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Maigret's Colors

by Murielle Wenger

original French

black     white     gray     red     yellow     blue     green     brown     pink     violet     orange     mixed    

"The streets and avenues of Paris were a veritable fireworks in the July heat and everywhere were splashes of light – they gushed from slate roofs and pink tiles, from the reds of geraniums in glass windows – they streamed from multi-colored car bodies, of blue, green, and yellow..." (La patience de Maigret) [PAT]

1. Introduction

Simenon remarked more than once how much he loved painters, particularly the impressionists, who made their colors sing, and who no doubt influenced his own literary work. In his own way, Simenon also knew how to use color... to depict an atmosphere, a landscape, or a character.

In this study I'd like to examine the use of color terms in the Maigrets, to see how the author uses them, which are used most often, for which descriptions they are reserved, how they contribute to the rendering of an atmosphere, to set a scene, and to highlight feelings and impressions.

We recognize, following Michel Pastoureau ([Dictionary of the colors of our times], Bonneton, 1999), that color is a symbolic and cultural notion, and thus linked to a given society. Historically, color in Western culture is organized primarily in a ternary mode, dating back to prehistoric times and built on the three colors, white, black and red. From the Middle Ages, and up to our time, the symbolic system of Western culture revolves around six colors: white, black, red, blue, green and yellow. These six basic colors are unique in that they do not have referents in nature, contrary to what Pastoureau calls the "half-colors", such as rose (pink), violet, or orange, terms derived by reference to an object.

For this inventory I've made of the corpus, I've considered the basic terms used (in French) to designate the colors, the adjectives "white", "black", "red", "green", "yellow", and "blue" for the six basic colors, and the other adjectives designating a color, "violet", "orange", "brown", "gray", and "pink". These eleven terms represent our range of color symbolism, also called the "color field". Note also that our vocabulary includes other terms for the different colors, corresponding to nuances within each of the eleven chromatic fields. However, as Pastoureau writes, "Absolute synonymy, as we know, does not exist. This is perhaps truer for the vocabulary of colors than for any other field in the lexicon. A word like red can't be replaced by a synonym. ... Words like garnet, carmine, vermilion, can only designate certain shades of red — they are not interchangeable with it, and even less so among themselves." And so we will also examine whether Simenon, in his texts, utilizes these shades of color, and if so, what is their frequency with regard to the use of the basic terms, and for what semantic purposes they are employed.

2. Quantitative aspect of the use of colors in the Maigrets

A first rough analysis of the corpus shows that Simenon favored, in his use of color terms, the basic system of six colors as described above, to which must be added gray. The terms "white", "black" and "red" are those which recur most often from his pen, echoing the original Western color system. (We recall, after Pastoureau, how these three colors are preferred, for example, in the tradition of storytelling. Thus, he cites Snow White, with hair black as ebony, lips red as blood, and skin as white as snow. And the fable of the fox and the crow, where the black bird drops a piece of white cheese into the mouth of the red fox.)

Simenon then uses almost equally yellow (the latter, as we shall see, often appearing as the shade "blond"), blue and gray, which take on more importance with the author than in basic system. Brown is more often used than green, clearly not a preferred part of the author's color system. We find next pink, after which occurrences of purple are rarer, and finally orange even rarer still.

We also note that if we do an analysis based on the three "periods" of the corpus, we find that the three colors of the original system (white, black, and red) remain the most frequent, regardless of the period. But for the Fayard period, the next most used color is gray, followed by yellow and blue, while in the Gallimard, green, yellow and blue are ahead of gray (Simenon's desire to "put some color" into a historically difficult time?). For the Presses de la Cité period, yellow and blue surpass gray, followed by brown and then green. And so we note a "decline" of gray as we move through the corpus, in favor of more vivid colors, and we might dare to suggest that this corresponds to a certain lightness of the atmosphere in the novels of the last two periods, in contrast to the "darker" atmosphere of the Fayard texts. This is rather parallel to what we noted with regard to the meteorological descriptions in the corpus, where we saw that Simenon tends more and more to put his character on stage during the summer, and less and less under the autumn mists. We note that this increased lightness of the atmosphere corresponds at the same time to a greater psychological depth in the plots, which tend to approach, in essence, that of the "hard novels".

3. Semantic analysis of the use of colors in the Maigrets

In the remainder of this study, we will consider each color according to its appearance in the Maigret corpus, examining the use of the term – the concept described by the color, the objects or concepts to which is it applied, and the author's purpose in assigning it.

In general, we can say that in the Maigret corpus, the use of a color term serves to describe concepts in three semantic fields:

  1. description of a character, by his clothing and physical appearance (skin, hair, eyes, mustache and hair in general).

  2. description of an object.

  3. description of a landscape or scene to provide an "ambiance" for the scenes described.

3.1. Black

We can summarize the symbolic field of black as encompassing three domains. For one, everything evoking "negative" ideas (death, mourning, dirtiness, sadness, etc.). Second, in contrast, a domain of "positive" concepts (luxury, elegance). And between the two, a domain more or less "neutral", with notions of austerity and authority.

In the corpus, the use of the term "black", while associated with the description of the three semantic fields noted above, will also show certain aspects of the symbolic field of that color. This remark is equally valid for each of the colors studied, so it will not be repeated in the following text.

  1. We note first that for the black of eyes, hair (including beard, mustache, hair in general), this color attribute is less frequently used than others (as white, gray, brown or red) to describe this physical aspect.

    If, in the Fayard period, black hair serves primarily to connote in characters their "foreignness" (for example, Anna Gorskine, with "black hair, greasy, unkempt, falling in thick strands on her neck" (Pietr le Letton) [LET], Gloria Negretti with her "shiny black hair" (Le charretier de la Providence) [PRO], or Ephraïm Graphopoulos in La danseuse du Gai-Moulin) [GAI], in the two following periods, the scope broadens. There are still the foreign characters with their black hair, like Maria, with her "long, silky black hair" (Maigret et son mort) [MOR], Dr. Bloch, with his "black, oily hair" (Maigret au Picratt's) [PIC], Pozzo, with "very black hair pulled back over the top of his head" (Maigret, Lognon et les gangsters) [LOG], Louise Sabati in Maigret a peur [PEU], or Fouad Ouéni, with his "thick black hair, black as ink" (Maigret et l'affaire Nahour) [LOG]. But we also find a gallery of characters who aren't foreigners, to whom are assigned black hair. For example, Jeanne, with "greasy black hair which hung down on both sides of his face" (Maigret se fâche) [FAC], M. Liotard in L'amie de Madame Maigret [MME], Désirée Brault in Maigret se trompe [TRO], Mme Fumal, with "hair black as ink" (Un échec de Maigret) [ECH], Mme Planchon in Maigret et le client du samedi [CLI], Mirella Jonker in Maigret et le fantôme [FAN], Aline Bauche in Maigret se défend [DEF] and La patience de Maigret [PAT]. From a symbolic point of view, this attribute of black hair gives these characters a "negative" aspect, as described above. The "black of evil" for Ouéni, M. Liotard and Mme Planchon, or the "black of sadness" for Louise Sabati or Mme Fumal.

    Black can also be the color of body hair or mustache. The expression "black of hair" occurs often in the text, describing a type of character with well-defined origins... Auvergnat or southern, often also with a black mustache.

    Black is also used for eyes. The "intense black eyes, of an extraordinary life" of Bernadette Amorelle (Maigret se fâche) [FAC], the "little black eyes" of Lucile de Courçon (Maigret a peur) [PEU] or Mlle Poré (Maigret et la jeune morte) [JEU], the "large black eyes" of Carlotta (Maigret se défend) [DEF], or the "beautiful black eyes" of the cashier at the Sardine (Maigret et l'indicateur) [IND].

    Finally, the term "dark or swarthy" is often used to describe a female character, generally reserved for "maids". "Julie, the smallest and darkest of the two maids" (Les vacances de Maigret) [VAC]; Irma, the "swarthy girl" who helps the cook Rosalie Moncoeur in Maigret au Picratt's [PIC]; Jojo, the "dark little maid" at l'Arche in Mon ami Maigret [AMI]; Lucile, "a swarthy little one" who works at the Hôtel de Bretagne in Maigret, Lognon et les gangsters [LOG].

  2. The adjective "black" is also used very often to describe a character's clothing. Don't forget that in the period of the writing of the Maigrets, black was the main color for clothing, particularly for men's suits, which were sober and discreet. The "the durable black suit jacket" of Emile Gallet (M. Gallet, décédé) [GAL], the "trimmed black jackets" of the director of the Majestic and the assistant director of the Crédit Lyonnais (Les caves du Majestic) [MAJ], the "black wool jacket" of the director of the George-V (Maigret voyage) [VOY]. It's also the color of the dresses worn by the female characters when the author wants to emphasize their austeriy. Any's black dress in Chez les Flamands [FLA], Cécile's "black dresses which she had cut herself from poor patterns" (Cécile est morte) [CEC], Jenny's "little black wool dress" (Les scrupules de Maigret) [SCR], or in contrast, the "simple black dress, relieved only by a narrow white lace collar" of Mlle Blanche in Maigret chez le ministre [MIN]; and Mme Chabut, " who wore a very simple black dress, but beautifully cut" (in Maigret et le marchand de vin) [VIN]. It's often the dress worn by housekeepers... "She wore a black dress which has lost its shape" (Mme Martin in La patience de Maigret) [PAT]. It's also the ordinary black dress worn every day, or the nicest black dress worn on certain occasions, like going to Mass. "It was as if old Jaquette had dressed for a high Mass. She wore a black silk dress, a black dickey around her neck, a black hat trimmed with white silk, and immaculate gloves." (Maigret et les vieillards) [VIE].

    Black, in the domain symbolic of death, also evokes the clothing of mourning, worn on the occasion of funerals, frequently occurring in the corpus: "The black dress she was wearing could be for nothing but funerals!" about old Mathilde, in L'ombre chinoise [OMB]. It's also the choirboy's robe worn for the same occasion.

    Further, linked with white, it's the costume of characters of domesticity...chambermaids and other servants, waitresses with white aprons over their black dresses. ("A little hotel maid, whom you wouldn't normally have noticed, with her black dress, black stockings, and her white apron", about Thérèse in La maison du juge) [JUG]. It's also the black livery of the chauffeurs of the grand houses, maître d's and butlers, the black blouses of employees, the black suits of casino and restaurant staff.

    The black of clothing can also evoke the symbolic domain of elegance. It's the black silk of women's dresses, or the ceremonial dress of the men. It's the "black satin coat lined with white fur" and an "ample cloak of black satin lined with white silk" worn by Adèle in La danseuse du Gai-Moulin [GAI]. It's also a black dress which gives Else her fantastic appearance. "Was her dress black velvet? It was darker than all the rest, making a dark, sumptuous patch." (La nuit du carrefour) [NUI]. Black as a device of seduction... found in the black sheath dresses of the hostesses... "You saw there a dress of black silk ... an evening gown particularly clinging"; "he saw a photo of Arlette, in the inevitable black dress which clung so tightly to her body that she was more naked than the obscene photos he had in his pocket." (Maigret au Picratt's) [PIC].

    Let us further consider Maigret's famous overcoat, an essential attribute of the character, particularly in the Fayard period. It's his "official" aspect, corresponding to the symbolic domain of authority (the policeman's uniform). This same symbolic domain is evoked by the black robes of the lawyers. "the vast corridors where lawyers bustling in their black robes seemed to flap their wings." (Maigret et le client du samedi) [CLI].

    The color of the mundane of the lowly, of the elegance of the worldly, of austerity or luxury, black imposes its ambivalence on the world of Maigret...

  3. Throughout the texts, many objects receive the qualifier "black", in descriptions of a place, a house or a landscape, contributing, with white and gray, to render a nostalgic atmosphere of a vanished world, like an old black and white film...

    The very first mention of a color term in the corpus is that of black, describing an object, the "big black pipe" which connects to the ceiling a stove, standing in the middle of Maigret's office. In the same office we also find the black marble fireplace, and the clock, mentioned in numerous novels.

    We find, among the black objects, elements related to the maritime world, "five black trawlers ... lined up along the quay" at Fécamp (Pietr le Letton) [LET], a "red and black buoy" at Concarneau (Le chien jaune) [JAU], "a large black and white boat" at Delfzijl (Un crime en Hollande) [HOL], the "black hull" of the ship Océan and a "black ship which hovered imperceptibly on the horizon" at Fécamp again (Au rendez-vous des Terre-neuvas) [REN], some "barges on the Rhine, a thousand tons of black steel" at Givet (Chez les Flamands) [FLA], the "black mass of an enormous steamer" at Ouistreham (Le port des brumes) [POR], "the black deck" of a tugboat at Paris (Signé Picpus) [SIG]; Mrs. Wilcox's "black yacht" (Mon ami Maigret) [AMI], Jef Van Houtte's barge, "the Black Swan, black and white in the sun", (Maigret et le clochard) [CLO], "a black and red tugboat" at Paris (Maigret et l'homme tout seul) [SEU].

    We will also encounter, in the texts of the Presses de la Cité period, numerous black cars... "a black limousine, with large copper headlamps" at the Gendreaus' (La première enquête de Maigret) [PRE], Inspector Castaing's "little black Simca" (Maigret et la vieille dame) [DAM], "a long black car" at V's hotel (Maigret et les vieillards) [VIE], a "large black English car" at the Wiltons' (Maigret et le voleur paresseux) [PAR], a "black Citroën" belonging to François Paré (L'ami d'enfance de Maigret) [ENF], the "black Citroën DS" Sabin-Levesque's body was carried in (Maigret et Monsieur Charles) [CHA] and above all, the "little black car" used by the police, mentioned in many novels.

    Finally, in addition to many black frames framing portraits and photographs on the walls, as well as blackboards, we note Maigret's little black notebook, mentioned in many novels.

  4. We also find in the corpus, the term "black" applied to elements of décor. With regard to houses, we find again the opposition between the black of austerity, with numerous desks and lecterns of black wood in the offices and studies of lawyers, "a Voltaire armchair covered with leather so dark it seemed black" at the Martins' (L'ombre chinoise) [OMB], and the black of luxury, the black gates in front of the houses of the rich... that of Dr. Barion in Monsieur Lundi [lun], Groult-Cotelle's in L'inspecteur cadavre [CAD], that of Serre in Maigret et la Grande Perche [GRA]. And also the "slabs of black and white marble" at Malik's (Maigret se fâche) [FAC], a "corridor paved in black and white" at the Serres' (Maigret et la Grande Perche) [GRA], a "black marble basin" at the Jonkers' (Maigret et le fantôme) [FAN]. Finally we note the bed "of ebony, covered with black velvet" in Else's room, recalling the black velvet of her dress (La nuit du carrefour) [FAN]. The black of décor can also evoke the theme of mourning, with the black curtains draping the doors and mortuary rooms of the houses and churches for funerals (numerous examples in the corpus).

