps you will update the Rupert Davies master list sometime now that the details are verified? [done!]
All we can hope for now is that someone at the BBC decides to either release the series onto video/DVD and/or broadcast them on either BBC3 or BBC4 television channels.
Crime Time articles on Simenon
The journal 'Crimetime', no. 35, 2003 has a number of articles on Simenon and Maigret by Alsison Joseph, Maxim Jakubowski, Susan Rowland, David Carter, Michael Carson and others. I found a copy in Waterstone's bookshop and details are available on Crimetime's website at www.crimetime.co.uk.
Maigret of the Month: Le chien jaune - 8
1/21/04 In the words of Simenon's biographers
I thought it would be interesting to cite what Simenon's major biographers and others have to say about the works under discussion.
I intend to look at Assouline, Marnham and Bresler first of all. Stanley Eskin's critical biography is often cited, so I have ordered this (from Long Beach, Ca!), but I'll have to add that later.
Assouline first. The edition I've used is Simenon a Biography by Pierre Assouline, translated by Jon Rothschild, Chatto and Windus, London, 1997:
Between March and December of 1931, he followed up the first Maigrets with eight others -- Le Chien jaune (A Face for a Clue), La Nuit du Carrefour (The Crossroads Murders), Un Crime en Hollande (A Crime in Holland), Au Rendez-vous des Terres-Nuevas (The Sailors' Rendez-vous), La Danseuse du Gai-Moulin, La Guinguette a deux sous (The Guinguette by the Seine), Le Port des brumes (Death of a Harbour-master), and L'Ombre chinoise (The Shadow in the Courtyard) -- plus one novel, Le Relais d'Alsace (The Man from Everywhere), in which the inspector does not appear. And he continued his frenetic lifestyle, dividing his time between the Ostrogoth and the Chateau de la Michaudiere in Guigneville-sur-Essonne. It was his usual pace.
Bresler takes up the story (in The Mystery of Georges Simenon by Fenton Bresler, Stein and Day, New York, 1985):
In December 1931, within ten months of the launching of the first two Maigret books, Simenon sold the Ostrogoth ... and rented a sumptuous villa called "Roches Grises" at Cap d'Antibes. There were not more than about a dozen villas built there at the time and in winter the place was almost deserted. [Isn't this curiously reminiscent of the plots of land sold by Dr Michoux in Le Chien jaune? RC] The only other inhabitant was the old Aga Khan who would wave at the soon-to-be-millionaire author as the two of them took their regular morning walks beneath the pine trees.
In the three months that Simenon was at "Roches Grises", he wrote three Maigret novels and worked on the scenarios of two Maigret films: La Nuit du Carrefour with Jean Renoir and Le Chien jaune ("The Yellow Dog") with Jean Tarride.
The fate of the two films proved somewhat amusing. La (sic) Chien Jaune was a considerable commercial success but an artistic disaster, with the director's father, Abel Tarride, a veteran of the stage, completely miscast as Maigret and giving a far too-overripe performance as the essentially humanistic and unflurried detective. In contrast, La Nuit du Carrefour sank without trace at the box-office but has now become a cult Jean Renoir film and is shown to intellectually smart cinema clubs throughout the world. As brilliant a director as Jean-Luc Godard has called it "the only great French detective film ever made."
Assouline, however, asserts:
Le Chien jaune and La Nuit du carrefour were commercial failures. For that Simenon blamed the producers, but he was also unhappy with the entire profession, including adapters, screenwriters, and directors (except his friends, of course). He was especially irate about the critics' claim to define the canons of the detective film. He had written his Maigrets by violating imperatives of exactly this kind, and he now railed against the conventions:
“There are rules, it seems, rules of the genre, which some seek to transgress and others obstinately defend…. To begin with, there is no such thing as a detective novel, nor a detective film. And there is no rule of the genre, and no formula either…. There are good and bad films. … The audience doesn’t give a f--- about rules. And they’re right! All the audience wants is a film that holds their interest all the way through, and they don’t care how their interest is held…. If Le Chien jaune and La Nuit du carrefour are failures, the fault lies not with the people who made them but with the people who paid for them. Or rather, it lies with the rules and with the idiots who issued them”.
In 1933 Simenon was sued for libelling a widow Mercier, a hotelkeeper, in one of his African novels, Le Coup de lune. The case was dismissed, although there was evidently some guilt on Simenon's side, but, as Assouline says:
... he learned his lesson. He would be more careful next time. Two years later, a dumbfounded Simenon was to witness the same phenomenon in reverse: the owner of the hotel in Concarneau that had served as his model in Le Chien jaune (1931) renamed his establishment the "Hotel de l'Amiral", the better to capitalise on the tie-in with the novel and the film it had inspired.
There is a slight irony here, for, as Assouline writes:
After the publication of Le Chien jaune (1931), he expected problems with the inhabitants of Concarneau, where the mysterious deaths of the participants in a regular card game took place. The mayor, in fact, made no secret of his displeasure.
Marnham makes an interesting connection between Simenon’s experiences during the German occupation of Liege and his novels:
Perhaps the most enduring mark left on Simenon by the occupation of Liege was an ambivalence towards conventional ideas of right and wrong. This became one of the major themes of the Maigret books; it might almost be called the “message” of the Maigret saga. On the whole Commissaire Maigret finds criminality easy to understand and adopts a frankly sympathetic attitude towards many of his clients. His first question is not “Who committed this crime?” but “Why was it committed?”, and in order to answer, he has to understand the person who committed it. The criminals, in Maigret’s world, are often less guilty than their victims. This is true from the earliest of the Maigrets. In Le Chien jaune (A Face for a Clue), the sixth Maigret to be written but the fourth to be published, a group of local notables are terrorised by a shadowy enemy who turns out to be a poor man they have all wronged.
Later Marnham writes of Simenon leaving Lakeside to return to Europe:
The flight to America had failed, just as it had failed for Leon, the fugitive vagabond in one of the first “Maigrets”, Le Chien jaune. Simenon, still pursued, was changing his ground again.
Simenon on the jury?
1/24/04 In an article for Slate magazine, Henry Blodget describes the selection process for the jury in the Martha Stewart trial:
The prospective jurors consisted of nine women and nine men; one of the former was reading Simenon; one of the latter was slouched inside a hooded down jacket that might have also housed a sub-machine gun.
It would be interesting to know which Simenon!
Maigret of the Month: Le chien jaune - 9
1/26/04 In the words of Simenon's biographers - 2
Stanley G. Eskin's Simenon: A Critical Biography (1987, McFarland and Company, Inc., Jefferson, NC) is very interesting on the genesis of Maigret and on the development of the detective story from the 19th century onwards.
Le Chien jaune, probably the fifth or sixth written in the series, is an excellent example of early Maigret.... Unlike Le Pendu de Saint-Pholien, the foreground action has considerably more interest than the background action. Maigret's investigation in the little Breton port of Concarneau, terrorized by an unknown criminal, is a masterpiece of ambiance (sic), suspense and sharp character description; the explanation behind it all is implausible and grotesquely involuted.
Simenon leads into the atmosphere and the foreground story with a terse style, verging sometimes on the telegraphic. "Friday 7 November. Concarneau is deserted." "In front of him, in the basin, a coastal vessel which has taken shelter that afternoon. No one on deck." "Leaning by the cashier, a waitress. At a marble table, two men finish their cigars, sitting back, legs stretched out." A sort of stage-direction style. Frequent predicateless sentences, no less effective on that account. The novel is rich in early examples of Simenon's atmosphere building, sometimes too specifically labelled as "atmosphere": "There was in the cafe's atmosphere something gray, dull, that you couldn't put your finger on." [All translations are Eskin's own; they are technically and grammatically accurate, except for "Leaning by the cashier": I prefer Linda Asher's reading, "Leaning on the till", RC]
By and large, though, Simenon builds up a vivid sense of the quality of the town, the mood and sensibility of its denizens. A sense of rural sexual sordidness is pervasive, as well as small-town xenophobia and petty viciousness as when townspeople throw stones at the hapless wounded dog of the title, while, in contrast, Maigret gently pats it. Individual corruption, as well as the town's disagreeable collective personality, are effectively echoed by the physical setting:
Maigret looked through the window panes. It was no longer raining, but the streets were full of black mud and the wind was still howling violently. The sky was livid gray.
In contrast with the bad weather almost intruding on it are bursts of good weather and of concurrent good humor, centering on Maigret but somehow spreading through the whole town:
Maigret was in such a good mood that following morning that Inspector Leroy dared to follow him and chat ... The sky seemed as if freshly laundered ... The horizon seemed vaster, as if the celestial dome had been more deeply scooped out. The sea sparkled, punctuated by little sails that looked like the flags in a military map.
If bad weather is an emblem of human turpitude and misery, good weather is a way, not so much of counter-balancing it, as of getting a perspective on it. a way of wriggling momentarily into a Maigret-like serenity that embraces suffering and cruelty because it cannot neutralize them. Figures of speech are infrequent, as usual in Simenon's style. When they occur, they are either perfunctory, or else quite striking, as this one, describing Maigret and an associate [why not "Inspector Leroy"? RC] observing from a rooftop the encounter between two young lovers [Emma and Leon RC] in a room some distance away:
It was imprecise, as blurry as a film projected when the houselights have been lit. And something else was missing: noises, voices ... Again like a film: a film without the music.
One of the skills that Simenon developed as he escalated from a commercial to a more literary mode was to manipulate time, to move fluidly from present to past, to more distant past, and sometimes to future. In the early Maigrets, this is mostly a matter of flashbacks, usually towards the end, providing the explanatory background action. In Le Chien jaune, he experiments with some subtleties. In the course of the opening foreground narrative, another level of foreground is anticipated in dramatic juxtaposition:
"It was only at that moment that I had the feeling that something had happened," the customs office (sic) would testify during the inquest.
As for Maigret himself, he is filling out his "first-series" personality. He still has his early brusque manner. "F---ez-moi la paix!" we find him shouting, using aggressive vulgarisms that he abandons later, and he has a rude way of staring at people without answering their questions. His gruff heaviness is used deftly to dramatize his sympathy for the victimized young waitress, Emma: "... He took her shoulders into his big paws and looked into her eyes at once gruffly and warmly." He still has his velvet-lapelled overcoat and his bowler hat, which he brushes on his sleeve. We find that he's already well-known, as he remains throughout his career: people constantly recognize him. The famous Maigret method is both demonstrated and expounded. Simenon as author establishes the atmosphere which Maigret as detective immerses himself in, both drawing on their skills in their respective crafts. The do-nothing aspect of the Maigret method just sit back, observe, let it soak in is laconically expressed:
"What do you intend to do?"
As for the detective-story tradition, Le Chien jaune builds up an impressive collection of suspects and brings them together for the denouement in the best golden-age manner. There is a hint of the American hard-boiled school in the background action, which has to do with how Emma's young lover, Leon, was seduced and betrayed by a corrupt group of local gentry in a murky bootleg-liquor (actually cocaine RC) operation across the Atlantic. And there is a touch also of the detective tradition's Gothic background in Leon's hideout in an ancient, abandoned coastal fortification, with a hidden staircase under the walls (echoes of Arsene Lupin's "Aiguille creuse").
The quotes are all from pp87-95.
"Nothing at all."
"I conclude from that ..."
"Yes, of course ... Only, for my part, I never conclude anything."
Apart from the last point, where I would dispute that there is a hidden staircase:
Maigret s'engagea dans un etroit escalier de pierre creuse a meme l'epaisseur du mur...
Eskin makes several points that are worth expanding on.
Maigret started up the narrow stone stairway cut right into the wall...(Asher)
For a start, what he terms "a sort of stage-direction style" owes more I think to the mise-en-scene of the screenplay. Since Simenon was engaged soon after this on screenplays for both Le Chien jaune and La Nuit du carrefour, I don't think it's fanciful to believe that he would have a working knowledge of the techniques of writing for the screen when he wrote this novel. The first scene of Le Chien jaune, written, as I noted earlier, in the present tense, would function perfectly well as the first scene of a film, with very few changes. The reference above to the scene between Emma and Leon unfolding in front of Maigret and Leroy makes specific reference to silent films and has the same melodramatic quality. The use of flashback, which is crucial to the back-story of Leon, is, I think, essentially filmic. A study of what I would call Simenon's "cinematic style" would probably be interesting. If nothing else, it might explain why so many of his works have been adapted for film and television. Eskin's reference to Maigret's "first-series" personality relates of course to television.
The descriptions of weather are of course one of the great pleasures of the Maigret novels. Simenon does to some extent utilise the pathetic fallacy to mirror Maigret's changing moods, but again I think the descriptions belong more to Simenon's essentially visual, or rather, sensory imagination. We are made to share Maigret's joy in the first day of Spring, or his exhaustion in the heat of a Paris summer, or even the rain that seeps through his overcoat.
Eskin refers to bad weather as "an emblem of human turpitude and misery", but this is specifically linked to the villains in Le Chien jaune. Mostaguen falls into the mud when he is shot. Michoux's housing development looks "sinister" in "the rain and the mud". But in Chapter 9, the weather turns fine, and Maigret is in good spirits because he is on his way to solving the mystery.
Finally, Eskin's allusion to the detective story tradition of bringing all the suspects together for the unmasking of the true villain is insightful, but it ignores the way in which Simenon subverts the tradition. In the classic country house detective story, the detective (Poirot perhaps) would assemble everyone in the library (later Rex Stout would bring them into the brownstone on 35th Street), but where does Simenon bring his cast of suspects? To a prison cell! I think this is meant to suggest that not only Michoux but all his associates his mother, the journalist Servieres, aka Goyard, the mayor all share the guilt. It is surely significant that Maigret leaves the cell with the only true innocents, Emma and Leon and enables them to lead a different, happier life elsewhere.
Simenon and his Maigrets
(click to enlarge)
|I found a small book about Simenon in the collection "Découvertes Gallimard" by Michel Lemoine, and on pages 98-99 he writes about a Paris-Match magazine from June 1970 where
Simenon is shown walking along a swimming pool, and on the wall behind him are the pictures of the actors who played Maigret. This is like the July 11, 1970 Paris-Match article, but with only eleven Maigrets shown. (There is no indication of which June issue the photo is from.)
Simenon in Lire
1/28/04 At www.lire.fr you can find
all the articles related to Simeon in the journal "Lire". This one, Dernière conversation avec Georges Simenon mai 2003, is a large extract from the DVD of the interview between Simenon and Pivot.
Maigret of the Month: Monsieur Gallet, décédé - 1
2/04/04 Maigret Stonewalled
I haven't read this in French. The edition I refer to is that published by Penguin in 1963. This novel does not appear to have been published in hardback in Britain prior to 1963.
The title is in the form of a weak pun. A stone wall does in fact figure in the plot, but the secondary meaning, of being unable to make progress because of a strong defence, barely seems to apply, and puts the title on a par with A Face for a Clue which Steve has already noted as having little relevance to that book.
Chapter 1, Just Another Job, starts with an excellent first paragraph which draws the reader in and belies the title of the chapter:
It was on 27 June 1930 that Chief Inspector Maigret had his first encounter with the dead man. ... (p5)
It is surely unusual for a Maigret story to be so precisely dated. Does this happen in any other story?
Incidentally, the dating of Le Chien jaune to 1930 in an earlier posting would mean that Maigret had been transferred to the Flying Squad of Rennes soon after the conclusion of the case of Monsieur Gallet, décédé.
There is a fine evocation of the heat of early summer and the soulless surroundings in which Monsieur Gallet lived, in an unfinished housing development some 20 miles out of Paris. I seem to recall a similar unfinished suburban development in one of Simenon's early romans durs, Les Fiancailles de Monsieur Hire, and of course there is the Michoux's half-finished speculation in Le Chien jaune. Simenon associates such places with unsatisfactory, incomplete lives. No doubt he was also reflecting the realities of social change in the inter-war years.
Mme Gallet tells Maigret: "We live a rather lonely life, like all who have known better days do in this post-war period with its brutality and vulgarity." (p12)
This sets the tone for Mme Gallet, whose family believes she has married beneath her, to a mere commercial traveller. There is of course a huge irony in this, in that she has actually married a member of the Royalist aristocracy to which her father devoted his life. But she will remain unaware of this, accepted back into her family as a result of the money accruing from her late husband's insurance policy.
Money and family seem to be the two main and interlinked themes of the novel. Maigret of course is more or less oblivious to both, responding with sarcasm to comments about family pride and with indifference to a bribe offered by the real Emile Gallet.
Chapter 3 Henri Gallet Answers
In this chapter we find early indications of ideas and feelings that are soon to become very familiar to readers of Maigret:
"Are you investigating the murderer or the victim?" the young man said slowly.
"I shall know the murderer when I know the victim well ..." (p34)
And Maigret had a feeling he had never had before, a worrying sensation. It seemed to him that the whole truth was here scattered around him. Everything was important. (p38)
There was always this same contrast between the pathetic and the grotesque, between drama and pettiness; it weighed Maigret down, in this stricken house where he could picture Emile Gallet, the man he had never known in life, wandering about, silent, heavy-eyed as a result of his bad liver, hollow-chested in his ill-fitting morning coat. (p39)
I like this extract:
The Chief Inspector understood the mentality of crooks, criminals, and swindlers, and he knew that at the bottom of it one always ended up by finding some devouring passion. (p51)
Money, love, pride: you can find all these "devouring passions" in Maigret Stonewalled, and in many other Maigrets besides.
Maigret of the Month: Monsieur Gallet, décédé - 2
As Roddy said, the date in Monsieur Gallet décédé is very precise, but not totally accurate: Later on in the book, in chapter IX "un mariage pour rire" [A Fake Marriage], Maigret thinks about the date: "Supposons que nous soyons le samedi 25 juin ...." [Suppose it's Saturday, June 25...] In 1930, the 25th June was a Wednesday. Simenon took some freedom with the calendar.
I was surprised not to see the book begin with some remarks from Maigret related to the weather as in many other books. In chapter 4, "L'escroc des légitimistes" [Royalist Crook], there is a very interesting sentence similar to the one listed by Roddy:
Il savait qu'à la base de cette mentalité on finit toujours par trouver une passion quelconque. Et c'est précisement ce qu'il cherchait dans le visage à barbiche, aux paipières plombées, à la bouche démesurée.
[Maigret] knew that at the bottom of this mentality [of crooks, criminals and swindlers] there was always some driving passion. And that was exactly what he was searching for in the bearded faced, with its drooping eyelids and enormous mouth.
Maigret is trying to understand the victim, his life: to become himself like the victim. In the Simenon interview, Simenon told an anecdote about his daughter and the way he behaved when he wrote a book: being physically affected by the characters.
This book is also the first encounter with someone we will see in many other Maigrets, all along his career: Joseph Moers who appears in chapter 6!
Maigret of the Month: Monsieur Gallet, décédé - 3
Assouline asserts that "Jews are often associated with financial manipulation, like Jacob, the blackmailer, in Monsieur Gallet, décédé... " (Assouline, p30).
However, this is simply wrong: Monsieur Jacob (which is a nickname based on his appearance, and who may not even be Jewish) is only a go-between who makes a tiny amount of money out of sending and receiving the real blackmailers' letters.
It is true that Simenon is aware of a casual anti-Semitism, as in Chapter 7 when Maigret asks the notary in Sancerre if he knows a Monsieur Jacob.
The notary's reply is: "Good Heavens, no! It must be a Jew!"
I think Simenon here is playing on received ideas.
Stanley Eskin has the following interesting points to make on this subject. After noting the anti-Jewish tone of the Gazette de Liège for which Simenon wrote some ill-advised articles, and going on to mention some "stock 'Jewish types'" as minor characters, Eskin goes on:
...Simenon has vehemently denied any antisemitic intentions in such portraits, adducing to his defense other works, like Le Petit Homme d'Arkhangelsk, in which Jews are treated with sympathy, understanding and admiration. The most reasonable conclusion is that Simenon (a) thoughtlessly wrote some anti-Semitic pieces in his youth; (b) retained unconsciously for a time some anti-Semitic vestiges from his culture, which cropped up marginally in his work; and (c) was rid of all such vestiges at some indeterminate point in his maturity.
Perhaps the final word on Simenon and Jews is a sort of "imprimatur" by the American Zionist monthly, Midstream, in an article which...praises his sensitive treatment of Jews and other outsiders. (Eskin, p40)
Maigret Stonewalled Chapter 6
As Jerome has said, in this chapter we have the first appearance of Joseph Moers, of the laboratories of the Criminal Records Office, who was to appear in many later Maigret novels.