    When the term "black" is applied to a landscape, the physical aspect of things takes on at the same time, a symbolic color. Black then evokes sadness, solitude, danger, fear, night... For example, in Pietr le Letton [LET], when Maigret is following Pietr in the port of Fécamp, he sees "before him the deserted pier, a long black line in the shade". In Le charretier de la Providence [PRO], the landscape is drowned in rain, making things gloomy... "Maigret had the impression that the rain was increasing, that the sky was the blackest and lowest he had ever seen". Similarly in Le chien jaune [JAU], "It was raining. The streets were filled with black mud.". In Au rendez-vous des Terre-Neuvas [REN], Maigret goes aboard the Océan to mull over his investigation... "The empty dock was just a great black rectangle", and further, "the sea, a great black hole exhaling a powerful odor". In Le port des brumes [POR], Maigret is walking in Ouistreham... "Everything was black. Everything was closed.", and further,"the fog liquefied, making the paving stones black and shiny", and when Maigret, bound to the pavement, watches the Saint-Michel leave, "a black mass in the blackness". In L'affaire du boulevard Beaumarchais [bea], while Maigret interrogates the suspect, "drops of rain were rolling down the black glass". Similarly, in Le témoignage de l'enfant de chœur [cho], "Before him, drops of water slid slowly down the black panes of glass". In L'inspecteur cadavre [CAD], it's the slates of a church" that the rain had turned black and shiny". In Les vacances de Maigret [VAC], the Chief Inspector goes to Mme Popineau's, "he walked in the blackness, dotted with gas lamps". In Maigret et l'homme du banc [BAN], "It had rained all day Sunday, a cold, fine rain, the roofs and pavements were a shiny black", and further, "The silhouettes of the passers-by were black in the black of the streets". In Les scrupules de Maigret [SCR], "an icy rain blackened the pavements". In Une confidence de Maigret [CON], once more the rain, "The drops ... drew large black circles on the dusty pavement where they crashed one by one."

    Thus, black, in the landscape, is an integral part of the famous "Simenon atmosphere", bathed in the rain and the night...

  5. Finally, we note that Simenon sometimes uses, instead of the word "black", the term "blackish", which lends a slightly different connotation to the concept evoked. (We'll note further on that he also uses this suffix "-ish" for other adjectives of color, to change the meaning somewhat.) The word "blackish", in its first sense, signifies "tending towards black, not quite black", but for Simenon, his use has also a symbolic sense, for it is often used with a negative connotation, evoking misfortune, poverty, sadness. For example, in Pietr le Letton [LET], when Maigret discovers the body of Pietr in the train, the wound makes a "large blackish stain". In the same novel, about Mortimer's corpse, "It was just a large red and blackish wound". In Le charretier de la Providence [PRO], when Maigret has Jean remove his boots, under which "the strips of waxy cloth were blackish". In L'amie de Madame Maigret [MME], when the Chief Inspector returns home and finds his dinner burnt, "the chicken, carrot, and onion were only a blackish crust". In Maigret au Picratt's [PIC], the snow changed to rain and "the streets were covered with a thin layer of blackish and slippery mud".

3.2. White

The symbolic field of white can be summarized in three domains. For one, everything related to purity and innocence, but also, by derivation, to hygiene and cleanliness, as well as cold. Secondly, relating to wisdom and old age (white hair). And lastly, white as the absence of color, in contrast to black.

  1. In the texts, the white color of skin has two connotations. It can be positive, a whiteness "aristocratic" and distinguished... For example, in Pietr le Letton [LET], when Maigret sees Pietr in conversation with the Mortimer-Levingstons at the Majestic, "He smiled thinly his white fingers plucked sumptuous grapes". In Le pendu de Saint-Pholien [PHO], Belloir's "white, well-groomed hands". Decharme's "attractive hands, long and white" in L'écluse no 1 [ECL]. In Maigret à New York [NEW], Maura's hand, "slender, and astonishingly white". The negative connotation is that of a paleness due to illness, emotion, or a "low" social background. For example, the "sickly white" of Henry Gallet's skin (M. Gallet décédé) [GAL], Heurtin's "matte white face" (La tête d'un homme) [TET], Jaja's "too white and too fat flesh" (Liberty Bar) [LIB], Jean Ducrau's "too white chest" (L'écluse no 1) [ECL], the "bloated flesh of an ugly white" of the Countess in Maigret au Picratt's [PIC]. Serre's "unhealthy white flesh" in Maigret et la Grande Perche [GRA]; Mme Fumal's "pale white breast" in Un échec de Maigret [ECH]; the "very white flesh, of an unhealthy white" of Mme Blanc, the concierge in L'ami d'enfance de Maigret [ENF].

    The white of the skin is also a glimpse of the body, the temptation of the flesh... For example, in Le charretier de la Providence [PRO], Gloria's stockings which, sliding down her legs, revealed "a fleshy knee, very white"; Adèle's "white flesh" in La danseuse du Gai-Moulin [GAI], Fernande's "long white legs" in Maigret [MAI], Berthe's "round white throat" in Cécile est morte [CEC]; Jenny's "bare white thighs" in Les scrupules de Maigret [SCR].

    Certain characters are given white hair and/or a white beard and mustache. Clearly, in this case, it is to emphasize the age of the character in question. White hair is often reserved for characters of some distinction, or even a certain social status (as opposed to gray, as we will see further along), and the word "white" is then accompanied by another qualifier which specifies the shade. For example, in Le chien jaune [JAU], the mayor of Concarneau, who "looked more elegant than ever, with his white hair"; in Chez les Flamands [FLA], Mme Peeters, whose "surprisingly white hair gave her an air of nobility", and Dr. Van de Weert, "with hair the same pure white as Mme Peeters"; in Le notaire de Châteauneuf [not], the Commodore, his "head crowned with pure white hair"; in Maigret et la vieille dame [DAM], Valentine's "pure white hair"; in Les mémoires de Maigret [MEM], Xavier Guichard's "long white hair of a poet"; Hubert Vernoux's "silky white hair" in Maigret a peur [PEU] and that of the Count de Saint-Hilaire in Maigret et les vieillards [VIE]; the "fine silky white hair" of Manuel Palmari in Maigret se défend [DEF]; Philippe Lherbier's "thick, pure white hair" in Maigret et le tueur [TUE].

  2. The adjective "white" can also describe a character's clothing. It's often a man's shirt, worn, customarily at the time of writing of the novels, under a suit jacket. It's also the white of the dickey worn with ceremonial dress. And we find white blouses worn by women, under a suit, and this white blouse becomes something sensual under Simenon's pen... Her bust was more enticing than ever in the white silk blouse" (Beetje in Un crime en Hollande) [HOL], "A white silk blouse made her small trembling breasts truly desirable" (Sylvie in Liberty Bar) [LIB]. But white could also be that of innocence, with the "white nightgown" as worn by Julie (Le port des brumes) [POR], by the Countess (L'affaire Saint-Fiacre) [FIA] and by Aline (L'écluse no 1) [ECL].

    And it's equally the white chefs' hats, the white bonnets of maids and old women in the countryside, and, as we have seen above, the white aprons of chambermaids and waitresses. And it's also the white blouses of doctors and nurses, of painters and masons come for an apéritif at the bar, and that of the men of Forensics; the white jackets of valets and barmen, the white gloves of butlers, and the headdresses of nuns.

    It could be the white slacks or the white dress worn by men or women during their leisure time activities, or on holiday at the Mediterranean coast. They're the pants worn by Sir Lampson in Le charretier de la Providence [FIA]; the "white flannel slacks" worn by Marcel Basso in La guinguette à deux sous [GUI], by Ernest Malik in Maigret se fâche [FAC], by Philippe de Moricourt in Mon ami Maigret [AMI] ... and by Maigret himself in L'improbable M. Owen ! [owe]

    And they're the ladies' linen gloves, the white hat worn by Gloria in L'amie de Madame Maigret [MME], and Mirella Jonker's white ensemble in Maigret et le fantôme [FAN].

  3. Among the white objects, we find in the corpus the means of transportation, especially watercraft, whose whiteness stands out against the blue of the waves... The white yacht of Sir Lampson (Le charretier de la Providence) [PRO] and that of Giovanni (La folle de Maigret) [FOL], an "enormous white steamer" (Liberty Bar) [LIB]; a "white yacht on the horizon" (L'improbable M. Owen) [owe], an "enormous white yacht" and the Cormorant, a "little white boat" (Mon ami Maigret) [AMI], and the numerous boats with white sails.

    White is also the color of bed sheets, tablecloths, the marble tables of bistros and shop counters, and the white napkins carried over the arms of restaurant waiters.

  4. The color white serves also to describe elements of décor. It's the white of the walls of houses and hospitals, of villas at the seaside. White can have the connotation "rustic"... These are the whitewashed walls of houses in the country, the white of Mme Retailleau's enamel stove (L'inspecteur cadavre) [CAD], Léontine Page's white porcelain stove (Maigret a peur) [PEU] and the white enamel one of Mme Cuendet (Maigret et le voleur paresseux) [PAR]. But white can also denote luxurey... the white gravel driveways of villas (that of the Swaans in Pietr le Letton [LET], of the Rivauds in Le fou de Bergerac [BER], of the Notaire de Châteauneuf) [not]; the white tiles of Forlacroix's library (La maison du juge) [JUG]; the white marble fireplace at Malik's (Maigret se fâche) [FAC] and the Sabin-Levesques (Maigret et Monsieur Charles) [CHA], the entrance hall of the Roussels (Maigret et le clochard) [CLO], the stairways of the office of the Prefect (Maigret se défend) [DEF], the floor of the Parendons' apartment (Maigret hésite) [HES].

    And white is also found in the landscape... the white foam of the waves on the sea, the sky at dawn, dusk, or when it's overcast, the clouds in fair weather, and the snow.

  5. Fairly often the author uses an adjective other than "white" for this shade, to suggest a nuance, both semantic and symbolic.

    • "ivory" is often used for the color of skin... that of Mortimer in Pietr le Letton [LET], of Jean in Le charretier de la Providence [PRO], of old Joseph the usher at the PJ in Maigret se défend [DEF], and of Mme de Caramé in La folle de Maigret. [FOL].

    • "cream" describes an object "of white color, lightly tinted with yellow", according to the dictionary. For Simenon, it is primarily reserved for fabric, that of clothing (Mary's dress in Le charretier de la Providence [PRO], Countess Pavarini's silk dressing gown in Maigret voyage [VOY], and Giovanni's silk suit in La folle de Maigret) [FOL]. And for curtains (for example the cream curtain through which Maigret sees the silhouette of Mme Martin in L'ombre chinoise) [OMB], or that of Valentine's room hung with silk in Maigret et la vieille dame [DAM].

    • "milky" is a term often encountered... it may qualify an element of décor, especially the sky or fog, but also skin (for example, the "milky face" of Karl Andersen in La nuit du carrefour [NUI], the "milky shoulders" of Mme Beausoleil in Le fou de Bergerac [BER], or "the milky body" of Arlette's replacement in Maigret au Picratt's) [PIC], and further, for objects seen in the dark, at night, or in the fog ("The Southern Cross, painted white, made a milky blot in the rain" in Le charretier de la Providence) [PRO].

    • "ecru" is a term reserved for canvas shades and awnings, and "whitish" is mainly applied to objects in a night scene, with reduced brightness.

    • "pallid", "pale" and "wan" cover about the same general semantic field... they designate the shade of faces of characters influenced by emotion, or sickly, but also the color of the faces of various kinds of clocks.

    • "opaline" or "opal-colored" is the term reserved for the description of an absinthe-based apéritif, or anise.

    • Finally, the term "white" can be accompanied by another qualifier, which specifies the shade. For example, the walls of houses could be "creamy white", or of a "raw white"... "the village was a raw white in the light of the storm"(M. Gallet, décédé) [GAL]; "the moon had risen, and the judge's house appeared in the night, all white, a raw white, livid, unreal"(La maison du juge) [JUG].

3.3. Gray

The symbolic field of gray can be summarized in two domains. One covers fairly negative concepts... sadness, decay, etc. The other, "positive" concepts, such as wisdom (old age, with gray hair), knowledge ("gray matter"), and the term "silver", which carries the idea of brilliance and the sacred. Note the ambiguity of the term "silver", halfway between gray and white (in heraldry, the color white is translated by the word "silver").

  1. In the texts, gray eyes often receive an additional qualifier which specifies the shade, and takes on a symbolic value. Thus, Pietr le Letton's eyes of a "greenish gray" [LET], which emphasize his "foreign" nature, but also the "elusive" quality of the character. The "dull gray" eyes of Le Clinche, overcome by misfortune, in Au rendez-vous des Terre-Neuvas [REN]. The "strange, icy gray pupils" of Mme Martin (L'ombre chinoise) [OMB], manifesting her madness. Ernest Malik's eyes "of an unappealing gray" in Maigret se fâche [FAC], making clear what Maigret thinks of him. François Keller's eyes "of a faded gray, which had seen much, and looked worn" in Maigret et le clochard [CLO], and the "pale gray, very soft and sparkling" eyes of Léontine (La folle de Maigret) [FOL].

    "Gray hair" serves to characterize the age of a character. This could be the simple mention of these two words, sometimes accompanied by the terms "thin", "sparse", or the opposite, "abundant" to better sketch out the silhouette of the person.But the additional qualifier can also carry a symbolic nuance, such as the "iron gray hair" of Ernest Malik (Maigret se fâche) [FAC], emphasizing his moral toughness.

    Hair is sometimes "silver", a term reserved for characters whose distinction the author wants to emphasize. Silver hair is the privilege of M. de Saint-Marc (L'ombre chinoise) [OMB], of M. Canonge (Maigret et le corps sans tête) [COR], of John T. Arnold (Maigret voyage) [VOY], Stuart Wilton (Maigret et le voleur paresseux) [PAR], Pélardeau (Maigret à Vichy) [VIC], Major Bellam (Mon ami Maigret) [AMI], and of Vivien (Maigret et l'homme tout seul) [SEU]. We find, in the same sense, the silver mustache of Le Pommeret (Le chien jaune) [JAU], of M. Delfosse (La danseuse du Gai-Moulin) [GAI], and Vernoux de Courçon (Maigret a peur) [PEU]. We note that the term "silver", from Simenon's pen, retains the ambiguity mentioned above, and while we imagine that the "silver" hair and mustaches are between white and gray, the degree of brilliance of these attributes is left up to the reader.

    Other characters, less "distinguished", must content themselves with mustaches, beards, eyebrows or hair, that is merely "gray", such as Piedboeuf (Chez les Flamands) [JAU], Gautier (L'affaire Saint-Fiacre) [FIA], Dandurand (Cécile est morte) [CEC], and Duhourceau (Le fou de Bergerac) [FOU]. As for Cageot (Maigret) [MAI], he alone is bedecked with eyebrows "of a moldy gray".

  2. Gray is also the color of clothing, and it can be a dull and dreary gray that makes the character merge into his environment. It's the all-purpose gray, the gray of the lowly and poorly-paid, the colorless gray, the "dark gray" of Emile Gallet's jacket (M. Gallet, décédé) [GAL], Cageot's suit (Maigret) [MAI], Fouad Ouéni's tie (Maigret et l'affaire Nahour) [NAH], the "indefinable gray" of Louis Jeunet's hat (Le pendu de Saint-Pholien) [PHO], the "neutral gray" of Joseph Peeters's suit (Chez les Flamands) [FLA], the "mouse gray" of Lognon's suits (Maigret et la jeune morte) [JEU], the "almost black gray" of Marton's suit (Les scrupules de Maigret) [SCR], the "dark gray, almost black" of Lecureur's (Maigret et Monsieur Charles) [CHA]. But it can also be the gray of elegance, of wealth, of the upper social classes... It's the "light gray" of the surgeon's hat in La nuit du carrefour [NUI], Eugène's suit (Maigret) [MAI], Arnold's (Maigret voyage) [VOY], M. Gaillard's (La colère de Maigret) [COL] and that of Carus (Le voleur de Maigret) [VOL], Lherbier's top-hat (Maigret et le tueur) [TUE], the "very light gray" of the clothing of gangsters (Nicolas's suit in La pipe de Maigret [pip], the Sicilian's hat in Maigret à New York [NEW]), the "pearl gray" of Boutigues's suit in Liberty Bar [LIB], that of Le Bret in La première enquête de Maigret [PRE], the hat of the Amoureux de Madame Maigret [amo], that of Dr Bellamy in Les vacances de Maigret [VAC], the hat of the doctor from Public Records in Maigret et le voleur paresseux [PAR], the hat in the milliner's shop window in L'amie de Madame Maigret [MME], Cinaglia's hat and Baron's bowler in Maigret, Lognon et les gangsters [LOG], and the hat bought by Thouret in Maigret et l'homme du banc [BAN]. Finally, gray is also the color of work shirts, those of the men of the labs at the PJ, hardware stores, and department store employees.