Moers was the name of Simenon's great-grandfather on his mother's side; it was also the surname of a fellow reporter on the Gazette de Liège.
2/6/04 In reply to Roddy’s query of 01-10-04, my collection of Maigrets in English includes five hardback double-deckers (in addition to Maigret and M. Labbé; see archives, 11-30-01), two of them also owned by Roddy. These "American first editions” were published by Harcourt, Brace & Co. in 1940 and 1941, bound in various colors of cloth, with dustjackets. The novels in the first four volumes were translated by Geoffrey Sainsbury, those in the fifth by Margaret Ludwig.
Maigret Travels South (1940, blue) – Liberty Bar, The Madman of Bergerac
Maigret Abroad (1940, green) – A Crime in Holland, At the Gai-Moulin
The Patience of Maigret (1940, red; see archives, 08-13-03) – A Battle of Nerves, A Face for a Clue
Maigret to the Rescue (1941, orange) – The Flemish Shop, The Guinguette by the Seine
Maigret Sits It Out (1941, yellow) – The Lock at Charenton, Maigret Returns
John H. Dirckx
2/6/04 As a great Maigret fan, I often trawl through the internet for any news of upcoming releases. On reading the Maigret Forum pages I discovered that you have recently translated three previously untranslated Maigret short stories: The improbable Mr Owen, The group at the Grand-Cafe and Death threats. May I ask if these books are available to buy either direct from yourself or from a publisher? If so, can you please inform me how I may do so.
2/6/04 First of all thanks for putting so much effort into such an excellent Maigret site. It has proved to be an invaluable resource since I caught the bug.
My query is a simple one, of the 103 novels and short stories are there any which are not available in English? So far I have (or have had) 40 and have read 27, I'm currently in the middle of "M goes to school".
Thanks in advance,
Except for the three short stories mentioned by Martin, above, which are only available in English here, on line, all the known Maigrets (with the author shown as Simenon) have been published in English translations.
Maigret of the Month: Monsieur Gallet, décédé - 4
Maigret Stonewalled Chapter 9
In this chapter we find early signs of Maigret's total immersion in a case, which can often make him appear forgetful or even rude:
He passed the hotel without going in, and rang at the main entrance to Saint-Hilaire's property. Monsieur Tardivon, who was standing at the hotel porch and to whom Maigret had not said good day, gazed after him reproachfully. (p103)
The squire was struck by the change which had come over Maigret; his face was set and frowning, and when he looked at you his expression was worrying; he looked tired and spiteful. (p103)
A child playing with a ball bumped into him; he lifted him up and put him down a yard further on without even looking at him. (p105)
Maigret had arrived at the hotel without realising it. (p106)
Simenon d'un pipe
2/9/04 I would like to thank Roddy for drawing our (my) attention to the "Simenon of a pipe" (I have to resort to a Google translation, always good for a giggle). Did anybody see them in the flesh?
I have mentioned before how difficult it is to find Simenon/Maigret books in Australia, not impossible, but hard. Well, recently I bought a set of nine books published by Edito-Service S.A., Geneva, by arrangement with Hamish Hamilton Ltd. Each book has a Maigret and a non Maigret story in it, so by the time I have ploughed through them all I should have a fairly rounded Simenon education, I hope.
There are nine books in the set I found, I imagine the complete set consisted of more, does anybody know how many were in that particular set?
Thanks again Roddy,
2/10/04 Bob Kerr should try a Google search on Edito-Service SA, where I found one Simenon volume on the first results page.
I also found a few references to books by San-Antonio, the pseudonym of Frederic Dard. Apparently these are hard-boiled cop stories. I seem to remember reading the first page of one in a French hypermarket but it seemed to me to be too full of French colloquialisms to be readily understandable. They were very popular, and I'd like to know more about this writer and his work.
Maigret of the Month: Monsieur Gallet, décédé - 5
Assouline mentions that, while Simenon was in the employ of the Marquis de Tracy, he "became well acquainted with Pierre Tardivon, steward of the chateau.... The character reappears as Joseph Tardivon in Les Larmes avant le bonheur (Tears before Happiness, 1924) and L'Affaire Saint-Fiacre (The Saint-Fiacre Affair, 1932) as well as Les Memoires de Maigret (Maigret's Memoirs, 1951). (Assouline, p57)
However, Assouline seems not to have noticed that the manager of L'Hotel de la Loire in Monsieur Gallet, décédé, is also called Monsieur Tardivon. I wonder if the name occurs in other books?
In this context, Marnham states: "The Marquis had a steward, Pierre Tardivon, who impressed Simenon so much that he later made him the model for the father of Maigret" (Marnham, p111).
Bresler describes Tardivon as "a burly, no-nonsense countryman" (Bresler, p49), while Eskin says he was "a tall, lanky, rough-hewn man who strode competently about the estate in boots and a velvet jacket" (Eskin, p52).
By the time I reached Chapter 5 I realised that there had been no mention so far of Madame Maigret. If I'm not mistaken, she does not appear until Chapter 11, when Maigret returns home at the end of the case.
This cavalier treatment of a fine woman -- no phone calls, no postcards from Sancerre -- indicates perhaps that Simenon had not yet fully decided on Mme Maigret's place in her husband's life and in the books, and he rectifies this in later books.
It is characteristic of her that her first question to her husband is: "Have you had something to eat?"
I have to admit that I am rather puzzled about the exchange between her and her husband, and I wonder if this is the fault of the translation. The whole conversation reads as follows:
"You look as though you have just come from a funeral!" remarked Madame Maigret, when he got home to his flat in Boulevard Richard-Lenoir.... "Have you had something to eat?"
Can anyone clarify this?
"I have," he said to himself, looking round, happy to be back in the familiar surroundings. "From the moment he was buried..."
He added, though she couldn't have understood, "However, I would rather deal with a real genuine corpse, killed by a proper murderer...."
In my posting on Maigret Stonewalled Chapter 6 I said that Moers was the name of a reporter on the Gazette de Liège.
This now seems incorrect to me, but there is some confusion. Assouline refers to Henri Moers as Simenon's "friend and colleague at La Meuse" (p35). Eskin calls him "a fellow reporter on the Meuse" (p41).
As far as I know, Simenon never worked for the Meuse, which was a rival of the Gazette de Liège. I think we can take it that Moers was indeed a "fellow reporter", but that he worked for a different newspaper.
What is significant is that he was a friend of Simenon's who collaborated with him on an unfinished detective story, a parody of the Sherlock Holmes type, called Le Bouton de col (Marnham p72), and more importantly it was Moers who introduced Simenon to La Caque, which in turn provided the genesis of the early Maigret novel, Le Pendu de Saint-Pholien.
It seems fairly clear that the Royalist element in the plot of Maigret Stonewalled drew on Simenon's early experiences in Paris, where first of all he became "a glorified bellboy for the political league of which Binet-Valmer was president". (Bresler, p42)
Binet-Valmer contributed frequently to Paris-Centre, a newspaper owned and run by the Marquis de Tracy, to whose employ Simenon moved on the recommendation of Binet-Valmer. Paris-Centre (which Bresler refers to as Le Courier du Centre, published in Nevers) was a right-wing newspaper, with Royalist leanings.
In Monsieur Gallet, décédé, Aurore Gallet, the wife of Emile, is the daughter of the late editor of the Royalist newspaper, Soleil.
Assouline refers in this context to Simenon's novel, Les Noces de Poitiers (1946), "one of his most autobiographical novels". Its hero, twenty-year-old Gerard Auvinet, is desperate to find work in order to help his family after his father's death. He becomes secretary to Jean Sabin, a great writer who is also president of the French Patriotic League. "... he had finally understood. The great novelist was living off the League" (quoted in Assouline, p51).
It is not difficult to see the connections between Binet-Valmer and Sabin, Simenon and Auvinet, Paris-Centre and Soleil, and the Monsieur Gallet who tirelessly extracts subscriptions from Royalists under false pretences.
Assouline goes on to draw an implicit parallel between Monsieur Gallet, décédé and Simenon's employment with the Marquis de Tracy. (Assouline, p58)
Red Lights (Feux Rouges)
2/11/04 Review of a new film adapted from a (non-Maigret) Simenon novel, Feux Rouges, at ScreenDaily.com.
BBC series - 1960's
2/12/04 I am undertaking some work for the BBC and instead of payment I have asked for copies of the Rupert Davies episodes held in their archives. I suspect that although they would be prepared to let me have some copies, I doubt whether they will supply all of them to me.... although I have asked!
I would appreciate suggestions on which episodes I should be asking for..... I personally can just about remember them but not in any great detail. I am attracted to those that were predominately shot on location rather than studios. Over to Forum readers for suggestions, together with your reasons...
Simenon the writer
2/13/04 What makes Simenon such an interesting writer? I would like to quote a lengthy passage from Stanley Eskin's critical biography which seems to me to make some very valid points:
I think that this is a very astute analysis which pierces to the heart of Simenon's unsatisfactory greatness, the episodic success of his career, the vacillation between Maigret and "literature". Earlier, Eskin has noted:
In a passage in "Pedigree" he [Simenon] alludes to the celebrated premiere of Victor Hugo's "Hernani", whose romanticism shocked the conservative audiences of the eighteen-twenties. The avant-garde was vociferously present to defend its hero most ostentatiously Theophile Gautier in his red vest. But it is not with him that Roger-Georges ["Roger" is a reference to the autobiographical hero of "Pedigree"] identified, but with Alexandre Dumas, who was also present, not as part of the flamboyant avant-garde in-crowd, but as a poor and obscure scribbler who had stood in line for his ticket: one of the "little people", in short but who later became one of the wealthiest and most popular writers of his age.
Simenon, on the other hand, always denied worldly success as a motivation for his literary career. When he began to write he was convinced that, far from a profession, it was a vocation providing only personal satisfactions. Yet he has also declared, "I began to write, as an artisan, at the age of 16, always with the idea that some day I would achieve something." The "something" is serious literature as he knew it from his reading, while the artisanship is ambiguously a preparation for it and separate from it. The truth is that his literary intentions, consciously and unconsciously, were multiple, unclear to himself, and perhaps contradictory. Three categories success, artisanship, and seriousness jostled with each other without fusing into a clear purpose; they never did. (Eskin p42)
This perhaps links with another observation in Eskin's Introduction:
He gave up painting and mysticism (as well as a humanist education) after making love for the first time. Was Georges Simenon sublimating his artistic impulses into sex? Did he continue to do that? Years later, when he was writing those 11-chapter best-sellers, he would often recuperate from the 11-day ordeal by having a fling with prostitutes. Sex instead of a second draft? (p33)
"Superhuman efforts"; "just barely"; "exhausted"; "struggle": Eskin's vocabulary here implies that Simenon's art was only just equal to the task, that his artistry was to some extent a borderline affair, almost hit-and-miss. This insecurity is I think everywhere visible in Simenon; he is like a tightrope walker carrying out incredible feats but only ever a step away from disaster.
He came to be a self-assured, disciplined, adventurous, healthy man of the world, inside of whom, however, hid a "little man" oppressed, frightened, frustrated, resentful, will-less, impotent. This little man was in large part fiction, but in some part one of Simenon's potential selves. Inside the little man hid an artist, who made superhuman efforts just barely to articulate the little man, each time falling back exhausted from the effort. He almost never realised the outside man: the worldly, self-assured one. The artist was indeed inside and had to struggle outward. He never did such things as "soaring above" or "taking a step back to contemplate the whole". (p5)
This is part of the reason why Simenon is such an interesting writer, so difficult to pigeonhole, unique in so many ways.
There are aspects of Simenon which can be compared with other writers: there have been many writers as prolific, but none of them has equalled Simenon's artistic successes; many have written pot-boilers as part of their literary apprenticeship or have prostituted their talents to amass wealth; many literary writers have turned to genre novels as a relief from or alternative to serious fiction; some have subverted genre fiction to produce true literature (and have been underrated as a consequence one thinks of John le Carre, in my view one of the finest and most interesting living novelists). But not one has combined all these elements as Simenon did.
|2/14/04 J'aimerai connaître plus de détails sur la famille de Xavier Guichard, qui pourrait être le frère de mon arrière-grand-mère Leonie Guichard épousé Martel.
[I would like to learn more about the family of Xavier Guichard, who could be the brother of my great-grandmother, Leonie Guichard Martel.]
Josette Merle Brandt
Maigret of the Month: Monsieur Gallet, décédé - 6
Stanley Eskin is fairly dismissive of this novel:
Others have deprecated Simenon's skills as a detective novelist. The respected but now largely-forgotten British novelist, John Cowper Powys, was a great fan of Simenon, but wrote to a friend in 1942:
The companion piece of "Le Pendu de Saint-Pholien" in the February launching [of the Maigret books], "M. Gallet, decede", is only moderately successful in working out an adequate plot to account for the posited situation: it all turns on a double identity and a somewhat implausible suicide made to look like a murder. (p87)
And in 1943:
I never thought I'd live to see the day that I'd be reading detective stories, but the detective element of Simenon's books is their weakest aspect, generally rather unconvincing. All the rest -- atmosphere, composition, narration, and characters -- is wonderful, at least for me.
I feel this is true of Maigret Stonewalled. I find the means of suicide employed by "M. Gallet" contrived and implausible, even though Simenon has tried to prepare us by showing that the dead man was adept at making ingenious mechanical contrivances.
The detective part of his novels is not really good -- the crimes are the weakest and clumsiest aspect. But for atmosphere, character, intensity, humour, and above all for humanity and knowledge of the wretched, pathetic mass, adolescents in particular, he has no peer at all. (quoted in Assouline pp290-291).
But there is a great deal to enjoy in the book. I particularly like the depiction of the "parsimonious lovers", Henri Gallet and his mistress, Eleonore Boursang, with their businesslike relationship and their dream of saving enough over several years to enable them to move to the Midi.
The description of Joseph Moers' patient and dedicated piecing together of the evidence is a delight, and as always it is a pleasure to be in the company of Chief Inspector Maigret as he experiences an uncomfortable train journey with the widow Gallet, gazes round Gallet's dreadful house, drinks a bottle of Sancerre (very quickly!) with St Hilaire, climbs walls (even though he weighs sixteen stone) and finally dispenses his own, essentially humane version of justice.
Although there are many indications that this is an early, almost a prototype, Maigret, the essential qualities -- what Cowper Powys refers to above as atmosphere, character, intensity, humour, and above all ... humanity are already present in abundance.
Maigret of the Month: Monsieur Gallet, décédé - 7
2/16/04 On the first page of Monsieur Gallet, Maigret talks about everyone from the Police being at "la gare du bois de Boulogne" [ the Bois de Boulogne station (where the Spanish sovreign was due to arrive) ]. I asked Jean-Paul Foitet, who runs a web site on old train stations, which station he thought it was. His answer:
Je pense qu'il s'agit de gare de l'avenue Foch située sur l'ancienne ligne de la Petite Ceinture, aujourd'hui utilisée par la ligne C du RER. Avant la réalisation du RER les quais n'étaient pas recouverts comme la station Port Royal sur la ligne B. Cette gare a reçu de nombreux trains spéciaux de souverains et présidents.
[ I think it's the Avenue Foch station, on the old Small Belt line, used today by the C line of the RER. Before the RER, embankments were not covered like the Port Royal station on the B line This station received many special trains of rulers and presidents. ]
Michael Gambon Maigret series on DVD
The two Maigret series starring Michael Gambon were released on DVD on 9 February and are available from Amazon.co.uk.
Simenon and other writers
2/18/04 I am enjoying your Maigret of the Month series. I have a suggestion for Roddy and others who might be looking for an author who has, I believe, been influenced by Simenon's Maigret: Magdalen Nabb, whose main character is a Florentine Marshal Guarnaccia. Apparently Simenon approved , if the quote from the back of "Death in Springtime" (first published in 1983) is anything to go by: "A novel to be savoured...Bravissimo! You have more than fulfilled your promise."
There is an excellent article in The Daily Telegraph Books of Saturday May 2003 by Michael Dibden entitled "Simple Simenon". Dibden is another fan. The article ends with this: "Maigret appears to be just as confused as we are by what is going on around him. Before long in The Bar on the Seine, La guingette à deux sous, for all its tawdry setting and sleazy clientele, has taken on the mythic power of the Dark Forest in fairy tales, where the lost children Maigret and the reader must find their way to safety by their own wits and intuition, learning and growing as they do so."
Red Lights (Feux Rouges) and others
2/18/04 'Feux Rouges' (2/11/04) has received a couple of favourable mentions recently in British press reports from the Berlin Film Festival. The Guardian on 11 February said: "Cedric Kahn has reinforced his formidable festival reputation with Feux Rouges, or Red Lights, a thriller updated from a Georges Simenon novel. This turned out to be a classically elegant and gripping French film to thaw the freezing Berlin winter". The Daily Telegraph of 12 February says it's not a masterpiece but he (Kahn) "is capable of making one, and this is an absorbing stop en route".
An interview with film director Mike Figgis in The Guardian on 30 January doesn't mention Simenon, but features the film made from his novel Le Train. "The film that, for Figgis, sets the high water mark of artistic perfection is Pierre Granier-Deferre's 1973 Holocaust-era romance The Last Train. 'I was in Rome over Christmas, and I caught the last 40 minutes of this film I had seen 30 years previously. Within the first 10 seconds I knew what it was. It stars Romy Schneider and Jean-Luc (sic) Trintignant, and it's the story of two people leaving Nazi Germany on the last train out. He has been separated from his family and he's trying to get back to La Rochelle; she's a Jewish-German woman escaping the Nazis. They're thrown together and they have this very intense two-day affair. I remembered that it had a great ending, but I wasn't prepared for how great it was. Everyone should watch this film before trying to make one themselves'." Ironically, according to Claude Gauteur in 'Simenon au Cinema" the ending is not the one in the novel.
Not forgetting Maigret, La Nuit du Carrefour makes it into writer Gilbert Adair's ten best classic French films (The Independent 1/23/04). "This Simenon adaptation is an astounding exercise in pure cinema, cherished by lovers of the surreal for its potent atmospherics - a black car speeding through a silent, shuttered hamlet; the curdled odour of rain-sodden fields; the mystifying, occasionally incomprehensible melodrama played out in a tumbledown house. Some films are called sleepers. This one is a dreamer."
Simenon and photos
|At www.lemonde.fr there is an
article about the exhibit of pictures taken by Simenon.
Maigret of the Month: Monsieur Gallet, décédé - 8
The Penguin paperback entitled Maigret Stonewalled was published in August 1963 with the translation by Margaret Marshall, which is close to Simenon's French text. This translation is a considerably better than the one by Anthony Abbot that was published in the United Kingdom by Hurst and Blackett Ltd. in January 1933, a few months after the American edition from Covici, Friede Inc. Both of these editions where published in hardback format with a dust wrapper. The American edition appeared with just the one novel The Death of Monsieur Gallet, whereas the British one was coupled with The Crime of Inspector Maigret (Le Pendu de Saint-Pholien).
It is possible that someone at Penguin Books realised that the six Maigret novels published in 1933 and 1934 by Hurst and Blackett had somewhat idiosyncratic translations, so decided to commission new ones closer to the author's texts. These six Maigret novels from Penguin Books were only issued in paperback.
During the spring and summer of 1930, Simenon, in his boat the Ostrogoth, had reached Morsang-sur-Seine (Seine-et-Marne), and decided to moor it further along the right bank of the river at a spot, in the district of Nandy, called Le Four à Chaux (as this translates as "lime kiln", it probably indicates what might have been there in the past). This place is too small to appear on the section of the map of the area posted, but it is located next to the "g" of Morsang where there are the crosses indicating the boundary. Simenon stayed there for some weeks where he probably wrote Pietr-le-Letton (The Strange Case of Peter the Lett / Maigret and the Enigmatic Lett) his first Maigret under his own name then Le Charretier de la "Providence" (The Crime at Lock 14 / Maigret Meets a Milord / Lock 14), Monsieur Gallet, décédé (The Death of Monsieur Gallet / Maigret Stonewalled), Le Passager du "Polarlys" (The Mystery of the Polarlys / Danger at Sea) his first non-Maigret under his own name and four novels under pseudonyms to fulfil his publishers' contracts.
(click on map to enlarge)
Map 1: a section of the river Seine, west of Melun (Seine-et-Marne), showing the locations of Morsang-sur-Seine and St. Fargeau-Ponthierry.
Further up river there is located Saint Fargeau-Ponthierry (Seine et Marne) where Maigret goes to meet Madame Aurore Gallet, the wife of the dead man, so Simenon easily could have explored the area just before writing the novel.