  3. Gray objects are not very numerous in the corpus, but those which are mentioned often serve, by their color, to accent the gray atmosphere of the plot. Thus, the "ugly gray cotton" blanket in Anna Gorskine's cell in Pietr le Letton [LET], the "ugly barracks gray" blankets in the Czech gang's room in Maigret et son mort [MOR], the "rough gray blanket" in Florentin's workshop in L'ami d'enfance de Maigret [ENF], the gray paper wrapping the typewriter, the blackmail tool of Henry Gallet (M. Gallet, décédé) [GAL], or that of the package of banknotes, also connected to blackmail, this time by Louis Jeunet (Le pendu de Saint-Pholien) [PHO], and again the gray paper of the envelope containing the Calame report in Maigret chez le ministre [MIN].

    On the other hand, we also find in the text some gray cars, a "large gray roadster" which takes the vacationers to the beach in Liberty Bar [LIB], Dédé's gray Dion-Bouton in La première enquête de Maigret [PRE], and the Javes' gray Pontiac in Maigret s'amuse [AMU].

  4. Among the gray elements of the scene, we particularly find gray stone houses, essentially the properties of wealthy provincials, like Le Pommeret's villa in Le chien jaune [JAU], Chabot's house in Maigret a peur [PEU], that of Dr. Bresselles in Maigret à l'école [ECO], Deligeard's "huge gray house" in La vieille dame de Bayeux [bay], Bréjon's "large house of gray stones" in L'inspecteur cadavre [CAD]. We also find gray on the inside of buildings... The gray-tiled corridor of the town hall at Sancerre (M. Gallet, décédé) [GAL] and Naud's house (L'inspecteur cadavre) [CAD], the gray floor of the Hôtel de l'Amiral at Concarneau (Le chien jaune) [JAU], the gray walls of the Caves du Majestic [MAJ], the gray tiles and woodwork of the town hall at Saint-André (Maigret à l'école) [ECO]. We also find houses "of a soot gray" at Liège (Le pendu de Saint-Pholien) [PHO], "walls of smoky gray" at Mme Leroy's (La pipe de Maigret) [pip], the "dull grery" of Annette's kitchen (Une confidence de Maigret) [CON], and the "dark gray" stones of Mélan's building (Maigret se défend) [DEF], while the Wilton's mansion is built of "a very soft light gray" stone (Maigret et le voleur paresseux) [PAR]. We encounter "pale gray" on the walls of Lina's hotel room (Maigret et l'affaire Nahour) [NAH], on the furniture in Mme Parendon's boudoir (Maigret hésite) [HES], in Mme Mahossier's room (Maigret et l'homme tout seul) [SEU], and "pearl gray" in Olga's waiting room (Les vacances de Maigret) [VAC], in Maigret's hotel room in London (Le revolver de Maigret) [REV], and in Line Marcia's room (Maigret et l'indicateur) [IND].

    Gray is also found often in the landscape... It's the gray of rainy weather, that we see in the sky and the clouds, and which is also a reflection of "the psychological atmosphere" of the moment. To the word "gray" will then be added a qualifier to specify the symbolic meaning. "the sky was gray, with, below, fragments of blackish clouds" (Le charretier de la Providence) [PRO], "the sky was stormy, covered with a layer of a uniform gray clouds" (M. Gallet, décédé) [GAL], "the sky was a pale gray" (Le chien jaune) [JAU], "the light, that morning, was sad, the sky a uniform gray" (Chez les Flamands) [FLA], "the color of the sky, an unhealthy gray" (Le port des brumes) [POR], "the sky was a hard gray, luminous" (Maigret à New York) [NEW], "the sky was an ugly gray, without hope" (Mon ami Maigret) [AMI], "the clouds gradually transformed into a solid gray cap" (Maigret et le fantôme) [FAN], "the snow was still falling from a slate gray sky" (Maigret et l'affaire Nahour) [NAH], "The sky, in unison with their consciences and their moods, was a neutral gray, almost the same gray as the pavement" (Les scrupules de Maigret) [SCR].

    Maigret also perceives the weather by regarding the color of the Seine: "the Seine was gray, like the sky" (L'amie de Madame Maigret) [MME], "it was gray, the Seine was dull" (Maigret et l'homme du banc) [BAN], "it was always gray, the river an ugly color" (Maigret se trompe) [TRO], "he turned into his office, stopped a moment to watch a cruel gray Seine" (Maigret et les témoins récalcitrants) [TEM], "the sky was still white and hard, the Seine a nasty gray" (Maigret et le client du samedi) [CLI].

    Gray is also the gray of light, the gray light of poorly-lit apartments, of daybreak, "the light, gray and hard, of a day without sun" (Un Noël de Maigret) [NOE].

    Finally, gray, in its silver form, presents a poetic landscape... " The Loire, beyond the turning point was just a swarm of silver sequins" (Maigret) [MAI], "a sea streaming with silver light" (L'improbable Monsieur Owen) [owe],"on the banks of the Seine, in a silver glitter" (Maigret s'amuse) [AMU].

  5. We also encounter the term "grayish", giving the idea of a dull gray, dirty, poor, "grayer than gray"... It's Fédor Yourovitch grayish pants (Pietr le Letton) [LET], Jeunet's grayish suit (Le pendu de Saint-Pholien) [PHO], Cageot's grayish beard (Maigret) [MAI], Dandurand's worn and grayish shirtsleeves and cuffs (Cécile est morte) [CEC]. The word also applies to the appearance of characters... "the second clerk was a grayish old man" (Le notaire de Châteauneuf) [not], the man to whom Félicie had slipped the revolver was a "middle-aged man, grayish, plain-looking" (Félicie est là) [FEL], Jef Schramek had "the grayish look of the paving stones" (Maigret et l'homme du banc) [BAN]. Grayish describes the walls of old buildings, and the floors of poorly-lit rooms, but also the hallways and stairways of the Quai des Orfèvres.

3.4. Red

"To speak of the "color red" is almost a tautology. Red is the color par excellence, the archetypal color, the first of all colors. In a number of languages, the same word is used for red and colored. in others, there is synonymy between beautiful and red. And in still others, between red and rich. ... Red is the most heavily meaning-laden of all the color terms, even more than black and white." (Michel Pastoureau, op.cit.)

Originally, it is the red of fire and blood, and on this base will be built a symbolic field divided into antithetical domains. The red of blood is that of power and energy, but also of sin and violence. The red of fire is that of the warming light of the sun, but also the flames of hell. Red is the symbol of love, the color of balloons and the jams of childhood, the purple of vestments of power. But it is also the red of prohibition and danger (road signs).

  1. In the descriptions of characters, "red eyes" and the redness of skin, make reference either to emotions (the red eyes and nose from crying, the face red with shame, anger, embarrassment, etc.), or health (faces red from overeating or drinking, the red of fever and sunburn, hands and nose red with cold, eyes red with fatigue, etc.). But red is also that of artifice and seduction, the rouge painted on lips and cheeks.

  2. In selecting the color red for clothing, Simenon often seeks to draw attention to its strange appearance, unusual or unexpected. Consider the red dress of the young girl leading a barge horse in Le charretier de la Providence [PRO], or the "improbable red sock" on the foot of Jeunet's dead body in Le pendu de Saint-Pholien [PHO]. Red is also the bright color one wears to escape from dullness, or to attract attention, like the red tie worn by Thouret in Maigret et l'homme du banc [BAN], or Dédé's tie "of the most beautiful red" in La première enquête de Maigret [PRE], or again the red sweater of a reporter in Le chien jaune [JAU].

    Red is a color often attributed to footwear. Anne Gorskine's red satin sandals in Pietr le Letton [LET], Adèle's red satin slippers in La danseuse du Gai Moulin [GAI], Mosselet's "ridiculous red felt slippers" in Tempête sur la Manche [man], and other red slippers, like those of the patroness of the Vieux-Calvados in La première enquête de Maigret [PRE], of Pozzo in Maigret, Lognon et les gangsters [LOG], Palmari in Maigret se défend [DEF], and the elderly witness to the murder in Maigret et l'indicateur [IND].

    Red is especially for hats, and the young girls and young women with "little red hats" seem to be a recurring theme of temptation and seduction in Simenon's imagination. Not only are they found often in the corpus, but three of them have the same name, Berthe... "Her red hat made her as sparkling as the spring" (Mademoiselle Berthe et son amant [ber]), Berthe Janiveau in Signé Picpus [SIG] also wore a red hat, as well as Berthe Pardon in Cécile est morte [CEC], of the "cherry red hat". We find also Adèle with a "red straw hat" in Au rendez-vous des Terre-Neuvas [REN], Francine with a "funny little red hat" in On ne tue pas les pauvres types [pau], Irma and her little red hat in Maigret et son mort [MOR], Isabelle with the "bright little red hat" in Maigret en meublé [MEU], and even Félicie in a red hat (Félicie est là [FEL])! And we note also this sentence discribing a spring day, "the womean already had their bright hats, and this season it was red that dominated, a bright poppy red" (Maigret et le corps sans tête [COR]).

    And how better to capture red's allure than this image drawn from the same novel, where Maigret discovers, on a wall of the Calas café, "a print of a woman in a red dress holding a glass of foamy beer"...

  3. And other red objects are found in the corpus... the red of cast iron stoves, the red tail lights of cars and trains, the red cloth of playing card tables, red gasoline pumps, red ink, red pencils, the red letters of missals, red glints in wine glasses, red police call boxes, red string, red buttonhole carnations, and geraniums whose red sings from the windows. There are also cars, whose bright color is often a way to attract attention to its owner... Sainval's red Panhard convertible in Maigret et les témoins récalcitrants [TEM], the red Peugeot 403 they sought in Maigret et le clochard [CLO], Farano's red sports car in La colère de Maigret [COL], Alvaredo's red Alfa Roméo in Maigret et l'affaire Nahour [NAH], the red convertible of Francine's lover in Maigret à Vichy [VIC], Chabut's red Jaguar convertible in Maigret et le marchand de vin [VIN], Marcel's bright red convertible in La folle de Maigret [FOL], and Manuel Mori's red Jaguar in Maigret et l'indicateur [IND].

  4. Red is also found in the décor. These are the walls of red brick, and the red roofs of houses, and, inside, the red carpets of stairways and halls in hotels and homes, the red plaid curtains in houses and bistros, the red checkered tablecloths of brasseries and restaurants. It's also the red velvet of armchairs, of café booths, the red squares of the floors, the "dark red" of carpets and curtains. And finally, there are the numerous red quilts found in the corpus, in red silk at the Maigrets' (Pietr le Letton [LET]), or in red satin in Tremblets little house (On ne tue pas les pauvres types) [pau].

    But it's also the red of temptation found in the cabarets and nightclubs, with their red drapes, their red neon signs, their red walls... "The room was red. Everything was red, the walls, the ceilings, the upholstery of the chairs, a slightly orange-red, which, on the whole, wasn't aggressive, but rather gay." (Maigret et Monsieur Charles [CHA])

    The red in the landscape is that of the setting sun, "Night was falling, the red fire of the setting sun rendered this brick village even redder, blazing the red lead of a freighter" (Un crime en Hollande [HOL]).

  5. The author sometimes uses other words than "red" to evoke a semantic field of the color...

    • "reddish" is the shade of objects of a less than clear-cut red, of tired or sick eyes, dusty light bulbs, and the sunset.

    • "purple" is the shade of faces under the influence of violent emotion, and also the color of the sunset, the dark red of certain objects.

    • "brick" is the shade of a face, particularly someone having drunk heavily.

    • "garnet" is the color of velvet furniture and curtains, and of Else's nightgown in La nuit du carrefour [NUI].

    • "crimson" is the shade taken on by a face in the heat of the moment; and also the color of carpets, velvet curtains and sofas, chairs and armchairs.

    • We also find "sanguine" faces, "ruddy" tomatoes and "bloody" meats, and Mirella Jonker's room "hung with crushed strawberry satin" (Maigret et le fantôme [FAN]), and Félicie's "vermillion hat" [FEL].

3.5. Yellow

The color yellow has a symbolic field that can be divided into two opposing domains. On the one hand, a domain of "positive" notions, with sunlight, energy, power and wealth (gold). On the other, a domain of negative ideas, with sickness, lying and betrayal (Judas, the traitorous knights of the Middle Ages), and decline (everything "yellowed").

  1. In the corpus, the physical description of characters uses the notion of yellow for skin, in its sickly aspect... Emile Gallet's yellow and Henry Gallet's sallow skin (M. Gallet, décédé [GAL]), Dr. Michoux "lean and yellow" (Le chien jaune [JAU]), Jean Ramuel, "yellow as quince" (Les caves du Majestic [MAJ]), the face "of an ugly yellow evoking a dilapidated liver" of a bellboy in La patience de Maigret [PAT]. The term "yellowish" is also used in this context... "Dr Michoux's yellowish Adam's apple" in Le chien jaune [JAU], the "yellowish skin" of Mme Boursicault's lover in Maigret en meublé [MEU].

    For hair, it's the term "blond" which is used. Blond characters are very numerous in the corpus, their blondness often emphasizing their Nordic origins, such as Pietr le Letton [LET], with very light blond hair, Edna Reichberg, the Swedish blonde in La tête d'un homme [TET], the blond Joseph Peeters in Chez les Flamands [FLA], Stéphanie, the Polish blonde in Stan le tueur [sta], the Belgian blond Francis in Les vacances de Maigret [VAC], the blond Dutchman de Greef in Mon ami Maigret [AMI], the blond Hungarian Krynker in L'amie de Madame Maigret [MME], the blond Inspector Keulemans in Maigret et l'affaire Nahour [NAH], Mina Barillard in La patience de Maigret [PAT], and Evelina Nahour in Maigret et l'affaire Nahour [NAH].

    We find many "big blonds", like Belloir dans Le pendu de Saint-Pholien [PHO], Inspector Pijpekamp in Un crime en Hollande [HOL], Harry Pills in Maigret, Lognon et les gangsters [LOG], and this attribute is, as Maigret says, "a specialty of the Public Prosecutor's office", so we see many tall, blond judges and deputy prosecutors... Deputy Prosecutor Parrain in Maigret et le clochard [CLO], Deputy Prosecutor Méchin in Maigret et le client du samedi [CLI], Deputy Prosecutor De Claes in Maigret hésite [HES], and Judge Poiret in Maigret et le tueur [TUE]. There are also some "little blonds" like Inspector Lechat in Mon ami Maigret [AMI].