Only a few years before, the author was living for a while at the other main location in the novel. Simenon left Liège for Paris in the middle of December 1922, returning to the city of his birth the following March in order to marry Régine Renchon (whom he nicknamed Tigy). When he first arrived in Paris he worked for a journalist and writer Binet-Valmer, but then in June 1923 he was taken on as a secretary in the service of the Marquis Raymond d'Estutt de Tracy. The marquis had inherited a fortune and property from his father and Simenon was required to travel with him to his houses in various parts of France. One such property was the Château de Paray-le-Frésil (Allier), which Simenon later used as the setting for the Maigret novel L'Affaire Saint-Fiacre (The Saint-Fiacre Affair / Death of a Countess / Maigret Goes Home / Maigret on Home Ground), whilst another was the Château de Tracy (Nièvre) on the opposite bank of the river Loire to Sancerre (Cher).
(click on map to enlarge)
Map 2: a section of the river Loire, south of Cosne-sur-Loire (Nièvre), showing the locations of Tracy, St. Thibault and Sancerre.
In the novel Monsieur Gallet, décédé, Maigret travels to the scene of the crime by train (Penguin edition, pages 12-13):
'It was seven o'clock in the evening when the train stopped at the station of Tracy-Sancerre and there was still over half a mile to do on the main road and then over the suspension bridge above the Loire.
Simenon describes the scene as it existed, but with certain understandable simplifications. There is Tracy station, not far from the Château de Tracy where Simenon stayed in 1923, with the road leading to the suspension bridge (apparently destroyed in 1940 at the beginning of the Occupation) over the river. Having crossed the bridge, there is the village of St.Thibault with the Quai Loire on which stands the hotel where the crime was committed. In reality this establishment was the Hôtel de l'Étoile, but Simenon renamed it the Hôtel de la Loire, most likely being cautious.
(click on map to enlarge)
There was none of the magnificent grandeur of a great river here, only a scene of myriads of little streams running between banks of sand the colour of over-ripe corn.
…The Hôtel de la Loire appeared, its yellow façade running along the embankment.
Map 3: Sancerre (c.1960). H indicates l'Hôtel de Ville (Town Hall), presumably where Monsieur Gallet's body was taken (Penguin edition, pages 13-16).
At his interview with the marquis, Simenon said that he had only been married for two months, but his employer refused to allow Tigy to be with them, so where possible she would stay somewhere nearby. On this occasion she stayed at the Hôtel de l'Étoile in St. Thibault.
But this was not the only time that Simenon associated himself with this hotel. In November 1937, he stayed there in order to write the novel Les Soeurs Lacroix, which is set in the town of Bayeux, in Normandy. Later this novel was translated into English under the title of Poisoned Relations.
Jerome and Roddy both mention (02/05/04, 02/10/04) the first appearance of Joseph Moers, who works in the forensic laboratories attached to the Police Judiciaire in Paris. The surname, as mentioned, occurs from Simenon's early days. Affectionally known as "Vieux Papa", Guillaume Moors, or Moers, (1823-1909) had a daughter Marie Catherine Moors, or Moers, (1850-1905) who married Christiaan (Chrétien) Simenon (1841-1927), who was the author's grandfather. Both French and Flemish spellings of the surname seems to be frequently used.
Georges Simenon's journalist friend Henri-J. Moers, who worked for the rival newspaper, La Meuse, not only introduced Simenon to the group of former students who called themselves La Caque, but co-operated in 1921 or 1922 with the novel Le Bouton de col (The Collar Stud). Simenon and Moers wrote alternate chapters of the novel, which was intended as a parody of the detective novel. Years later, Simenon, on reading the unpublished text, described the work as bad, and although the manuscript is in the archive, it is unlikely to be published.
Some years ago I bought this set, which was available from several bookshops in the United Kingdom. There are nine books in the Simenon set, each containing two novels as Bob Kerr has stated. At that time these were easily obtainable, along with sets devoted to other authors.
As mentioned, when Simenon was working for the Marquis de Tracy in 1923 and at the Château de Paray-le-Frésil (Allier), the steward's name was Pierre Tardivon. He used this surname in four novels, two written under pseudonyms and two under his own name.
Joseph Tardivon in Les Larmes avant le bonheur (Tears before Happiness), 1924, as by Georges Simm.
Tardivon in Nox l'insaisissable (The elusive Nox), 1926, as by Chistian Brulls. Nox, a thief, uses Tardivon as one of his other names.
Tardivon is the name of the manager of the Hôtel de la Loire in Monsieur Gallet, décédé, 1932, by Georges Simenon.
Tardivon is the name of a female factory worker in the non-Maigret novel Une Vie comme neuve (A New lease of Life), 1951, by Georges Simenon.
In the Maigret novel L'Affaire Saint-Fiacre (The Saint-Fiacre Affair), 1932, the steward's surname is Gautier, whilst in the Memoires de Maigret, 1951, Maigret just states that his father was steward to the chateau.
Madame Maigret in Monsieur Gallet, décédé
The French text for the passage in Chapter 11(Penguin edition, page 135) is as follows (taken from the first edition, Fayard, 1932 page 247):
Tu as l'air de revenir d'un enterrement! remarqua Mme Maigret quand il pénétra dans son logement du boulevard Richard-Lenoir… Tu as mangé, au moins?
The translator for the Penguin edition, Margaret Marshall, has followed Simenon's text closely.
Tu as raison… articula-t-il pour lui-même en regardant avec plaisir le décor familier. Du moment qu'il est enterré…
Il ajouta, sans quelle pût comprendre:
Quand même!… Je préfère m'occuper d'un vrai mort, tué par un véritable assassin…
Peter Foord, UK.
Maigret site in Russian
2/20/04 I've found a site at tymlib.narod.ru/authors/simenon.htm, where there's a list of Maigret books and stories and what I think are Zip files containing the full text of each in Russian. Does anyone know anything about it?
Looking for the estate of Georges Simenon
Do you happen to know who/where the estate is? I was told by Random House that it is somewhere in Switzerland...but cannot locate anything other than that. Can you help?
Simenon and Lausanne
2/23/04 I found the following about the Maigret estate as asked by Pubrights2:
En sillonnant le canton de Vaud il découvre le château d'Echandens à une vingtaine de kilomètres de Lausanne, où il habite plusieurs années. (à partir de 1957) En 1960, Simenon se voit confier la présidence du festival de Cannes. Souhaitant à nouveau changer de situation, il se fait construire une villa à Epalinges, un quartier choc de Lausanne. (à partir de 1953 dans une maison construite selon les plans de Georges Simenon lui même) . Il écrira son dernier roman en 1972.
At membres.lycos.fr/gomgut there is a complete description of where Simenon lived after 1972 (many flats & houses in downtown Lausanne). I think that what is referred to as "the estate" was Echandens.
[While traversing the canton of Vaud he discovered the castle of Echandens about twenty kilometers from Lausanne,
where he lived several years. (from 1957) In 1960, Simenon found himself made director of the Cannes festival. Wishing to change his situation once again, he had a villa constructed at Epalinges, a ... district of Lausanne. (from 1953 in a house constructed according to his own plans). He wrote his last novel in 1972.]
And here's a Univesrsity course about Simenon : 601-1 Georges Simenon, le romancier noir
Maigret and the Lazy Burglar
First, I would like to thank Peter Foord for confirming that there were most likely only nine books in the set published by Edito-Service, that saves me looking for non-existent books.
I have just finished reading "Maigret and the Lazy Burglar" in which Maigret investigates two cases simultaneously, one officially and the other un-officially. Somewhere on this incredible site I remember the question being posed, "how many murderers did Maigret not arrest, and why", (or words to that effect).
As you would be aware one such event occurs in this novel, as to why, the possibilities are many. Was it out of compassion for the mother of the murder victim? Did Maigret believe he did not have enough evidence to secure a conviction? Was Maigret himself being lazy, or realistic, and not willing to fight the new bureaucracy? or was Georges Simenon making a statement about his own acceptance of infidelity?
I like to think it was out of a sense of compassion, after all, Maigret was a pipe smoker.
Maigret of the Month: Monsieur Gallet, décédé - 9
2/28/04 Guido de Croock has added a section on Monsieur Gallet for us, just in time for this month's Maigret of the month! Click on the image below for fascinating pictures and information about the actual setting of the novel, at his site, Maigret's journeys in France:
About the Maigret in Russian list
2/29/04 On your Maigret in Russian list, a little mistake can be seen at the very of the bottom of the Russian titles: "Trubka Megre" is La Pipe de Maigret, not Le Revolver de Maigret as it is shown there. Le revolver de Maigret in Russian is "Revolver Megre". Well, as I said when I had the opportunity to write to you about a Russian film about Maigret, your site is the best...
Thank you, very much...
Maigret of the Month: La nuit du carrefour (Maigret at the Crossroads) - 1
The March Maigret of the Month, La nuit du carrefour, is another of the earliest Maigrets, from 1931. Guido de Croock has a section on La nuit du carrefour at his Maigret's journeys in France site, with a summary and maps of the area of the action. This novel was the source for the first Maigret film, made in 1932 by Jean Renoir, and starring his elder brother, Pierre Renoir, as Maigret.
Maigret of the Month: La nuit du carrefour (Maigret at the Crossroads) - 2
Most writers on Simenon seem to have concentrated on Maigret at the Crossroads as a film rather than a novel.
Jean Renoir bought the rights for 50,000 francs from Simenon, who was then living on the Ostrogoth at Ouistreham.
The film was marred by the director's failure to shoot some crucial scenes. In fact, the story was so difficult to follow that the producer offered Simenon another 50,000 francs to explain the plot on screen.
Simenon declined. (According to Assouline he said: "What kind of an asshole do you think I am?")
As for Maigret at the Crossroads as a novel, I have to say that I found it both very readable and ludicrous in terms of its plot. But the characterisation is superb, with some marvellous individual characters. The fussy M. Michonnet, the vulgar ex-boxer, M. Oscar, and most of all the enigmatic Else come to life on the page.
Motors"What fascinates me about this story is the motors.... Because when all's said and done, it's all a matter of motors...."
It certainly is. Cars are a leitmotiv in the novel.
The first crime in the book involves a murder victim in the driver's seat of a stolen car. Another car has been moved from its garage. Most of the action takes place at a busy crossroads, where one of the premises is a garage with five petrol pumps, which shine "milkily" at night. Instead of taking a train to the scene of the crime, Maigret forks out for a taxi. The gang's crimes involve spare tyres and lorries going to and returning from the vegetable market in Paris. Carl Andersen is abducted in his car and it ends up near the Belgian frontier. Mme Goldberg arrives at Arpajon in a car and is instantly shot. A car drives by the garage and riddles it with bullets. It is pursued by a taxi holding three policemen. The gang are taken away in a Black Maria.
In almost every chapter Simenon describes cars and lorries passing, their headlights and rear lights, the noise they make, the different types of vehicle.
It is noticeable that the only time the traffic disappears, as it were, is when Maigret is in the house of the Three Widows, being distracted by the eroticism of Else. It is as if this claustrophobic house belongs to a different world.
It is also interesting that in the marvellous opening chapter, showing the seventeen hours of Carl Andersen's interrogation passing in the Palais de Justice, that there are only a couple of mentions of buses and trams, and none of cars. It is as if the city is quiet while the country is made clamorous by passing traffic.
It is interesting to speculate on Simenon's motives in creating and focusing on the imagery of "motors", as they are almost always referred to in Robert Baldick's translation. Was he being determinedly modern, showing a world where peasants still rose early to milk cows and harvest crops, but which was increasingly becoming car-orientated, a social historian showing a changing world?
BBC Maigret on DVD?
3/09/04 Today (March 9 2004) I emailed the BBC Cult website and asked them the following: 'Could you tell me if the BBC has in its archives those wonderful Maigret programmes starring the late Rupert Davies, and, if so, if it has the complete series and when, if ever, we are likely to see them again, either on TV or released as videos or DVDs?'
This was the reply I received: 'Have done a check and a number of episodes seem to be listed as being in the archives. Not sure is a full set though. Having checked with Worldwide, there are currently no plans to release them on DVD.'
Of course it makes sound economic sense fans are clamouring to relive those wonderful TV programmes, and would be willing to buy them if they were commercially available. Meanwhile, the BBC has a bundle of them gathering dust on its shelves, and we, the fans, can't see them . . . even though, as BBC licence payers, they belong to us, the public!
Where's the sense in that?
Chorion sales increase
3/10/04 Chorion, who hold the Simenon rights, reported a 130% increase in sales of Simenon books last year due to publicity surrounding his centenary. The full story is at business.scotsman.com.
Streets in Neuilly?
3/11/04 In Mister Monday [Monsieur Lundi] the action takes place in Neuilly. One place mentioned was number 47b, on the corner of Blvd de la Seine and rue Maxime Baès. Oddly enough, the text did not specify which street that number 47b was on. This was opposite the Ile de Puteaux, but none of the streets there have either one of these names. As they are in Neuilly rather than in Paris, they don't show up in Paris Chez Simenon, and since this was written in 1937-38, it's quite possible that the names have changed or perhaps they never existed in the first place. Does anyone know where these streets are/were, and what the currents names are? Who was Maxime Baès, for that matter?
I believe what Simenon called the blvd de la Seine is probably today's blvd Général Koenig as it runs along the river opposite the Île de Puteaux. There are 11 streets that intersect Blvd Koenig. My Michelin map 11 (square 13D2) shows that number 55 is at the corner of rue Fréderic Passy. The next street up is the rue Viator (or Victor) Diax. I doon't know if number 47 (with or without the bis) is located at this intersection or not. I asked Mappy and it did not pinpoint the house very well.
I'll be in Paris for a photographic equipment trade show on the 29th of March. Time permitting I'll go to Neuilly and see just where number 47 is and report my findings here.
This map section from the 1937 Baedeker Paris and its environs shows the Boulevard de la Seine there. The broad street at the far right of the map is the Avenue de Neuilly, today's Avenue Charles de Gaulle.
3/12/04 Very nice site with a lot of information.
You ask for more info about Jan Teulings, a Dutch actor who played Maigret.
First: it is Jan Teulings, with an s at the end. His full name was Johannes Marinus Antonius Teulings. He was born in 1905 and died in 1989. He started his career in 1952 with the Nederlandse Comedie. (Dutch Comedy). Teulings played a lot of comedies and plays, such as "Herenstraat 10" with Max Croiset and Mary Dresselhuys (1983), "Willem van Oranje" with Christel Braak and Ellen Vogel (1984). He also played in films such as "Dorp aan de rivier"(1958). In the years 1964-1970 he was very well known because of his creation as Maigret in a series of TV-plays, after the books of Georges Simenon.
In a suburb of Amsterdam, Amstelveen, there is a street named after him.
3/13/04 At www.cine-studies.net there are some comments on the three Maigret movies made during the war with information like actors' names and roles...
Maigret First Editions?
3/13/04 Does anyone have any suggestions for a source for Maigret first editions (in French)?
3/20/04 A fascinating article about the vanished Amber Room. Simenon, as mentioned in the article, was a member of a club devoted to discovering its whereabouts. www.forbes.com.
Simenon: Photographic Exhibition entitled "L'IL DE SIMENON"
3/23/04 As mentioned by Jerome (2/19/04), this exhibition was held at the Galerie Nationale du Jeu de Paume, 1 Place de la Concorde, 750008, in Paris between 13 January and 7 March 2004.
Here were many of the photographs that Simenon took whilst on visits to various parts of the world between 1931 and 1935. I remember seeing some of them in the "Tout Simenon" exhibition held in Liège in 1993, as well as a few in the recent 2003 Centenary exhibition in the same city.
It was well worth the visit. The gallery used practically all of their exhibition space on the first floor to display the photographs, with plenty of room to view them. Permanently stored in the Fonds Simenon in Liège, the photographs are mainly in albums. The originals, that presumably Simenon had had developed soon after returning from his various travels, measure about 2 inches square and these mounted on their album leaves were arranged in glass cases. A very good feature was that quite a number of individual photographs had been enlarged, some up to about 2 feet square, and exhibited on the gallery walls. This gave an interesting and refreshing contrast in scale and the various images that Simenon had captured were not weakened by this process, but came across in a more powerful way.
The photographs on show were taken during the same important period of Simenon's life, when he was writing and being published for the first time under his own name, beginning to produce the work in which he was really interested. This amounted to thirty-five novels, which included the first nineteen Maigret novels.
"Simenon's Eye" the title of the exhibition reflects aspects of his written work. As far as the images are concerned, he has an affinity with the photographs of Henri Cartier-Bresson and Brassaï. Simenon, like them, is interested in what is happening around him, people in their everyday lives, at work, in their environment, relaxing, as well as the streets and the landscape; people and settings that inhabit his novels and short stories. The fact that these photographs are in black and white only enhances the images, so that the viewer is not distracted by any colour elements.
Although not a professional photographer, Simenon's "eye" selects many of his shots with the same discernment as he selects his prose.
Some of his visits at this time were financed by newspapers and magazines, in return for which he wrote articles on a number of topics. These were published soon after his return and some were illustrated with a selection of his photographs. In recent years, various publications about Simenon have included some of his photographs, where appropriate.
Also as Jerome mentioned, there is a catalogue that goes with this exhibition. Entitled "L'IL DE SIMENON", it is published as a large paperback by the Galerie Nationale du Jeu de Paume / Omnibus, 2004, ISBN: 2-258-06462-7, 296 pages, 27×22 cms. (10.5×8.75 inches) at 39 Euros. The text, in French, consists of an interview with Michel Carly by Valère Bertrand, and two individual texts by Patrick Roegiers and Catherine Clément. At the end of this catalogue there is a Chronology of Simenon's life from 1903 until 1989 by Michel Carly based on that by Pierre Deligny, illustrated with various photographs and reproductions.
Saint-Thibault and the Hôtel de la Loire
3/23/04 In M. Gallet, décédé - 2, Guido de Croock in his admirable present day research into the Maigret locations has pointed out an error associated with the Hôtel de la Loire in Saint- Thibault. This mistake also occurs in a current French guidebook where, in the entry for this hotel, it states Agréables chambres à thème: "provençale", "africaine"… "Georges Simenon", puisque l'auteur des Maigrets écrivit deux romans dans cet hôtel des bords de Loire (Pleasant rooms with a theme: "Provençal", "African"… "Georges Simenon", since the author of the Maigrets wrote two novels in this hotel on the banks of the Loire).
Maigret of the Month: La nuit du carrefour (Maigret at the Crossroads) - 3
The map, which is a section across part of the Essonne and Seine-et-Marne departments of France, shows various places well known to Simenon, particularly during 1930 and 1931. The section, about 30 kilometres (c19 miles) across, stretches from Arpajon (in the north west) to Morsang-sur-Loire, St.Fargeau-Ponthierry, Seine-Port and Nandy (in the north east), with Guigneville-sur-Essonne, La Ferté-Alais and Itteville (in the centre south). Also running through this section are the rivers Essonne and Loire, which Simenon knew very well, as between May 1930 and July 1931 he was living on his boat, the Ostrogoth, in this area, with periodic visits to Beuzec-Conq, near Concarneau (Finistère), and Paris.
It was a transitional period in his career as a writer, completing his contracts for his fiction under pseudonyms, and launching into the work that he was striving to write.
In the district of Nandy at Le Four à Choux, near Morsang, he wrote four novels during the spring and summer of 1930, including the first Maigret to be written and later published under his own name, Pietr-le-Letton (The Strange Case of Peter the Lett / Maigret and the Enigmatic Lett).
And it was during the night of the 20th and the 21st of February 1931 that Simenon, with his publisher Fayard, launched two of the Maigret novels (M. Gallet, décédé and Le Pendu de Saint-Pholien) at the Boule-Blanche nightclub in the Rue Vavin, in Montparnasse, in Paris, an event which created quite a stir in the press as well as in publishing circles. From then on he was published under his own name.
Returning from Paris in March 1931, he stayed at Guigneville-sur-Essonne where he produced two more Maigret novels and a lengthy short story. Following on from this, in May, he travelled the short distance back to Morsang. Once again his output included two more Maigret novels and three lengthy short stories.
All of these works, whether novels or short stories, were of the same genre, a mystery to be investigated by a police detective or a private individual. As Simenon has said, he did not feel ready at that time to attempt to write the "romans durs", as he called what was to be later labelled the "psychological novels" or "novels of destiny". In spite of his ability and skills, it must have been difficult for him to switch from the pulp fiction, with its stock characters, which he had been writing since 1924, to different ideas of characterisation and plot structure. But it can be seen in the early Maigret novels the direction in which he was going.