    And there are also "big blonde women", like Eléonore Boursang in M. Gallet, décédé [GAL], Marie Vassilief in L'affaire Saint-Fiacre [FIA], Mme Basso in La guinguette à deux sous [GUI], Philippe de V-'s wife in Maigret et les vieillards [VIE],and Line Marcia in Maigret et l'indicateur [IND]. And "fat blondes", like the patronness of the Hôtel Van Hasselt in Un crime en Hollande [HOL], Laurence Decoin in Les vacances de Maigret [VAC], and Mlle Clément in Maigret en meublé [MEU].

    Blondness can reveal a certain innocence or freagility, as that of Aline Gassin in L'écluse no 1 [ECL], of Alain Lagrange in Le revolver de Maigret [REV], Pierrot in Maigret se trompe [TRO], Jacques Pétillon in Félicie est là [FEL], and Justin Minard in La première enquête de Maigret [PRE]. But this innocence and fragility can sometimes be deceptive... Consider Marguerite Van de Weert (Chez les Flamands [FLA]) and her "blond hair with little waves", Jehan d'Oulmont in Peine de mort [pei], Marcel Moncin in Maigret tend un piège [PIE], and Louise Bourges in Un échec de Maigret [ECH].

    Blond hair can be "garish", like that of Hortense from Brussels in Le charretier de la Providence [PRO]; "aggressive", like that of the nurse in Le fou de Bergerac [FOU]; "flaxen", like that of a fat concierge in M. Gallet, décédé [GAL], Juliette Boinet in Cécile est morte [CEC], and a bargeman's wife in Maigret et Monsieur Charles [CHA]; "dull blond", like Juliette Tremblet's hair in On ne tue pas les pauvres types [pau]. And the blond can even be outright "yellow", like Gassin's beard in L'Ecluse no 1 [ECL], and the "almost yellow" hair of the blonde woman taking the cure in Maigret à Vichy [VIC]. Blond can be "floating", like that of Odette Bellamy and her mother (Les vacances de Maigret) [VAC]; "pale" like Mme Martin's hair in Un Noël de Maigret [NOE], or that of Jef Van Houtte in Maigret et le clochard [CLO]; "light" like Dédé's hair in La première enquête de Maigret [PRE], Eveline Schneider's in Maigret et le voleur paresseux [PAR]; "almost white" like that of the bargeman Naud's family in Maigret et le corps sans tête [COR], Anneke's in Maigret et le clochard [CLO], or that of Fernand Courcel in L'ami d'enfance de Maigret [ENF]; "straw-colored" like Lucile's hair (Les vacances de Maigret [VAC]); "linen-colored" like that of Jules Naud (Maigret et le corps sans tête [COR]); "hemp-colored" like that of the children of bargemen on their barges (Maigret s'amuse [AMU]).

    Blond is sometimes artificial, like Marthe Dorval's "platinum" hair in L'auberge aux noyés [noy] and Zoé's in Maigret et Monsieur Charles [CHA], the "bleached" hair of Mlle Berthe, the cashier in Le client le plus obstiné du monde [obs], of Rose in Un échec de Maigret [ECH], and Helen Donahue in Maigret, Lognon et les gangsters [LOG].

    We also find girls and young women with curly blond hair... Francine Tremblet in On ne tue pas les pauvres types [pau], Arlette's replacement in Maigret au Picratt's [PIC], Mlle Isabelle in Maigret en meublé [MEU], and Mme Mahossier in Maigret et l'homme tout seul [SEU].

    Finally, we'll mention a few female characters whose blondness attracts Maigret's sympathy (and even more...) – Else (La nuit du carrefour [NUI]) with "hair light and blonde", the blonde Martine Chapuis in Maigret s'amuse [AMU], and Arlette, with "golden hair" "with copper highlights" (Maigret au Picratt's [PIC]).

  2. Yellow clothing is rather rare in the corpus, probably due to the fact that this color was little used in clothing at the time of the writing of the novels (but is it much more today?...). We find some yellow shoes (so-called, but probably more of a very light brown, "goose dung", like those of Thouret in Maigret et l'homme du banc [BAN] and Dédé in La première enquête de Maigret [PRE]), the yellow clogs of the natives in Un crime en Hollande [HOL], and those bought by Mme Maigret for her husband in Alsace (La guinguette à deux sous) [GUI], Mlle Otard's oilskin in Tempête sur la Manche [man], the yellow blouse with little flowers of Mlle Berthe et son amant [ber], Félicien Gendreau's yellow gloves in La première enquête de Maigret [PRE], Alain Vernoux's yellow sweater in Maigret a peur [PEU], Ginette Meurant's pale yellow blouse in Maigret aux Assises [ASS], Mme Planchon's yellow blouse in Maigret et le client du samedi [CLI], Aline Bauche's canary yellow bathrobe in Maigret se défend [DEF], Lina's straw-yellow robe in Maigret et l'affaire Nahour [NAH], the yellow polo shirt of Francine's lover in Maigret à Vichy [VIC], Josée's yellow dressing gown in L'ami d'enfance de Maigret [ENF], the golden yellow dressing gown of Line Marcia in Maigret et l'indicateur [IND], and the striped yellow vests of valets.

  3. Among the yellow objects, we find many yellow envelopes (like those Simenon used?), yellow cars (the roadster bought by Raymond Martineau in Le port des brumes [POR], the Count's duck-yellow racing car in L'affaire Saint-Fiacre [FIA], a little lemon-yellow car in Le fou de Bergerac [FOU], the yellow Citroën of Albert's friends in Maigret et son mort [MOR], a fancy yellow sports car in Maigret et les vieillards [VIE], Ed Gollan's yellow Jaguar in Maigret et le fantôme [FAN], and Jean-Luc Bodard's yellow convertible in L'ami d'enfance de Maigret [ENF]). There's a yellow silk shade in Anna's room (Chez les Flamands [FLA]), and all sorts of paper yellowed by time and wear.

    There's also a yellow butterfly which accompanies Maigret on the Avainville road (La nuit du carrefour [NUI]). And finally, let's not forget the yellow dog which haunts his presence in the novel of the same name [JAU].

    Objects can be modified by "golden" to evoke their luxury or brilliance... golden legs of furniture, golden plaques of lawyers' offices, the gilt-edged missal coveted by the choirboy in L'affaire Saint-Fiacre [FIA], gold frames of mirrors and photographs, golden tips of cigarettes, gold braid of uniforms, the gold-pointed gates of the Parc Monceau, golden wine in glasses on the counters of bistros, golden fried potatoes and croissants, golden mimosas on the Côte d'Azur, little gold-rimmed glasses for raspberry and plum brandy in the Maigret's buffet.

  4. We also find yellow in the background of the scene... The houses with yellow walls, numerous facades and shop-fronts, and bistros painted yellow, like the Auvergnat's shop in Maigret et son mort [MOR], a bistro in the Rue de Turenne in L'amie de Madame Maigret [MME], a Pigalle wine merchant in Maigret au Picratt's [PIC], a drivers' restaurant in Maigret se trompe [TRO], the bright yellow of Chez Popaul in Maigret et le corps sans tête [COR], a café on the Quai des Grands-Augustins in Maigret tend un piège [PIE], and a bakery on Rue Mouffetard in Maigret et le voleur paresseux [PAR].

    It's also the color of buildings on the Côte d'Azur... The yellow facade of the town hall at Antibes and the Casino, "yellow as a creampuff" (Liberty Bar [LIB]), the "enormous yellow mass of the Miramar" at Cannes (Les caves du Majestic [MAJ]), the little yellow church at Porquerolles (Mon ami Maigret [AMI]), and the Javes' villa at Cannes (Maigret s'amuse [AMU]).

    There are also, inside houses, rooms draped in yellow, like at the Deligeards' (La vieille dame de Bayeux [VIE]), where the color plays an important role in the plot, or that which greets Maigret at the Nauds' (L'inspecteur cadavre [CAD]), at Manuel Mori's (Maigret et l'indicateur [IND]) in yellow silk, Aline Bauche's (La patience de Maigret [PAT]) "in buttercup silk"; bathrooms... Valentine's yellow tiles in Maigret et la vieille dame, yellow tiles at the Barillards' in La patience de Maigret [PAT], pale yellow marble in the Marcias' villa at Bandol (Maigret et l'indicateur [IND]); the pale yellow wallpaper in Mlle Clément boarding house (Maigret en meublé [MEU]), the walls of a vibrant yellow and a rug of lighter yellow at Marinette's (Maigret et le fantôme [FAN]),

  5. The terms "yellow", "yellowish", and "golden" are often associated with light... The "yellow light of the train" arriving at the Gare du Nord in Pietr le Letton [LET], the "yellow glow of the oil lamps" on the barges in Le charretier de la Providence [PRO], the Michonnets' window "that stood out in bright yellow" in La nuit du carrefour [NUI], the "yellow rays" of a light bulb in La danseuse du Gai-Moulin [GAI] and in Tempête sur la Manche [man], the "long yellow lines" of the lamps of the arch of the Place des Vosges in L'ombre chinoise [OMB], "the square yellow with sun " in Le fou de Bergerac [FOU], the yellow light of the setting sun in Maigret et la vieille dame [DAM], the "brilliant yellow" of the sun rising in Maigret à l'école [ECO]; the "yellow rectangles of light" of the windows of houses seen in the night; the bad lighting of "lamps with yellow filaments", "the glass of the lamp ... crowned with a yellow flame" (La guinguette à deux sous [GUI]), "tram 13... dragged its yellow lights" (L'écluse no 1 [ECL]), "a yellowish light illuminated a dirty floor" (La pipe de Maigret [pip]), "a stable lantern... cast a yellowish glow" (La maison du juge [JUG]), "at night, the windows drew yellow squares in the black" (Les mémoires de Maigret [MEM]); and "yellowish fog" found in numerous novels taking place in the cold season. And finally, "there was a ray of sunshine, and the lobby of the Majestic was all golden" (Pietr le Letton [LET]), "the street was all golden in the sun" (Maigret et la Grande Perche [GRA]), and the "fine golden dust" of the rooms crossed by the sun.

3.6. Blue

The symbolic field of blue encompasses several domains. There's the blue of the sky, and by extension, of infinity, of dreams and "the blues", but also the divine, the spiritual, and purity. It's also the royal blue of the kings of France, but at the same time, the blue of the work clothes of laborers and peasants. It's the blue of coolness, and the navy blue that has the same connotation of austerity and elegance as black in clothing.

  1. In the corpus, we meet characters with blue eyes, often accompanied with blond hair, but sometimes also red. The blue can be "light", like the eyes of Canut, the cabin-boy's father (Au rendez-vous des Terre-Neuvas [REN]), of Jo the Boxer (Maigret et son mort [MOR]), the Chief of the Sûreté at Lausanne (Maigret voyage [VOY]), Mme Chabut (Maigret et le marchand de vin [VIN]), Line Marcia (Maigret et l'indicateur [IND]), and Zoé (Maigret et Monsieur Charles [CHA]). They can be "very light"... Lomel (Maigret a peur [PEU]), Planchon (Maigret et le client du samedi [CLI]), Bob Mandille (Le voleur de Maigret [VOL]), and Chabut, whose very light blue is "almost pale gray"; "clear"... Mélan (Maigret se défend [DEF]), Arlette (Maigret et la vieille dame [DAM]); or "almost transparent"... as Maria's in Maigret à l'école [ECO]. We also find eyes of "china blue"... Beetje (Un crime en Hollande [HOL]), Julien Baud (Maigret hésite [HES]), Amadieu (Maigret et Monsieur Charles [CHA]), "porcelain blue"... Big Louis (Le port des brumes [POR]), Mauran (La colère de Maigret [COL]), Lina Nahour (Maigret et l'affaire Nahour [NAH]), "periwinkle blue"... Prosper Donge (Les caves du Majestic [MAJ]), Billy Louette (La folle de Maigret [FOL]), and "forget-me-not blue": Forlacroix (La maison du juge [JUG]), Félicie (Félicie est là [FEL]), and Mme Keller (Maigret et le clochard [CLO]).

    If blue eyes often reflect in characters a certain innocence of the soul (consider the blue eyes of Justin Minard in La première enquête de Maigret [PRE], Steuvels in L'amie de Madame Maigret [MME], Mlle Clément in Maigret en meublé [MEU], Dieudonné Pape, reflecting "gentleness and shyness" (Maigret et le corps sans tête [COR]), of Gaston Meurant in Maigret aux Assises [ASS], Eveline Schneider in Maigret et le voleur paresseux [PAR], Judge Ancelin in La patience de Maigret [PAT], with "candid blue eyes", M. Parendon and Mlle Vague in Maigret hésite [HES], Fernand Courcel in L'ami d'enfance de Maigret [ENF]), this innocence can go as far as naiveté, as Ducrau, whose "blue eyes revealed a disconcderting naiveté" (L'écluse no 1 [ECL]).

    But this innocent blue can also conceal a psychological fragility (as the blue eyes of Moncin in Maigret tend un piège [PIE]), or darkness of the soul (as Valentine's light blue eyes in Maigret et la vieille dame [DAM]). We can cite as well the blue-gray eyes of Mme Marton and Judge Angelot, characters with behavior somewhat difficult and ambiguous to categorize, and the "dark blue" eyes of Else [NUI], the only character in the corpus to carry this distinction in her appearance.

    Blue can also be the color of skin when it is cold, after being hit, or poorly shaved. It's also the bluish shade taken on by some black hair and mustaches.

  2. Blue is also very often present in the clothing worn by characters. It's the blue suits, often navy blue, of men, worn on certain occasions on Sunday, replacing little by little the austere black in men's clothing. It's the blood-stained blue suit in the Steuvels affair (L'amie de Madame Maigret [MME]) and that of Meurant (Maigret aux Assises [ASS]). It's also "working blue", the blue blouses of peasants and laborers, and the blue overalls of drivers and mechanics. And it's the blue aprons of innumerable managers and waiters in cafés, bistros and restaurants, who form a part of Maigret's nostalgic setting... "It was good to see a real zinc counter, sawdust on the floor, a waiter in a blue apron." (Maigret et l'affaire Nahour [NAH]). But it's also the blue apron (sometimes checked) of cooks and servants, of Mme Maigret, and the Chief Inspector's mother, of "a darker blue that remained on the edges, and became paler towards the middle, where it'd been rubbed more in washing" (Maigret et le voleur paresseux [PAR]). It's the blue uniform of cabaret doormen, hotel bellboys, the blue pea jackets, and the striped blue and white jerseys of bargemen, sailors, and mussel fishermen.

    It's the blue or navy blue suits of women and young girls (which the latter wear, in the two first parts of the corpus, with a white blouse which shows off their bustline, as Maigret often observes)... consider Beetje (Un crime en Hollande [HOL]), Julie (Le port des brumes [POR]), Sylvie (Liberty Bar [LIB]), Fernande (Maigret [MAI]), Céline (L'Etoile du Nord [eto]), Francine (On ne tue pas les pauvres types [PAU]), Berthe (Signé Picpus [SIG]), Irma (Maigret et son mort [MOR]), Lise (La première enquête de Maigret [PRE]), Gloria (L'amie de Madame Maigret [MME]), Isabelle (Maigret en meublé [MEU]), Annette (Une confidence de Maigret [CON]), Véronique (Maigret et les braves gens [BRA]), and Marinette (Maigret et le fantôme [FAN]).