Simenon must have enjoyed working in this region of France and it provided him with some of the settings for his writing, which included La Nuit du Carrefour.
The location of the crossroads in this novel has been identified as the intersection where the secondary road, the D26, crosses the main N20, which passes through Arpajon (Seine-et-Oise now Essonne) to Étampes, Orléans and beyond. A short distance from the crossroads, eastwards, along the D26 is the village of Avrainville.
Simenon wrote this Maigret novel in April 1931 whilst he was staying in Guigneville-sur-Essonne, less than ten miles away from its setting, which the author establishes in a few succinct sentences in the first chapter:
'A crossroads. A garage and its five petrol-pumps, painted red. On the left the road to Avrainville, marked by a signpost.
All around, fields as far as the eye could see.
… There were only three houses. First the garage proprietor's, in plaster tiles, run up in a speculative fever. A big sports model, with aluminium coachwork, was being filled up. Some mechanics were repairing a butcher's van.
Facing the garage, a villa in millstone grit, with a narrow garden, surrounded by railings six feet high. A brass plate: Émile Michonnet. Insurance Agent.
The other house was at least two hundred yards away. The wall surrounding the park allowed only a glimpse of the first floor, a slate roof, and a few imposing trees.' (In the translation by Robert Baldick: Penguin paperback 2028, 1963, pages 15/16, which is close to the author's French text. There is an earlier translation by Anthony Abbot published by Covici, Friede in the USA and by Hurst and Blackett in the UK, both in 1933, but this is wayward and somewhat pretentious).
Within this setting Simenon places three very different sets of characters, Oscar, the garage owner, a former boxer, amiable, confident and relaxed, with his wife Germaine and a few mechanics. Then Émile Michonnet, the fussy, complaining insurance agent and his wife, and finally the placid Dane Carl Andersen, from an aristocratic family, and Else Andersen. It is the enigmatic Else who becomes the centre of attention, and who plays a psychological game with Maigret.
Just three groups of people from very different backgrounds living near each other along a main route at an isolated crossroad in the midst of large tracts of rural France. And it is around these that Simenon weaves his convoluted plot, with Maigret moving from one individual to the next.
Not only does Simenon demonstrate his outstanding gift and skill as a storyteller, but having entitled this novel La Nuit du Carrefour The Night at the Crossroads he instils into the reader's mind the atmosphere of tension and fear created by his use of light and dark throughout.
Having arrived at the crossroads on a grey April afternoon, Maigret first encounters Else in her home, the largest of the three houses set in its own park, in the twilight. The tension builds, as there is very little light to illuminate the interior of the rambling house.
In the ensuing darkness of the evening, the only lights at the crossroads come from the illuminated petrol pumps and the workshop, an occasional passing vehicle, but little else. It is Sergeant Lucas who expresses not only his theories, but also his fearful concerns of the location, while a gruff Maigret remains with his instinct. Later that evening, a visitor to Avrainville is shot emerging from a car, with Maigret trying to pursue the perpetrator across a field in the glare of the car's headlights.
Even the bright spring sunshine of the following day does little to alleviate the atmosphere. But once again the darkness of the following evening and night, punctuated by significant light, witnesses the final drama played out in each of the three establishments near the crossroads.
The film "La Nuit du Carrefour" by Jean Renoir
I saw this film last summer in a restored print from the National Film Archive. It was intriguing to see it, as I have come across quite a few references to it from various sources. The film has attracted attention for some time, as it is the first screen adaptation of a work by Georges Simenon, because of its director Jean Renoir and the first portrayal of Maigret on the screen.
Jean Renoir and Georges Simenon, together, worked on the screenplay. A suitable location was found, corresponding to the author's crossroad setting in the novel, north of Paris, near Bouffémont, which had the same bleak, isolated look to it, with the interiors being set up and filmed at the Billancourt studios just west of Paris.
The film was shot in the first three months of 1932, so that the exterior scenes at the crossroads capture the dismal atmosphere of the late winter that conjures up Simenon's prose. Renoir not only uses the physical elements to create the overall feel throughout the film, but also instils a feeling of anticipation and tension in various ways. At the garage, at times, there is almost a lackadaisical air amongst Monsieur Oscar and his mechanics, which contrasts to the eroticism of Else Andersen in the charged atmosphere of the old house in which she lives and where Maigret questions her.
Maigret is played by Pierre Renoir, the elder brother of Jean, and he brings to the role many of the qualities of the policeman that Simenon created in these early novels. Moving around the few, but varied, individuals, none of who originate from the area, Maigret attempts to get to know them, gradually recognising the veneer and play-acting that he encounters. Under Renoir's direction the film becomes less of a murder mystery than his own idea of a group of people whose lives are changed by accident, association or design, similar to the nature of Simenon's mature work.
First released in April 1932, a year after the novel on which it was based was written, the film attracted criticism as some of the plot sequences were missing. At first this was put down to reels of film being lost, or to Jean Renoir being distracted by personal problems, but it was most likely a lack of finance. By knowing the content and plot of the novel, any viewer shouldn't be puzzled by any lack of continuity within the film.
It is certainly an interesting film to see if the opportunity comes along.
Maigret in French on CD?
3/29/04 I'm trying to buy a Maigret that's on CD and in French. The purpose is to help with my French language study. I didn't find any on amazon.ca. Do you have any ideas? I live in the Washington DC area.
Streets in Neuilly (Monsieur Lundi)
3/30/04 And the answer is... Number 47 (no b or bis) is not on the corner of anything. It does certainly exist on the blvd Général Koenig facing the Seine and it is a private house, but big enough to have several apartments. It is not a detached house that is separate from those on either side of it, but it also isn't a terraced or a row house that is identical to its neighbors. It does have a garden or yard in front of it as was mentioned in the story. The closest cross street is rue Victor Diax.
I also visited all other Neuilly locations in the Maigrets the same day. There are indeed two pastry shops on the Ave de Neuilly (now ave Charles de Gaulle) and not far from 47. One of them was closed and the other did not have any religieuses in sight. I got one anyway a little later on at the bakery at 63 rue Caulaincourt. You can also find the spot about 100 meters inside the Bois de Bolougne near the Porte de Bagatelle where a murder took place. The victim lived at number 7b, rue Richard Wallace. The real number 7 (no b) is actually one of Simenon's former addresses. Not too far away is 43b (no b in reality), rue de la Ferme. This is a very large building that also has an entrance on Blvd Gen. Koenig and is not the private house in a large garden described in M and the Burglar's Wife. Not found were the nearby bistro on the same street and the hardware store on the rue Longchamp.
Maigret in French on CD?
3/30/04 In answer to Jane Geltner's question, at this link, L'AMIE DE MADAME MAIGRET . Adaptation de Patrick Liegibel, réalisation de Christine Bernard-Sugy. Texte intégral interprété par Pierre Santini, Fanny Cottençon et 8 autres comédiens . Contient 3 CD audio. Durée d'écoute : 3 h 20 mn sous couv. ill., 140 x 125 mm. Collection Écoutez lire, Gallimard Jeunesse -rom.
There is the CD of "L'amie de Madame Maigret". Perhaps she can get the CD reference and order it. It does not seems to be available at fnac.com The distributor is SODIS, perhaps an email to firstname.lastname@example.org can give the name of a place in the States selling it.
Maigret on TV Arté
Thrusday 08 April, French/German channel Arté will broadcast "Maigret et l'affaire Saint-Fiacre" by Jean Delannoy
with Jean Gabin.
Lorsque Maigret en fait une affaire personnelle, le meurtrier n'a qu'à bien se tenir… Une excellente adaptation de Simenon, avec l'incontournable Jean Gabin, mais aussi Michel Auclair, Valentine Tessier, Robert Hirsch, Paul Frankeur…
Film de Jean Delannoy (France, 1959, 1h36mn) Scénario : Jean Delannoy, Rodolphe-Maurice Arlaud d'après L'affaire Saint-Fiacre de Georges Simenon Dialogues : Michel Audiard Avec : Jean Gabin (le commissaire Maigret), Valentine Tessier (la comtesse de Saint-Fiacre), Michel Auclair (son fils), Robert Hirsch (Lucien Sabatier), Paul Frankeur (le docteur Bouchardon), Michel Vitold (l'abbé Jodet), Camille Guérini (Gautier), Serge Rousseau (Émile Gautier), Micheline Luccioni (Arlette), Jacques Morel (maître Mauléon), Gabrielle Fontan (Marie Tatin) Image : Louis Page Son : Jacques Carrère Montage : Henri Taverna Musique : Jean Prodromides ARTE France
Le commissaire Maigret retourne au château de son enfance, à Saint-Fiacre, où son père fut régisseur. Une menace de mort plane sur la comtesse pour le lendemain, jour des Cendres. Et le lendemain pendant la messe, malgré la présence du commissaire, la comtesse meurt… d'une crise cardiaque ! C'est du moins ce qu'affirme le médecin. Mais le commissaire est convaincu qu'il s'agit d'un meurtre. Un fils au train de vie dispendieux, un secrétaire qui compte sur le testament pour s'installer en ville, un régisseur cupide, un banquier très bien informé… Parmi les nombreux suspects, un seul est coupable et Maigret est bien résolu à le démasquer.
Maigret of the Month: Le charretier de la Providence (Maigret meets a milord) - 1
Simenon wrote : "Le dimanche - c'était le 4 avril -, la pluie ...."
Today is the Day to read the Maigret of the Month : Sunday the 4th of April as in the novel. This is a Maigret of the Month that happens at the right time!
My first impression about the place is that it is similar to "La nuit du carrefour". It's remote from the town Dizy is at two kilometers and a small vilage, Epernay is three more kilometers away. There are three places that play a role in the novel: the house of the lock keeper "la maison de l'éclusier, en pierres grises, avec son écriteau: Bureau de Déclarations", the bar : "Café de la Marine, qui était la seule autre construction de l'endroit", the boats: "La Providence" and the "Southern Cross".
In "La nuit du carrefour", the place is also remote and with the garage and the two houses there are three places. But after those similarities, the novel are different, the tragedy is not the same.
Simenon visited the site in 1931. He wrote an article entitled "une France inconnue ou l'aventure des deux berges" for a special issue of the weekly newspaper "Vu", n°172, 1st July 1931. [published in "Simenon : Mes apprentissages, reportages 1931-1946", Omnibus]. He traveled on his boat la "Ginette". Simenon described the life of the canal and of the bargees and boats to his readers, explaining the vocabulary used on the canal.