    It's the blue peignoir, the dressing gown, another object of Simenon's fantasies... the simply "blue" peignoir of Gloria Negretti (Le charretier de la Providence [PRO]), Mariette Gibon (Maigret et l'homme du banc [BAN]), Paulette Lachaume (Maigret et les témoins récalcitrants [TEM]), the "blue flannel" of Mme Goldfinger (Maigret et l'inspecteur malgracieux [mal]), the "blue satin" of Annette (Une confidence de Maigret [CON]); the "deep blue" of Nathalie Sabin-Levesque (Maigret et Monsieur Charles [CHA]); "royal blue" of James's wife (La guinguette à deux sous [GUI]); "pale blue" of Mme Krofta (L'amoureux de Madame Maigret [amo]), Mme Martin (Un Noël de Maigret [NOE]), Potsi (Cécile est morte [CEC]); the "sky blue" of Ernestine (Maigret et la Grande Perche [GRA]), Lucile (Maigret, Lognon et les gangsters [LOG]), of Boulay's mother-in-law (La colère de Maigret [COL]); "of an aggressive blue" of Félicie (Félicie est là [FEL]); "with blue flowers" of Mme Maigret (Maigret à Vichy [VIC]).

    It's the blue flannel dressing gown at Little Albert's (Maigret et son mort [MOR]), Marinette's of pale blue silk (Maigret et le fantôme [FAN]), a concierge's of sky-blue wool (Les scrupules de Maigret [SCR]), and Mme Pardon's pale blue one (Maigret et l'affaire Nahour [NAH]). And it's also Mme Parendon's turquoise blue silk negligee (Maigret hésite [HES]).

    We find as well Marguerite Van de Weert's pale blue satin dress (Chez les Flamands [FLA]), Louise's pale blue satin evening gown (Maigret et la jeune morte [JEU]), the sky-blue rayon (tulle) dress of the last victim in Maigret tend un piège [PIE], the blue taffeta dress that Mme Maigret wore when her future husband took her to see Carmen (Les scrupules de Maigret [SCR]). And it's the navy blue wool scarf that Mme Maigret knitted for her husband (Maigret et le marchand de vin [VIN]).

    And lastly, it's the light blue thread in the fabric of the gray suit which betrays Moncin in Maigret tend un piège [PIE].

  3. Other blue objects are found in the corpus, familiar ones of kitchens, like the blue earthenware plate on which Berthe puts her dessert (Mlle Berthe et son amant [ber]), the blue enamel coffeepot in the captain's cabin (Au rendez-vous des Terre-Neuvas [REN]), the sky-blue china clock in Fred's inn (Vente à la bougie [ven]), Mme Retailleau's blue-flowered soup tureen (L'inspecteur cadavre [CAD]), and Félicie's blue milk jug with white polka dots and the cup with blue dots (Félicie est là [FEL]), and oilcloths with blue designs or checks covering tables. But it's also blue pencils, blue-tinted stationery, the blue case of Valentine's jewelry bag (Maigret et la vieille dame [DAM]), Louise's blue suitcase (Maigret et la jeune morte [JEU]), Mlle Clément's pale blue knitting (Maigret en meublé [MEU]), the dark gray button, lightly veined with blue of Moncin's suit (Maigret tend un piège [PIE]), and numerous blue cars... Basso's royal blue car (La guinguette à deux sous [GUI]), Eugène's long, pale blue car (Maigret [MAI]), Lachaume's blue Pontiac (Maigret et les témoins récalcitrants [TEM]), Meurant's brother's pale blue convertible (Maigret aux Assises [ASS]), M. Gaillard's big, pastel blue American car (La colère de Maigret [COL]), and Courcel's pale blue Jaguar convertible (L'ami d'enfance de Maigret [ENF]).

  4. The blue of décor is found in houses... aside from a few houses with the exterior walls painted blue, it's above all on the interior that this color is found. Rooms with blue wallpaper (including a "paper with light blue stripes" which Maigret remembers from his parents' room in Maigret et les vieillards [VIE]), corridors paved with blue tiles (as for example, in the Maigrets' country house at Meung), the blue velvet couch in Beetje's room, and the blue couch at the Popingas' (Un crime en Hollande [HOL]), a "a Persian rug with incredible blues" at the house of Le notaire de Châteauneuf [not], Mme Parendon's boudoir hung with blue silk brocade (Maigret hésite [HES]), and the almost identical one at Nathalie Sabin-Levesque's (Maigret et Monsieur Charles [CHA]).

    And blue is also found in the landscape, blue filled with poetry from the pen of Simenon... There's the light blue of the sky and of the sea in fine weather, the pale blue of the morning sky... "in the pale blue sky gleamed a chilly sun" (Le pendu de Saint-Pholien [PHO]), "The sky seemed to have been freshly washed. It was blue, a slightly pale blue, but where light, vibrant clouds sparkled." (Le chien jaune [JAU]), "It was a Sunday like only in childhood memories, all spruced up, brand new under a sky of a periwinkle blue down to the water which reflected the houses, stretching them out." (L'écluse no 1 [ECL]). It's also the blue of night falling, "Night fell. By the window he saw the arms of the Seine, Place Saint-Michel, a laundry barge, all in a blue shade in which gas lamps twinkled, one after another." (Pietr le Letton [LET]), "The twilight lay down, in the streets, great sheets of blue fog" (La danseuse du Gai-Moulin [GAI]); "The lamps went on, passers-by merely blue shadows against the paler blue." (Signé Picpus [SIG]). And there is also the darker blue of the night, "a deep and velvet blue" (Le revolver de Maigret [REV]), "The window was open on the blue of the night, which became like velvet as the stars came out" (Félicie est là [FEL]). And finally, all the blue shades of the sea, "of an extraordinary blue" (Liberty Bar [LIB]), "as blue as in the watercolors" (L'improbable Monsieur Owen [owe]), "of a pastel blue" (Les caves du Majestic [MAJ]), "of a picture-postcard blue" (Maigret et la vieille dame [DAM]), "of a flag blue" (La folle de Maigret [FOL]).

    Blue, it's also that of the smoke of Maigret's pipe... "Above his head rose a thin streak of blue smoke." (M. Gallet, décédé [GAL]), a pervasive blue of the places he is found, particularly his office, "blue with smoke"... "The air was blue with smoke which formed a blanket of fog at the level of the lamp." (Maigret et la Grande Perche [GRA])

  5. The term "bluish" sometimes appears in the corpus, to qualify certain of the concepts we've seen for blue above... "Bluish" can define an object of a blue "not completely blue", pale, or of a grayish shade; or the color of skin somewhat sickly, having been hit, or poorly shaved. But it's also the "bluish fog, rainy" (Le charretier de la Providence [PRO]), bluish clouds of smoke, the air which becomes bluish at dusk.

3.7. Green

The symbolic field of green has two opposing sides... A domain of negative concepts – the green of misfortune, illness, envy, strangeness, and poison; and a domain of positive concepts – the green of luck, youth, hope, health, and nature.

  1. In the corpus, we find a few rare characters with green eyes, though these are more often found as a shade of green. That's the case for Pietr le Letton [LET], whose eyes are sometimes described as "gray-green", sometimes "greenish" or "of a greenish gray", Heurtin's "greenish" eyes (La tête d'un homme [TET]), and Emilienne's (Le notaire de Châteauneuf [not]), those of Baes in Un crime en Hollande [HOL], which are "blue-green", and Mme Parendon (Maigret hésite [HES]): "with eyes you'd call green, but more often of a cloudy gray".

  2. For male characters, green clothing often has a negative connotation. It's the green of the strange or unusual, found in the coat of Pietr le Letton [LET], "a traveling coat of green plaid, of which the cut and the color were of clearly Nordic style", in "the incredible spinach-green hat" of one of the accomplices of Stan le tueur [sta], in the "ridiculous scarf of a much-too-bright green" of Inspector Méjat in La maison du juge [JUG]; in Ronald Dexter's "acid green ribbon in the guise of a tie" in Maigret à New York [NEW], and in Inspector Lechat's "grayish-green (réséda) suit" (Mon ami Maigret [AMI]).

    For women, the symbolic nuance of green can be negative, as in Cécile's "ridiculous green hat" (Cécile est morte [CEC]), the "spinach green" dress of the concierge in L'ami d'enfance de Maigret [ENF], and Félicie's "acid green" underwear (Félicie est là [FEL]); or positive, like the green silk dresses of Beetje (Un crime en Hollande [HOL]) and Fernande (Maigret [MAI]), Françoise's "smart, delicate green suit" (Le fou de Bergerac [FOU]), Mlle Vague's almond-green spring dress (Maigret hésite [HES]), Germaine's pale green suit "becoming her perfectly" (L'improbable Monsieur Owen [owe]), and Mme Chabut's emerald peignoir (Maigret et le marchand de vin [VIN]).

  3. Among the green objects found in the corpus, we can mention the boats, skiffs and other watercraft painted green, green ink, green filing cabinets, billiard table cloths, the laurels in green barrels in front of bistros and cafés, as well as green cars... Mortimer's olive-green one (Pietr le Letton [LET]), the butcher's spotted green mini-van (Ceux du Grand Café [ceu]), Justin's green convertible (Signé Picpus [SIG]), Hervé Peyrot's green sports car (Maigret et la vieille dame [DAM]), Lina's green Triumph (Maigret et l'affaire Nahour [NAH]), Florentin's almond-green convertible sports car (L'ami d'enfance de Maigret [ENF]), and Branchu's green 6CV (Maigret et le tueur [TUE]).

  4. Green is also found in the background... On the outside of houses, it's the green shutters, and doors painted green (as the "deep, sumptuous green" of the hospital door in Les vacances de Maigret [VAC]), the green stained glass windows of lawyers' studies, green fences... And on the inside, the walls of bistros, like those of "apple green" of the bistro where Maigret asks for information about Keller (Maigret et le clochard [CLO]), the green baize on the tables, green velvet curtains, Maigret's father's desk, covered with green percale (L'affaire Saint-Fiacre [FIA]), the rug "of an aggressive green" in James's apartment (La guinguette à deux sous [GUI]), and the large office of the prefect, "where the green carpet and the Empire style reigned" (Maigret se défend [GUI]). But it's also the green of the waiting room at the PJ, with its green velvet-covered chairs, and the green of the lampshade on Maigret's desk.

    The green of the landscape is of course that of the verdure... the tender green leaves of the chestnut trees in the spring, the lettuce in the garden at Meung, the pale green of seedlings in the gardens and fields, the dark green foliage in the night, the green banks of the canals. It's the "treacherous" green of the sea in a storm, or its "dull green" when the sky is overcast, or its "icy" green when night falls. And it's the pale green of the sky at dusk.

  5. The term "greenish" is used to designate objects of a faded green, worn, not clear, particularly with clothing, such as Anna Gorskine's greenish coat (Pietr le Letton [LET]), Saint-Hilaire's greenish hunting outfit (M. Gallet, décédé [GAL]), Juliette's greenish flannel robe (Cécile est morte [CEC]), Le Cloaguen's greenish overcoat (Signé Picpus [SIG]), and Naud's greenish jacket (L'inspecteur cadavre [CAD]). Greenish is also a reflection of characters' psychology... "Both of them were somewhat gray, greenish, covered in a moral and material dust." (about Cavre and Groult-Cotelle in L'inspecteur cadavre [CAD]). But in contrast, greenish can also be the tempting color of a white wine, "the Vouvray wine, in the glasses, had greenish reflections which gave you a thirst" (La première enquête de Maigret [PRE]).

    We could put in the same register the term "khaki", found occasionally in the corpus, evoking a certain indeterminate shade, between green and brown, along with grayish... consider Saint-Hilaire's khaki suit (M. Gallet, décédé [GAL]), the khaki uniforms of the Belgian customs agents (Chez les Flamands [FLA]), Gérard Pardon's old khaki raincoat (Cécile est morte [CEC]), and Groux dressed in khaki (Maigret se fâche [FAC])

3.8. Brown

The symbolic field of brown is also two-sided. On the one hand it's the brown of dirtiness, of mud, while on the other it's the brown of the nourishing earth, the warmth of wood, and soft, sweet foods (chocolate, caramel).

Brown, this "demi-color", according to Pastoureau's terminology, has an elusive aspect, and it's often defined by another term specifying the shade. The word "brown" itself comes from the Germanic braun, the color of the bear's coat. The word "chestnut" (marron), which tends to replace it in the speech of metropolitan Francwe, made its appearance in the 18th century to designate a warmer brown, reddish, calling to mind the chestnut itself. As Pastoureau remarks, "In French, the lexicon of different shades of brown was introduced relatively late, and has often taken for reference modern materials or products, with a strong connotative power... coffee, tobacco, cognac, Havana (cigar), caramel, chocolate." Thus the use of a term more or less synonymous with "brown" in a semantic or even symbolic context, indicates a specific intention of the speaker or writer.

We find this phenomenon in the Maigret corpus. Indeed, the use of the word "brown", relatively common in the texts, is complemented by a range of other terms in the same color field, whose use has a precise purpose and meaning.

  1. In the texts, characters with brown hair, eyes, mustaches and body hair are fairly numerous. We find the "tall, dark-haired ones" appearing as womanizers (Eugène in Maigret [MAI], Justin de Toulon in Signé Picpus [SIG], Count Paverini in Maigret voyage [VOY], Mme Wilton's lover in Maigret et le voleur paresseux [PAR]), the "small, dark-haired ones", evoking images of gangsters, like Audiat in Maigret [MAI], the boss of the inn in La pipe de Maigret [pip], the "brown-haired ones" like the bargeman Canelle in Le charretier de la Providence [PRO], Arsène, the Vernoux's butler in Maigret a peur [PRO], Chief Inspector Marella in La folle de Maigret [FOL], and the very numerous characters with brown mustaches, often small and thin, that gave them some claim to distinction and elegance... Amadieu in Maigret [MAI], Bronsky in Maigret et son mort [MOR], Delteil in Le revolver de Maigret [REV]… and Judge Coméliau!

    There are men with brown hair, often rather young, like William Crosby in La tête d'un homme [TET], Richard Gendreau in La première enquête de Maigret [PRE], Albert Jorisse in Maigret et l'homme du banc [BAN], Gilbert Négrel in Maigret s'amuse [AMU], Xavier Marton in Les scrupules de Maigret [SCR], Dan Mullins in Maigret chez le coroner [COR], Gilbert Pigou in Maigret et le marchand de vin [VIN], and Francis Ricain in Le voleur de Maigret [VOL]. And men with very dark brown hair, emphasizing their origins... sailors from the coasts, like Léon in Le chien jaune [JAU] and Joris in Le port des brumes [POR], or foreigners like Cicero and Cinaglia in Maigret, Lognon et les gangsters [LOG] and Alvaredo in Maigret et l'affaire Nahour [NAH], or on the "amoral" side, like Prou in Maigret et le client du samedi [CLI] and Pierrot in Maigret aux Assises [ASS]. Dr. Bellamy's hair, in Les vacances de Maigret [VAC], was "an attractive brown".

    And we meet women with brown hair, like Mme Swaan in Pietr le Letton [LET], Mary Lampson in Le charretier de la Providence [PRO], Isabelle Augier in Le client le plus obstiné du monde [obs], Jeanne Debul in Le revolver de Maigret [REV], Louise Filon in Maigret se trompe [TRO], Mme Marton and her sister Jenny in Les scrupules de Maigret [SCR], Thérèse in Maigret à l'école [ECO], Adrienne in Maigret, Lognon et les gangsters [LOG], Mme Josselin in Maigret et les braves gens [BRA], and Nathalie Sabin-Levesque in Maigret et Monsieur Charles [CHA]. We also find "little brunettes", like the manager of the bistro near L'écluse no 1 [ECL], Adèle in Félicie est là [FEL], Mlle Decaux in Maigret se trompe [TRO], Mme Mazeron in Maigret et les vieillards [VIE], Mme Lussac in Maigret et le voleur paresseux [PAR], and Anna Keegel in Maigret et l'affaire Nahour [NAH]. And "tall brunettes", like Olga in On ne tue pas les pauvres types [pau], Nine in Maigret et son mort [MOR], and Mirella Jonker in Maigret et le fantôme [FAN]. And some "very dark-haired brunettes", like Justin Minard's wife in La première enquête de Maigret [PRE], and Charles Besson's in Maigret et la vieille dame [DAM].

    We note also two brunettes who made a particular impression on Maigret, Louise Laboine (Maigret et la jeune morte [JEU]), with "brown hair, tossed back, very soft, naturally wavy", and Aline Calas (Maigret et le corps sans tête [COR]), with "dark brown hair, almost black".

    And we can also mention the unique use in the corpus of the term "chestnut brown" (châtain) to designate the color of Maigret's hair, in the first physical description of our character... "his thick hair, of a dark, chestnut brown, where you could note some gray around the temples" (Pietr le Letton [LET]).

    Finally, with regard to eyes, we note, Lenoir's "beautiful chestnut brown eyes" in La guinguette à deux sous[GUI] and Rose's in Maigret au Picratt's [PIC], the "very bright brown eyes" of Gérard Piedboeuf in Maigret chez les Flamands [FLA], Aline Bauche's "hazel eyes" in Maigret se défend [DEF], Maria's "brown eyes, glowing, magnificent" in Maigret et son mort [MOR], and Liliane Pigou's "eyes of dark brown" in Maigret et le marchand de vin [VIN].

  2. Brown clothing is relatively rare in the corpus. We can mention Dr. Bouchardon's brown hunting oufit in L'affaire Saint-Fiacre [FIA], the "heavy brown overcoat" of the taxi driver in Maigret [MAI], Dandurand's brown kid slippers in Cécile est morte [CEC], Geneviève Naud's brown wool coat in L'inspecteur cadavre [CAD], and Ginette Meurant's in Maigret aux Assises [ASS], Fernand's "thick brown coat" in Maigret et le voleur paresseux [PAR], Antoine Batille's brown jacket in Maigret et le tueur [TUE], Gilbert Pigou's "dark brown suit" in Maigret et le marchand de vin [VIN], and Lognon's hat "of an ugly brown" in Maigret et la jeune morte [JEU]. We note that the term "chestnut" (marron), if it's sometimes simply used instead of the word "brown" (as when Paulette's lover's hat in Maigret et les témoins récalcitrants [TEM] is described once as "brown" and once as "chestnut"), it can sometimes take on a semantic and symbolic nuance of elegance... Consider Judge Chabot's "house jacket of chestnut velvet" in Maigret a peur [PEU], Professor Gouin's "robe of coarse chestnut brown silk" in Maigret se trompe [TRO], M. Canonge's "overcoat of a rare and soft chestnut brown" in Maigret et le corps sans tête [COR]. In contrast, we find, in the register of clothing, a certain number of terms in the color field of brown, whose use by the author allows us to complete and refine the sense of the description, such as the "prestigious cinnamon suit" worn by Pietr le Letton [LET], and other such terms we will discuss below.

  3. Brown objects are not very frequently mentioned either. These are, most often, things which are rather "rustic", like the brown oilcloth covering the tables of the cafés in Le charretier de la Providence [PRO] and Les vacances de Maigret [VAC], the table in the concierge's lodge in Cécile est morte [CEC], and Gastin's kitchen table in Maigret à l'école [ECO]. It's the brown paper sewing patterns in Maigret et l'inspecteur malgracieux [mal], the package containing Louise's clothes in Maigret et la jeune morte [mal], the bag containing Keller's things in Maigret et le clochard [CLO], and the covering of the table in Fouad Ouéni's room in Maigret et l'affaire Nahour [NAH]. And we can mention Alfred Moss's brown suitcase in L'amie de Madame Maigret [MME] and that of Omer Calas in Maigret et le corps sans tête [COR], the brown sails of the boats seen in Le chien jaune [JAU], Un crime en Hollande [HOL] and Maigret à l'école [ECO], and finally Hubert Vernoux's "chestnut brown leather briefcase" in Maigret a peur [PEU].

  4. The brown color of elements in the scene generally emphasizes aspects of poverty. For example, the brown-painted walls of the interior of the café in Le charretier de la Providence [PRO]; the café Lion-d'Or in L'inspecteur cadavre [CAD], "where everything was brown, the walls, the ceiling beams, the long waxed tables and the backless benches"; the "ugly brown" doors of the apartments in the Place des Vosges (L'ombre chinoise [OMB]), the houses in Givet (Chez les Flamands [FLA]), the facade of Liberty Bar [LIB]; the "sinister brown" of the front and doors of a seedy hotel in Maigret se fâche [FAC]. We can consider similarly the carpets, "the color of tobacco juice" in the Boynet house (Cécile est morte [CEC]). All these contrasting with the "thick carpet of a very soft chestnut brown" in Carus's office in Le voleur de Maigret [VOL].

    Brown, paradoxically, almost never appears in descriptions of the setting... We find only "the brown water" of the Meuse in Chez les Flamands [FLA], "the river, a dirty brown" in L'auberge aux noyés [noy], and "a brownish vase" in La maison du juge [JUG]. This word "brownish" only appears three other times in the corpus, as a "brownish flask" carried by the nurse in Maigret voyage [VOY], the "brownish stain" of the blood flowing from Cageots hand in Maigret [MAI], and the "brownish lines" on Aline's shawl in Maigret et le corps sans tête [COR]. It seems that Simenon, to describe the bleak appearance of a landscape, prefers the gray tones of "dullness", and that further, with the semantic notion of the term "brown" already having a strongly negative connotation, the term "brownish" doesn't add anything particularly significant on the symbolic level.

  5. In the palette of brown, we find, as mentioned above, a variety of terms used by the author for a specific purpose. We can group these terms into two categories. On the one hand, those which evoke shades of rather light brown, tending towards yellow, and on the other, those more within the domain of red (note that russet, reddish-brown, is sometimes considered to belong to the chromatic field of red, but I've chosen to include it here, as Simenon's treatment seems closer to how he uses brown than red, even if we find, within the russets of the corpus, some symbolic elements relevant to the red domain).

    In the first of these two categories, we will begin with "beige", a very light yellow-brown, reminiscent of the color of natural wool, which is fairly frequently encountered in the corpus, especially to define the hues of clothing, particularly, raincoats... The trench coat of Pietr le Letton [LET], Emile Gautier's beige raincoat (L'affaire Saint-Fiacre [FIA]), that of the man who threatens Mademoiselle Berthe et son amant [ber], the victim's in Le client le plus obstiné du monde [obs], Little Albert's in Maigret et son mort [MOR], Fred's in Maigret au Picratt's [PIC], the journalist Lomel's in Maigret a peur [PEU], Meurant's in Maigret aux Assises [ASS], Bureau's in Maigret et le tueur [TUE], Gérard Piedboeuf's beige overcoat (Chez les Flamands [FLA]), Thouret's (Maigret et l'homme du banc [BAN]) and Branchu's (Maigret et le tueur [TUE]), Anna's beige woolen coat (Chez les Flamands [FLA]), and Louise's checked brown and beige coat (Maigret et la jeune morte [JEU]). The term "putty" (mastic) is used in a similar sense... Servières's putty cardigan (Le chien jaune [JAU]), Martin's putty overcoat (L'ombre chinoise [OMB]), and those of Justin Minard and young Maigret (La première enquête de Maigret [PRE]). We also find some beige hats, especially for women... Mme Martin's (Un Noël de Maigret [NOE]), Paulette Lachaume's (Maigret et les témoins récalcitrants [TEM]), and Mme Keller's (Maigret et le clochard [CLO]). Women also wear beige suits, like Mme Keller (Maigret et le clochard [CLO]), Marinette (Maigret et le fantôme [FAN]), and Nathalie (Maigret et Monsieur Charles [CHA]). And we can mention, in contrast, Moncin's "suit of a delicate beige" (Maigret tend un piège [PIE]).

    Beige can also designate elements of the setting, particularly walls and furniture, where the shade beige often denotes elegance. Consider "walls decorated with beige leather, like the armchairs" in the Carus's apartment (Le voleur de Maigret [VOL]), "leather armchairs ... of a very soft beige, appropriate for an office" at the Batille's (Maigret et le tueur [TUE]), the "beige blotter with leather corners" on Mlle Vague's desk (Maigret hésite [HES]), and "here, we were in beiges and browns" in Mahossier's room (Maigret et l'homme tout seul [SEU]). We note in the same sense the "light tan (havane) décor" of Moncin's bedroom (Maigret tend un piège [PIE]),and the "light tan (havane) carpet" of Batille's office (Maigret et le tueur [TUE]).

    In the second of the two categories, we move on to the darker browns, more or less russet. We find first "tawny " (fauve), reserved for certain clothing... Beetje's father's tawny spats (Un crime en Hollande [HOL]), the tawny boots of Judge de Folletier (Les vacances de Maigret [VAC]) and Vernoux's tawny gloves (Maigret a peur [PEU]), but above all for elements of furniture, where we find the nuance of elegance noted for beige... the tawny leather of the armchair of the Notaire de Châteauneuf [not], of Josselin (Maigret et les braves gens [BRA]), of Fouad Ouéni (Maigret et l'affaire Nahour [NAH]), and Parendon (Maigret hésite [HES]), and the walls of Sabin-Levesque's room (Maigret et Monsieur Charles [CHA]). Next, we have the term "mahogany", which describes mainly hair color...the mahogany mustache of the gendarme in Le chien jaune [JAU], of Maigret himself (Les mémoires de Maigret [MEM]), and for the coats of horses (Le charretier de la Providence [PRO]), but also for the shade of Sir Lampson's shoes ([PRO]).

    "Red" (auburn) is often used to denote the hair color of certain characters, and this plays an important role, not only in their physical, but in their psychological descriptions. Male characters are found with red hair... This shade can indicate their origin, often Flemish or American. Red hair is often found on policemen, doctors, and above all, journalists. There are tall redheads like Moers (M. Gallet, décédé [GAL]), Chief Inspector Delvigne (La danseuse du Gai-Moulin [GAI]), Philippe, the Chief Inspector's nephew (Maigret [MAI]), Théodore Ballard (On ne tue pas les pauvres types [pau]), Spencer Oats (Cécile est morte [CEC]), Inspector Janvier (Félicie est là [FEL]), Captain O'Brien (Maigret à New York [NEW]), Victor Poliensky (Maigret et son mort [MOR]), Mike O'Rourke (Maigret chez le coroner [COR]), Félix Jubert (Les mémoires de Maigret [MEM]), Oscar Frachin (Maigret en meublé [MEU]), Dr. Mansuy (Maigret se trompe [TRO]), an American criminologist (Les scrupules de Maigret [SCR]), Chief Insprector Saint-Hubert (Maigret et les braves gens [BRA]), a journalist (Maigret à Vichy [VIC]), Julien Baud (Maigret hésite [HES]), another journalist (Maigret et l'indicateur [IND]), and Dr. Amadieu (Maigret et Monsieur Charles [CHA]). And small redheads like Klein (Le pendu de Saint-Pholien [PHO]), Chief Inspector Mansuy (Les vacances de Maigret [VAC]), Inspector Fenton (Le revolver de Maigret [REV]), the journalist Lassagne (Maigret s'amuse [AMU]), Gaston Mauran (La colère de Maigret [COL]), Jean-Luc Bodard (L'ami d'enfance de Maigret [ENF]), and Billy Louette (La folle de Maigret [FOL]). And other redheads like Dr. Michoux (Le chien jaune [JAU]), Ernest the choirboy (L'affaire Saint-Fiacre [FIA]), Dr. Rivaud's assistant (Le fou de Bergerac [FOU]), William Brown (Liberty Bar [LIB]), Dr. Liévin (La vieille dame de Bayeux [bay]), Michel Ozep (Stan le tueur [sta]), the veterinarian in Ceux du Grand-Café [ceu], Joseph Leroy (La pipe de Maigret [pip]), the journalist Lomel (Maigret a peur [PEU]), a journalist named Pecqueur (Une confidence de Maigret [CON]), the photographer Van Hamme (Maigret et le tueur [TUE]), and the photographer Caune (Maigret et l'homme tout seul [SEU]). Redheads with blue eyes are often characters with a certain psychological fragility, and who attract Maigret's sympathy. Consider Prosper Donge (Les caves du Majestic [MAJ]) with carrot-red hair, Meurant (Maigret aux Assises [ASS]), Dr. Mélan (Maigret se défend [DEF]), Frans Steuvels (L'amie de Madame Maigret [MME]), Dieudonné Pape (Maigret et le corps sans tête [COR]) and, in the same register, Planchon, with reddish blond hair (Maigret et le client du samedi [CLI]). Lastly, we can't forget Radek's hair, "red, curly, exceptionally long" (La tête d'un homme [TET]), and the "red and pointed beard" of Dr. Gadelle, who played an important role in Maigret's childhood (Les mémoires de Maigret [MEM]).

    Redheaded women are somewhat less numerous (the red of their hair is also often described as artificial). There's Emma in Le charretier de la Providence [MEM], the flamboyant redheads like Olga in Maigret voyage [VOY], and some redheads who made a certain impression on Maigret, like Beetje (Un crime en Hollande [HOL]), Céline (L'Etoile-du-Nord [eto]), and Lise (La maison du juge [JUG]).

    We also find in the corpus a cerain number of red cats, often the companions of middle-aged women living alone, particularly concierges... The one in Mlle Otard's boarding house (Tempête sur la Manche [man]), Mme Chochoi's (Félicie est là [FEL]), Lagrange's concierge's (Le revolver de Maigret [REV]), Point's concierge's (Maigret chez le ministre [MIN]), Aline Calas's (Maigret et le corps sans tête [COR]), one belonging to a woman managing a bistro (Maigret s'amuse [AMU]), the one in Marton's building (Les scrupules de Maigret [SCR]), the one in the courtyard of Parendon's building (Maigret hésite [HES]), and Fazio's concierge's (Maigret et monsieur Charles [CHA]).

    We also note the "reddish" hair of Gallet father and son (M. Gallet, décédé [GAL]), of Groult-Cotelle (L'inspecteur cadavre [CAD]), Boulay (La colère de Maigret [COL]), Jaja's reddish hair (Liberty Bar [LIB]), Betty's (Maigret au Picratt's [PIC]), and Gastin's (Maigret à l'école [ECO]).

    In the dark brown tones, we also find other terms, used sporadically, most often to describe shades of clothing, for which the use of a word other than "brown" makes the description more telling, revealing more about the characters who wear them... two "puce" silk dresses, one worn by a woman in the wedding party in La guinguette à deux sous [GUI], the other in a trunk at Mother Goose's (Maigret aux Assises [ASS]); the "dead-leaf-colored jacket" of Judge de Folletier (Les vacances de Maigret [VAC]), the "rust-colored tweed clothing" of Thé Besson (Maigret et la vieille dame [DAM]), Francine's "fire-colored dress" (Maigret à Vichy [VIC]). And lastly we note Krynker's "chocolate-clored Chrysler" in L'amie de Madame Maigret [MME].