He wrote about Dizy : "Dizy, c'est un tout petit village, à deux kilomètres d'Epernay. Mais c'est surtout l'endroit où les bateaux quittent la Marne, pour pénétrer dans le canal".
He writes about the "Trois bistros-épiceries" selling products; about the rain: "Dizy un dimanche soir d'avril sous une pluie désespérante" and even "une accorte Bruxelloise, la marinière du bateau qui est juste au-dessus de nous". There are already lots of the elements that will appear in "le charretier de la Providence"
Here is a good place to look at names used by ferrymen (batelier):
www.vnf.fr/vnf/lexique.vnf. This is the Lexicon part of the site of Voies navigables de France. You can find definition for "trémater" and other terms used by Simenon.
At www.peniche.com/33carte_parismarne.htm there is
a clear map of the canal with Dizy...
Forum Postings Delayed
4/07/04 I'll be out of town until the 19th... Forum postings will be delayed till then... Sorry...
Maigret of the Month: Le charretier de la Providence (Maigret meets a milord) - 2
More Maigret On BBC Radio
4/14/04 BBC Radio 4 is to broadcast four new Maigret radio plays on Monday afternoons at 14.15, starting with M. and the Burglar's Wife on the 19th of April and The Yellow Dog on the 26th. They will also be streamed via the BBC web site.
Maigret of the Month: Le charretier de la Providence (Maigret meets a milord) - 3
4/18/04 Thanks first of all to Jerome for pointing out the similarities in setting between this book and Maigret at the Crossroads, which I had not noticed before.
In The Mystery of Georges Simenon, Fenton Bresler writes:
The peculiarly self-sealed existence of those who live by, and on, the water Simenon was later to recreate especially in the nineteen-thirties with his normal stylistic realism in such novels as La Maison du Canal and Le Charretier de la Providence ("Maigret Meets a Milord"), where the Parisian detective sits in a local cafe soaking up the atmosphere and inhaling "a distinctive odour, the nature of which was enough to mark the difference between this and a country cafe. It smelled of stables, harnesses, tar and groceries, oil and gas". (Bresler, pp 63-64)
[This quote is from Maigret Meets a Milord but not as in Robert Baldick's Penguin translation the reference to "gas" suggests it is from an American translation.]
Simenon brought the Ostrogoth down to an anchorage at Morsang, on the River Orge near Corbeil, just south of Paris. And there, in the summer of 1930, he wrote, on the trot, three full-length novels: M. Gallet Décédé ("Maigret Stonewalled"), Le Pendu du Saint-Pholien ("Maigret and the Hundred Gibbets") and Le Charretier de la Providence ("Maigret Meets a Milord").
"At that time I worked morning and afternoon, a chapter in each," Simenon recalls. "I said to myself: 'When it comes quicker, I won't be able to work any longer except in the morning,' and the time came when I could only work in the morning." (Bresler, p74)
Maigret of the Month: Le charretier de la Providence (Maigret meets a milord) - 4
4/18/04 This Maigret novel is set completely along a certain stretch of a French canal from Épernay to Vitry-le-François (both in the Marne département). In reality this canal was constructed in 1845 to run parallel to the river Marne. This river meanders considerable, so that the canal, which runs straight for many stretches, is preferable for the barge traffic. Vitry-le-François provides a junction for two further canals, the Canal de la Marne à la Saône (the Canal from the Marne to the Saône) and the Canal de la Marne à la Rhin (the Canal from the Marne to the Rhine), forming part of the canal system that stretches not only through France, but also links Belgium, The Netherlands and Germany.
In two trips, Simenon explored much of this network of canals and rivers in his first boat, the "Ginette", in 1928 and then, between 1929 and 1931 in his larger craft the "Ostrogoth".
This Maigret novel was written at Le Four à Chaux, near Morsang-sur-Seine (Seine-et-Oise now Essonne), during the summer of 1930 on his second boat the "Ostrogoth", but the setting and atmosphere relates to his first trip in the "Ginette" in 1928.
Simenon seemed to have been fascinated by water throughout most of his life, setting some of his novels and short stories by, or on, canals, rivers, lakes and the sea. Maybe this fascination was instilled in him during his formative years in Liège, living close to the river Meuse and when the Simenon family lived in the district of Outremeuse they were living on an island formed by the Meuse and its counterpart, the Derivation de la Meuse.
One of the strengths of the novel is how well Simenon constructs the storyline into the setting of canal life made authentic from his personal experience.
In the spring of 1928, he bought the "Ginette", a boat measuring 13 feet in length by 5 feet wide, which he then fitted with a three horsepower engine. This was to carry him, his wife Tigy, their maid and cook Boule and their dog, a great Dane named Olaf, from mid-April to the end of September of 1928, through some of the rivers and canals of France. Their itinerary started in Paris and took in Épernay, Chaumont, Langes, Chalon-sur-Saône, Lyon, Marseille, Sète, Carcassonne, Toulouse, Bordeaux, Montluçon, Orléans, Montargis and then back to Paris.
During this trip, Simenon continued to write his novels and short stories under pseudonyms, so the boat had on board his typewriter and a stock of paper. Most of the other necessary equipment for this journey was towed behind in a canoe.
Later Simenon wrote several articles about this journey, commissioned by various magazines, and some of the details are used in Le Charretier de la "Providence".
Most of the photographs of canal life that illustrate these published articles were taken at a later date. In July and August 1931, Simenon, accompanied by the Czechoslovak photographer Hans Oplatka, went over the itinerary undertaken in 1928, but this time by car.
The canal in the novel from Dizy to Vitry-le-François runs for nearly 67 kilometres (about 42 miles) and has 15 locks along this stretch.
In one of his articles (in Une France inconnue ou L'Aventure entre deux berges - An unknown France or The Adventure between two banks - published in 1931 in the magazine "Vu"), Simenon writes:
'Dizy is a very small village, two kilometres from Épernay. But above all it is a place where the boats leave the Marne in order to enter the canal…
…But it is about Dizy that I wish to talk, of Dizy one April Sunday evening under appalling rain.'
At the beginning of the novel, Simenon mentions Dizy and then:
' That Sunday - it was the 4th of April - the rain had started pouring down at three o'clock in the afternoon…' and later…' The rain was falling more and more heavily…'
Again in the same article Simenon describes how in April 1928 he and his two companions in the "Ginette" were working like maniacs to reach the canal at Dizy in the same appalling rain which was making many items soaking wet including themselves. Eventually the owners of the barge just ahead of them invited them on board to shelter and dry off.
And in the article he continues:
'The rain still more abundant. As in order to dishearten us, a Decauville train goes past in a building yard and its driver takes shelter under an enormous umbrella…' - a detail he uses again in the novel:
'Everything was steaming in the rain. That was the dominant note… A hundred yards away, a little Decauville train travelled backwards and forwards across a building yard, and its driver, at the back of the miniature engine, had fixed up an umbrella under which he was standing shivering, with his shoulders hunched up.'
A few examples of the author using personal experiences, in various ways, that occurs in much of his work
(The quotes from the novel are taken from the English translation by Robert Baldick, Penguin Books, C2027, 1963).
In the book entitled "Cruising French Waterways" by Hugh McKnight (Great Britain, Adlard Coles Nautical, 1999, 3rd Edition), on page 67 is to be found: 'All the atmosphere of the pre-World War II horse boats in this location (Canal Latéral à la Marne) is admirably portrayed in Georges Simenon's 1931 novel Le Charretier de la "Providence", published in English as Maigret Meets a Milord.'
In the novel, Maigret finds himself, like Simenon, in the world of the daily working canal life among the people whose livelihood depend on the trade carried out along the network of waterways throughout France and beyond. This is in contrast with the pleasure craft, a yacht named "The Southern Cross", owned and skippered by Sir Walter Lampson (the "Milord" of the Penguin English title).
Simenon admirably portrays the differences between the two sets of lifestyles. There are those who work on the canals, the bargees, the lock keepers, café and store owners striving to keep to their daily schedules in order for the canal traffic to run as smoothly as possible, contrasted with the occasional pleasure craft with a different and more leisurely itinerary.
From the beginning, Maigret realises that few craft along the canal remain in one place for long, especially with fifteen locks to negotiate, so he resorts in following their progress by taking to the towpath on a borrowed bicycle.
Leaving much of the collection of information to Lucas, Maigret gradually discovers how tragically these two very different lifestyles are interwoven.
Maigret on BBC Radio 4
4/19/04 My apologies if this is a repeat of information already known.
An adaptation of "The Burglar's Wife" will be broadcast on BBC Radio 4 this afternoon at 14.15 - www.bbc.co.uk/radio4. There is a "listen again" facility for those who cannot listen live.
The CD of the Maigret music by Laurent Petitgirard has been released and is available.
I bought a copy this evening.
Simenon and pipes
4/21/04 I am very impressed by your site. I am an avid fan of Maigret and have been reading the novels in chronological order in French. (Starting with Vol. 16 in the Tout Simenon paperback Omnibus edition Who, by the way, can explain the rationale behind putting Simenon's first novels at Volume 16 and onwards, finishing at volume 15?)
I am interested in the kind of pipes, pipe tobacco, Simenon smoked in his lifetime. Would you know where I might find articles discussing this aspect of Simenon's life? I saw little tidbits in the Paris-Match articles posted on your site, but I am looking for more detailed information (interviews, pictures, brand of tobaccos and pipes) if available.
Thank you for you time.
Repeated Plot Elements
4/21/04 (Reply to Muir Smith's 4/9/04 comments). I agree that Simenon did re-use a number of plot elements over time in the different Maigrets. In two or three cases there is the situation of an unemployed person living normally but having more-or-less secret means (Man of the Bench and I think Poor Types Don't Get Killed), Another case is at least two stories where a woman complains of people breaking into her house/apartment and moving various objects but not taking anything. I suppose we could put our heads together and see what we came up with. I've already pointed out that certain streets, locations, and names were often recycled over a number of stories (rue Caulaincourt, rue Lepic, rue Fontaine, rue de Douai... M. Charles, the Grasshopper, Dieudonne...) and I'm continuing to work on the locations with the aim of visiting and photographing every given location of all the Maigrets that played in Greater Paris. I only have about 320 more places to find, enough to keep me busy for some time into the future.