3. 9. Pink

The symbolic field of pink is also ambivalent... On the one hand it's the pink of innocence and childhood, and on the other, it's the pink of the flesh, of seduction and sensuality. This ambivalence will also be found in Simenon's writing.

  1. Pink, in the texts of the corpus, is often used to describe skin color... It's usually the skin color of characters with blond hair, often chubby, especially for women. So pink evokes the pink skin of babies, and gives these characters a certain moral innocence. Consider Dr Van de Weert, with "the pink skin of an infant" (Chez les Flamands [FLA]), Philippe, with "skin of candy pink" (Maigret [MAI]), Justin Minard, "frail, with pink cheeks" (La première enquête de Maigret [PRE]), Basso, "plump, his cheeks full and pink" (La guinguette à deux sous [GUI]), Le Chanoine, "a fat man with a pink face" (Maigret et les témoins récalcitrants [TEM]), Pélardeau's "pink complexion " (Maigret à Vichy [VIC]), and Courcel, with the "face of a baby, round and pink" and "soft, pink skin" (L'ami d'enfance de Maigret [ENF]). For the women, Beetje, with "smooth and rosy pink cheecks like the skin of a ripe apple" (Un crime en Hollande [HOL]), the dairyman's daughter, "as pink as a ham" (Le témoignage de l'enfant de chœur [enf]), Charlotte, with "candy pink skin" (Les caves du Majestic [MAJ]), the "good woman all round and pink" who works at the pastry shop (Les vacances de Maigret [VAC]), Arlette's replacement, with "the pink skin of a baby or a girl from the country" (Maigret au Picratt's [PIC]), Emma, "busty, with a pink complexion" and a "pink shoulder" (Signé Picpus [SIG]), and Georgette, who was "pink, with large breasts".

    This pink flesh of women does not go unnoticed by Maigret, even if he tries to ignore it... consider Berthe, with her "fleshy pink lips" (Mademoiselle Berthe et son amant [ber]), Mme Popineau, "he looked away when his eyes fell on the legs of the heavy woman, who had the habit of keeping her knees apart, showing large areas of pink skin above her black stockings" (Les vacances de Maigret [VAC]), and Germaine, "you could see the pink of her body showing through" (La première enquête de Maigret).

    A pink face may also evoke the "foreign" origin of a character, like the pink complexion of Major Bellam (Mon ami Maigret [AMI]), or Norris Jonker (Maigret et le fantôme [FAN]), the pink skin of Jef Van Houtte (Maigret et le clochard [CLO]), and de Keulemans's pink face (Maigret et l'affaire Nahour [NAH])

    But a pink face can also come from the cold, physical exertion, excessive drinking, or emotions... "Moers was in his element. He became pink with pleasure." (La tête d'un homme [TET]); "It was a timid anger, as of a man who rarely externalized, and his cheeks became pink", about Armand Lachaume in Maigret et les témoins récalcitrants [TEM].

  2. The color pink can also be found in clothing, mainly of female characters, most of the time for undergarments and lingerie... Jojo's pink panties (Mon ami Maigret [AMI]) and Charlotte's (Maigret à Vichy [VIC]), the pink crepe robe of Oscar's wife (La nuit du carrefour [NUI]), Jaja's bright pink underwear (Liberty Bar [LIB]), Emma's pink slip (Signé Picpus [SIG]), the aggressive pink of Félicie's underwear (Félicie est là [FEL]), and Lina's dusty pink velvet dressing gown (Maigret et l'affaire Nahour [NAH]).

    We find, in the clothing, the ambivalence of pink... the sensuality of the pink silk blouse that covers Adele's "lush flesh" (Au rendez-vous des Terre-neuvas [REN]), and the innocence of Mme Maigret's pink floral dress and pink suit (Maigret et le clochard [CLO] and Maigret à Vichy [VIC]), or Lucile's pink cotton dress (Les vacances de Maigret [VAC]).

    Other terms in the lexical field of pink are often used to describe these garments... "shrimp-colored" for Adèle's shift (La danseuse du Gai-Moulin [GAI]), and Charlotte's pink silk slip (Les caves du Majestic [MAJ]); "salmon" for Cécile's flannel robe (Cécile est morte [CEC]), Jeanne Debul's silk peignoir (Le revolver de Maigret [REV]), Louise's dressing gown of crêpe de Chine (Maigret se trompe [TRO]), Mme Marton's peignoir (Les scrupules de Maigret [SCR]); "candy pink" for Léa's blouse (Maigret et le clochard [CLO]), Georgette's crepe pajamas (Le revolver de Maigret [REV]), Josée's bed jacket (L'ami d'enfance de Maigret [ENF]), Liliane Pigou's blouse (Maigret et le marchand de vin [VIN]), Mlle Clément's dress (Maigret en meublé [MEU]); and "flesh-colored" for Céline's silk stockings (L'Etoile-du-Nord [eto]).

  3. We also find pink objects in the corpus, though rather rarely... among these, edible objects, whose flesh color evokes temptation once again. Consider the "pink flesh" of Jaja's leg of lamb (Liberty Bar [LIB]), which Maigret cannot resist, the "innocent little pink lamb" which Maigret eats with sauerkraut in Maigret et les témoins récalcitrants [TEM], or the leg of lamb "of a pretty pink" served to him by Mme Maigret (Maigret et l'homme tout seul [SEU]). Temptation is also in the "alluring pink" binding of a new Catechism which leads the child Maigret into a lie (Maigret et les braves gens [BRA]).

    Under Simenon's pen, pink, when the term is accompanied by a particular qualifier, can take on a negative connotation. It's the "ugly pink" of the sausages found in the destitute Anna Gorskine's room (Pietr le Letton [LET])), the "ugly sick pink" of the compress the concierge held to her stiff neck (Cécile est morte [CEC]), the powder puff "of a dubious pink" of the unfriendly Marie Deligeard (Les caves du Majestic [MAJ]), the "unhealthy pink" of the red billard ball, with which Maigret is forced to play during his exile (La maison du juge [JUG]), and the "gaudy pink tape" on the wounded Lognon's face (Maigret, Lognon et les gangsters [JUG]).

  4. Pink in the background is on the walls painted pink or the pink brick of houses (for example, the pink houses of the village in Félicie est là [FEL], or the house where Maigret was born, in pink brick, evoked in Les mémoires de Maigret [MEM]), the pink tiles of the roofs or the chimney pots of Paris that the rising sun tints pink. In the interior, we find some pink floral wallpaper, and especially a profusion of shades, often of silk, which spread their pink light on the characters, as in Brown's room at Antibes (Liberty Bar [LIB]), Lise's in La maison du juge [JUG], and Mlle Clément's salmon lampshade (Maigret en meublé [MEU]).

    In the landscape, pink is essentially the color associated with the rising or setting of the sun... "night was gently falling, and the main square was all pink" (Le fou de Bergerac [FOU]); "it was the pink hour, in between, where the mugginess of the setting sun dissipated in the cool of the approaching night" (Liberty Bar [LIB]); "the horizon turned pink, a ray of sun licking the glass" (Maigret [MAI]); "the sky was pink, and you could see luminous plumes at the corners of some roofs" (Le revolver de Maigret [REV]).

3.10. Violet

Violet (purple), from a symbolic point of view, is an ambiguous color. For a long time, violet was considered to be dark blue, almost black (and thus its use in rituals of mourning). It was only after the work of Newton that violet found a position between red and blue. The color retains the trace of its symbolic representations, and it's always difficult for the reader to imagine the particular shade in the texts... a bluish purple, like that of the violet or eggplant, or a reddish purple, as often found in man-made products, in shades of fuchsia or magenta. The matter was further complicated with the arrival of the English word "purple", which corresponds to the French "violet", but which, for a French speaker, also evokes the French "crimson" [pourpre], which is part of the color field of red...

This ambiguity may be one of the reasons Simenon uses it infrequently... loving the "material words" which allow the reader to imagine easily the ambiance evoked, he may find "violet" too vague...

  1. Violet appears relatively rarely in the corpus... found in the physical descriptions of tired characters (purple circles around their eyes), those under the influence of emotions (the neck or cheekbones becoming purplish, veins which swell and become purple). And we find the violet eyes of Odette Bellamy and her mother (Les vacances de Maigret [VAC]), O'Rourke's "eyes the color of violets" (Maigret chez le coroner [COR]), and Jean-Luc Bodard's "almost violet" eyes (L'ami d'enfance de Maigret [ENF]).

  2. We find some rare violet clothing... the "ugly purple" shirt of Bessy's brother and Wo Lee's purple shirt (Maigret chez le coroner [COR]), an old woman in a purple hat going to mass (Maigret a peur [PEU]), a shawl of "an aggressive violet" for a concierge (Les scrupules de Maigret [SCR]), and the "hideous purple" dressing gown of the concierge's husband (Maigret et le fantôme [FAN]). To which we can add the "old wine-colored dressing gown" worn by Lenoir in Maigret et monsieur Charles [CHA].

  3. And we find some rare violet objects... above all violet ink, but also the purple neon signs and lighting in bars and cabarets. We find "fat purple" grapes (Félicie est là [FEL]), "large flowers with violet petals" on the Andersen's linen (La nuit du carrefour [NUI]), and the "reddish purple" of Pietr le Letton's mortal wound [LET].

  4. In the background, there's the facade of a dance hall painted violet (Maigret et le client du samedi [CLI]), and the church at Porquerolles becoming violet in the setting sun (Mon ami Maigret [AMI]).

    In the landscape, it's the sky turning purple with an approaching storm, the setting sun, and the purple mountains of Arizona (Maigret chez le coroner [COR]).

  5. "Mauve" is a difficult color to define. For some, it's part of the color field of pink, for others, of purple. It all depends, of course, on the nuances observed and intended... As for me, I include it with violet, and I think Simenon would have done the same, since its use in the Maigret corpus is closer to that for violet than for pink. Mauve takes on a particular symbolic and semantic significance in the author's writing. Simenon doesn't use it often, but when he does, it's with a definite intention, as we will see.

    Mauve is used in the physical description of characters... it's the color of unhealthy skin, but also the color of the dyed hair of old women. And it's also the color of clothing worn by middle-aged women, and those who use it to display their dignity, concealing at the same time a certain moral severity... Consider Mme Gallet: " she was already armed with a mauve silk dress" (M. Gallet, décédé [COR]), Mme Michoux (Le chien jaune [JAU]), Mme Leroy... "What color was her dress? Black, with mauve trim. One of those dresses worn by older women seeking distinction." (La pipe de Maigret [pip]).

    It can be the color of clothing which emphasizes either a certain distress... as Céline's mauve dressing gown in L'ombre chinoise [OMB], Jaja's peignoir and coat in Liberty Bar [LIB], Mme Lognon's "flannel dressing gown of an ugly mauve" (Maigret, Lognon et les gangsters [LOG])... or a certain incongruity... as Albert's mauve socks (Maigret et son mort [MOR]), Clémentine Pholien's mauve hat (Maigret et le client du samedi [CLI]), and Maigret's famous mauve suspenders (Signé Picpus [SIG])... We can add, in the same category, the "lady in mauve, or rather in lilac" of Maigret à Vichy [VIC]. Simenon in effect uses, in this novel, the two terms "mauve" and "lilac" as synonyms.

    The color mauve for objects and settings evokes a symbolic notion of "something in half-tone", dull... Consider the the bicycle shop in L'auberge aux noyés [noy]... "it was the little lodging of a craftsman in every sense of the word, with ... as vases, horrible pink and mauve things won at fairgrounds"; the dance hall where Pierrot worked (Maigret se trompe [TRO])... "the front of the Grelot was painted mauve, and in the evening, the lighting was apparently mauve also."; Mlle Irène's shop, painted mauve (Maigret et la jeune morte [JEU]); and a cabaret in La colère de Maigret [COL], "fairly shabby with its front painted an aggressive mauve".

    Even the mauve of the landscape has an indecisive connotation... it's the mauve of dawn or dusk, when these don't display the triumphant shades of purple or crimson... "It was no longer night. It was not yet day. The air was mauve." (Les caves du Majestic [MAJ]), or the mauve announcing a coming storm... "The storm was brewing. The horizon became a menacing mauve" (Félicie est là [FEL]).

3. 11. Orange

Symbolic of energy and health, halfway between yellow and red, orange is, it seems, one of the least-liked colors of Western society. Is it because, as Michel Pastoureau emphasizes, "the orange tones, which can be so attractive when produced by nature, are often so vulgar when produced by man"?

Whatever the case, we note that this is the color field least frequently used by Simenon in the Maigret corpus.

Mentions of orange in the texts apply to three domains...

  1. some orange clothing, of which two are worn by the same character... Aline Bauche's orange linen suit in Maigret se défend [DEF], and her orange silk negligee in La patience de Maigret [PAT]; the orange caps of the Dutch employees at the frontier station at Neuschanz (Le pendu de Saint-Pholien [PHO]), and that of the station master at Delfzijl (Un crime en Hollande [HOL])

  2. some objects... an orange window shade at the Andersens' (La nuit du carrefour [NUI]), in Mariette Gibon's living room (Maigret et l'homme du banc [BAN]), and in Louise Bourges's room (Un échec de Maigret [ECH]); the orange awnings on the terraces at Antibes (Liberty Bar [LIB]), and at Paris (Le client le plus obstiné du monde [obs] and Maigret et le corps sans tête [COR]), a boat painted orange (Liberty Bar [LIB]), the orange umbrellas in the Place du Tertre (Maigret s'amuse [AMU]), the orange satin sofa at the Meurants' (Maigret aux Assises [ASS]), an orange quilt at the Planchons' (Maigret et le client du samedi [CLI]), and an orange canvas beach hut at La Baule (Maigret et l'homme tout seul)

  3. light in the setting... "the shade was still down, filtering the sun, giving an orange tint to the atmosphere" (M. Gallet, décédé [GAL]), "A door was open. In the orange beam of light was a man" (Maigret a peur [PEU]), "Maigret entered, glanced at the bar, at the tables around which the first customers were bathed in an orange light."

3.12. color of..., -colored

We also find in the corpus some expressions denoting color, in which the author uses terms like "color of..." or "-colored", with a noun which is not actually a color term, but which evokes one by comparison. This is especially the case in the descriptions of landscapes, above all the sky, which gives us an idea of "the color of the weather"... "the sky was a sad copper color" (M. Gallet, décédé [GAL]); "the sky had the same icy color as the night he left Meung" (Maigret [MAI])"; "the smoke began to right in a pearl-colored sky" (Maigret et son mort [MOR]); "clouds running low, dark against a sky the color of frosted glass" (Maigret a peur [PEU]); "the air was the color of white wine" (Maigret à l'école [ECO]); " the low sky became slate-colored" (Maigret tend un piège [PIE]); "the sky was the color of steel" (Maigret et le voleur paresseux [PAR]).

3.13. Combinations of colors

In his colorful descriptions, Simenon doesn't limit himself to single terms in the chromatic field, but often "harmonizes" them, inserting into the same sentence a setting of a number of colors... an opportunity for the author to manipulate his palette like that of a watercolorist or impressionist painter...

  1. We find descriptions in the corpus where two colors are combined, usually in contrast, including some which appear more frequently...

    • Yellow and red are often associated... red and yellow striped awnings on the terraces of cafés, the red and yellow streetcars in Liège (Le pendu de Saint-Pholien [PHO]), the thick red and yellow cord at Mme Boinet's door (Cécile est morte [CEC]), the red and gold Chinese sofa at Versailles (La maison du juge [JUG]), the red and gold mosaic on the walls of a café (Le client le plus obstiné du monde [obs]); a café with walls of an aggressive red, with yellow lettering (La pipe de Maigret [pip]), red and yellow linoleum at Mme Popineau's (Les vacances de Maigret [VAC]), the red and yellow bus carrying tourists (Maigret et le clochard [CLO]), the red and yellow striped hammock-chair at the house in Meung (La patience de Maigret [PAT]), the red brick building where Lognon lives, with a row of yellow bricks around the windows (Maigret et le fantôme [FAN]), the red and yellow brand label on a box of cookies (L'ami d'enfance de Maigret [ENF]), the yellow linen suit, with a beautiful red tie, worn by Groux (Maigret se fâche [FAC]), and lastly, speaking of contrast, this striking example, "Prosper Donge, like a big red goldfish in his glass cage... and Jean Ramuel, as yellow as a quince, in his..." (Les caves du Majestic [FAC]).

    • And we also often find an association of blue and yellow, or more precisely, gold, in descriptions of the scenes... "the vision of the Seine flowing in a fine blue and gold mist" (Maigret [MAI]), "Parc Monceau, with its golden gates, in bluish shadows" (Signé Picpus [SIG]), "fine golden dust in the clear blue sky" (Signé Picpus [SIG]), "all the windows open on the blue and gold panorama of the Seine" (Le client le plus obstiné du monde [obs]), "the sky, between the roofs, was a very light blue, without a cloud, and most of the houses seemed golden" (Maigret en meublé [MEU]), "the sky... was a candid blue, with clouds fringed in gold" (Maigret et la jeune morte [JEU]), "a light mist, a blue mixed with gold, rose from the Seine" (Maigret à l'école [JEU]), "the bright yellow, in the air, shifting little by little to blue" (ibid. [JEU]).

    • We find also the combination of red and blue, in the descriptions of objects... "blue and red stained glass windows" on the Toison-d'Or (L'écluse no 1 [ECL]), "thick socks of red and blue wool" worn by the children (L'inspecteur cadavre [CAD]), "red and blue balloons" of the children on the beach (Les vacances de Maigret [VAC]), or more symbolically, "the red of the fire fought the dark blue of her eyes" (about Else in La nuit du carrefour [NUI]), "the rays of the setting sun purpled his face, his eyes bluer than the river" (about James in La guinguette à deux sous [GUI]), "the red of the lobster and the geraniums, Annette who clasped her blue robe to her chest" (Une confidence de Maigret [CON]), and again, in a scene of the setting sun, "the air was bluish, with a few red streaks at the base of the sky" (Maigret et le clochard [CLO]).

    • The combination of red and green is often found in the green and red lights of maritime beacons, boats, barges and tugs. But there's also the "marvelous red and green painted wallpaper! A bloody red! A garish green! The long stripes singing in the sun!" (Le fou de Bergerac [FOU]), the "fishing boats... stretching on the water their red and green reflections" (Le port des brumes [POR]), the "red and green paint on the walls" of the Floria (Maigret [MAI), the "red and green" trucks of Zenith Transports (Maigret et le corps sans tête [COR]), a scene of the setting sun, "as the sun became redder, the roofs of the houses seems to blaze up, the sea taking on, in places, an icy green color" (Maigret et la vieille dame [DAM]), and some explosive clothing associations... "with a spinach green dress, she wore a red hat", Mme Blanc in L'ami d'enfance de Maigret [ENF], and Félicie's "staggering scarlet hat... trimmed with an iridescent green feather" [FEL]. And there are also Moncin's morbid paintings (Maigret tend un piège [PIE]), "the dominant tone was a purplish red, mixed with a strange green".

    • The association of green and yellow is very rare in the corpus. We find it in a "green and yellow bus" (Le client le plus obstiné du monde [obs]), and in the description of the scene at the beginning of L'écluse no 1 [ECL], "tram 13 ... dragged its yellow lights along the Quai des Carrières. At the corner of a street, near a green gas-lamp, it feigned a stop".

    • Blue and green is an association which marks something exceptional, in the symbolic sense of the term. We find it in the "dinner party in blue and green, the green of the liqueur and the pale blue of the knit dress" at Mlle Clément's (Maigret en meublé [MEU]), and in the garden at Meung: "Mme Maigret, shelling peas in the warm shade, where the blue of her apron and the green of the pods made sumptuous spots of color" (Maigret se fâche [FAC]); "the air was clear, the sky pale blue and the buds already swollen. In a few days, we'd see the first leaves of a tender green" (Maigret et Monsieur Charles [CHA]).

    • The association of blue and white is essentially that of seascapes, linking the blue of the water and the white of the sails of the boats... "the blue water dotted with two or three white sails" (Liberty Bar [LIB]), "a white and blue [féérie]" (ibid. [LIB]), "a white dot in a blue world" about the Cormoran (Mon ami Maigret [LIB]), and indicating fine weather, "the sky of a blue always as pure, in which floated a little cloud of brilliant white" (Maigret à Vichy [VIC]), "the people of the island... wore pants... of a deep blue, sumptuous in the sun of the square, and their white blouses were gleaming" (Mon ami Maigret [AMI]).

    • The combination of red and white is found in descriptions of the scene, especially for cafés... the "Tabac Henri-IV, red and white" (L'écluse no 1 [ECL]), the "bench of dark red imitation leather, tables of white marble" at the Cadran (Maigret et son mort [MOR]), "three stonemasons in white overalls were eating, drinking red wine" (Maigret et la Grande Perche [GRA]); but also for objects... the "red and white bus" of the tourists (Maigret et les vieillards [VIE]), and the "red and white shoes with the happiest effect" worn by Maigret on vacation (Maigret et l'improbable Monsieur Owen [owe]).

    • The association of green and white, fairly rare, is found in a "green and white bus" (Cécile est morte [CEC]), and in a fishing boat, "painted pale green, with a white strake" (Mon ami Maigret [AMI]).

    • We find the association of red and black in a "red and black salon" at Nevers (M. Gallet, décédé [GAL]), "two black chairs with the seats covered in red velvet" at Lucile's (Maigret à New York [NEW]), "a black and red tugboat" that Maigret watches from his office window (Maigret et l'homme tout seul [SEU]).

    • The association of yellow and black is that seen when lights pierce the darkness of the night, "nothing but the yellow reflections on wet things in the darkness" (Le port des brumes [POR]).

    • The combination of black and white strongly marks contrast, opposition... "chalk hills, with black and white streaks" (Le charretier de la Providence [PRO]), "the white linen bursting out of the black of the mourning dress" (L'affaire Saint-Fiacre [FIA]), "there was just the little alarm clock... against the pale dial the black hands seemed too heavy for it" (Liberty Bar [LIB]), "you saw in the blackness white silhouettes bending down" (Maigret et son mort [MOR]), "the white of the flakes made the glistening roofs even blacker" (Maigret au Picratt's [PIC]), "a Paris which had the same blacks and the same whites as in the silent films" (Maigret et les témoins récalcitrants [TEM]), "you could sometimes see the moon between two black clouds, giving them momentarily a white border" (Maigret se défend [DEF]).

    • We find also an association of pink and blue, sometimes in the description of a landscape, "the Pont d'Austerlitz, its framework set in a veritable fireworks, where one could make out, drowned in blue and pink, the architecture of Notre-Dame" (L'écluse no 1 [ECL]), "the chimney pots took their pink color against the pale blue sky" (Maigret et les braves gens [BRA]), "the slates of the roof had, in the sun, the same blue and pink reflections as the Seine at certain hours" (Maigret se défend [DEF]), "the houses of a pale pink, or lavender blue" (La folle de Maigret [FOL])... and sometimes in the description of an interior scene, "the striped wallpaper mixed pale pink and a slightly violet blue" (Maigret à Vichy [VIC]), "the two rooms, the one blue, the other pink, reminded you of a Marie Laurencin painting" (Maigret hésite [HES]); "blue and pale pink seemed to be the colors of the house, like in a painting by Marie Laurencin" (Maigret et le tueur [TUE]).

    • We also find the combination of green and pink, in the clothing worn by an accomplice in Stan le tueur [sta]: "an incredible spinach green hat which emphasized even more that the shirt was a faded pink", in the Jeanneville landscape, (Félicie est là [FEL]): "the grass was an innocent green, the bricks a candy pink", and in Campois's house (Maigret se fâche [FAC]): "a very simple pink house, with rose buses climbing to assault the green-shuttered windows."

    • And we find an association of pink and black, marking a symbolic contrast... "Couchet who got out of the car, fresh and pink, and Mme Martin, stiff, with her black gloves" (L'ombre chinoise [OMB]).

    • We note lastly the walls painted brown and pale green in Albert's café (Maigret et son mort [MOR]), the little yellow church with the white steeple at Porquerolles (Mon ami Maigret [AMI]), the brown-painted facade with yellow lettering of a café (Les scrupules de Maigret [SCR]), and Line Marcia's pearl gray and yellow room (Maigret et l'indicateur [IND]).

  2. The author also uses in his descriptions the harmonics of three colors, which contrast, are in opposition, or form a composition as in a painting. Most of the time, at least one of the three colors is red or blue.

    • We find an association of white, red, and green. Thus, the physical description of Heurtin at the beginning of La tête d'un homme [TET], "his face was a dull white, with only the eyelids of his greenish eyes tinted red". We'll find the same combination of colors, forming a kind of reminder, a little further along in the novel, in the scene at La Citanguette... at the moment Heurtin comes down into the room, and when Dufour tries to hide the revealing newspaper, "for a moment, the scene was hidden by the passage of a tugboat, which had lit its white, green and red lights". We find these three colors in Au rendez-vous des Terre-Neuvas [REN], "we saw extended there the red, white and green reflections of the boats", and in Maigret voyage [VOY], where Maigret sees through the window of the airplane the "little white houses with red roofs scattered in the dark green of the mountain".

    • We find an association of red, blue, and green, "the sun, crossing the multi-colored stained glass windows, covered the varnished walls of the room with green, red and blue light" (Un crime en Hollande [HOL]); "there were scarves of red, blue, and green" (La maison du juge [JUG]); "porters in red, blue, and green" (Félicie est là [FEL]): "The sky a periwinkle blue... The taxis themselves were redder or greener than on other days" (L'écluse no 1 [ECL]).

    • We also find yellow, red, and blue... "alternating yellow and red bricks around the windows; the woodwork freshly painted, in a blue that clashed with it all" (Maigret et le client du samedi [CLI]); "Porter in blue and gold. Cloakroom. Red curtain raised, the sound of a tango." (Pietr le Letton [LET]). We can group this harmonic in the same description, "A purple sun was setting over Paris, and the view of the Seine crossed by the Pont-Neuf était was smeared with red, blue, and ochre" (L'écluse no 1 [ECL]), and this, which is also close, "The sea was red and blue, with an orange transition" (Liberty Bar [LIB]).

    • We also find an association of green, blue, and pink, evoking a gentle landscape... "it seemed that after the storm of the day before, the fields were even greener, the sky a delicate blue; he soon noticed the pink houses" (Félice est là [FEL]); "the sky was a slightly bluish pink, the leaves of the trees still a tender green" (La folle de Maigret [FOL])

    • We find an association of blue, white, and gray, reserved for furnishings... "the floor was gray, the marble of the tables a raw white, veined with blue" (Le chien jaune [JAU]); "the walls pale gray, the armchairs also a delicate blue, the table painted ivory" (Maigret et l'affaire Nahour [NAH]); "it was cheerful, in pale gray, with a little blue. The carpet was white" (Maigret et l'homme tout seul [SEU]).

    • We also find an association of blue, white, and pink... "everything was white, the walls, the satin of the furniture, with only the blue of some porcelains and the dusty pink of a thick woolen rug, a harmony which made one think of a painting by Marie Laurencin" (Maigret et les témoins récalcitrants [TEM]); "there were, in the blue sky, only light white clouds, which the sun bordered with pink" (Maigret et l'homme tout seul [SEU]).

    • We can also report various other harmonics... "it was a little café painted green, ... two or three tables covered with brown oilcloth, and nothing but men dressed in blue" (Les vacances de Maigret [VAC]); "the church at the end of the square, pink a little while ago, was turning purple; the sky slowly changing to pale green" (Mon ami Maigret [AMI]); "the chimney pots were no longer the same pink as in the morning, but were turning a dark red under the rays of the setting sun, and in the sky now, you could discern traces of pale green" (Maigret et le corps sans tête [COR]); "the tender green starting to dawn on the lilac branches, the houses white and yellow" (Maigret à l'école [ECO]); "the blue in the air, a dark and velvety blue, had little by little prevailed over the red of the setting sun; ... you could see, through the French windows, the balcony railing drawing in black ink its arabesques of wrought iron" (Le revolver de Maigret [REV]); "her black eyes were fixed with curiosity on the Chief Inspector... she wiped her hand on the white garment, where it left green streaks" Mirella Jonker in Maigret et le fantôme [FAN]; "the facade had been freshly painted in white tinted with pink, and the shutters were almond green" (Maigret à Vichy [VIC]); "the sea covered with blue and white sails. He saw ... the first kids arrive in red jerseys" (Les vacances de Maigret [VAC]); "a red tile roof, walls painted yellow on which could be read large brown lettering" (Maigret et son mort [MOR]); "in the background, red roofs, white and pink houses" (Mon ami Maigret [AMI]); "a gray-painted barge, with a red and white triangle at the front" (Maigret et le clochard [CLO]).

    • We also find harmonics in the descriptions of the discoveries of victims, especially women, and this description reduces the morbidity of the scene to preserve the beauty of the character... "on the white goatskin rug... lay a body, a black satin dress, a very white arm, hair with copper highlights" (Maigret au Picratt's [PIC]); "in the corner of a yellow sofa, a young woman with brown hair was curiously slumped over, with a large dark red stain on her dressing gown" (Maigret se trompe [TRO]).

    • Finally, we note this association of white, red, and black, which is reminiscent of the original combination... "he had thin skin, and very white, almost the skin of a woman, on which contrasted his thick black mustache. His lips were red" (Maigret et l'indicateur [IND]); "he saw the messy black hair, an eye almost as black, a face with very white skin, the red stain of a peignoir" (Maigret et le client du samedi [CLI])... Don't these two descriptions evoke stories in our subconscious, the first, that of Inspector Louis, when he appears as innocent as Snow White, and the second, that of Mme Planchon, evil in the form of a wolf (Little Red Riding Hood or The wolf and the seven kids)...?

  3. We also find, in the texts, associations of more than three colors, where the author seems to amuse himself by composing a veritable painting, very evocative... "The sky became green on one side, a green cold and eternal, red on the other, with violet streaks and some clouds of an ingenuous white. " (Maigret se fâche [FAC]); "The sea was an incredible blue... an island sprawled lazily in the middle of the iridescent surface, with very green hills, red and yellow rocks." (Mon ami Maigret [AMI]); "some red and gray roofs, white walls, a gas pump, the golden sign of an inn" (Maigret et le clochard [CLO]); "she wore a pale blue linen dress that he recognized, her black hair framed a pale face, marked with red blotches" (La patience de Maigret [PAT]); "a basket of fish was overturned... pink scorpion fish, blue and green fish whose names Maigret didn't known, a kind of sea serpent spotted red and yellow" (Mon ami Maigret [AMI]); "The lamps with pink shades weren't lit, for the sun was still basking the opposite sidewalk. The bartender, Justin, in a white shirt with a black tie, was giving a final wipe to his glasses, and the only customer, a big man with a red face, was drinking a mint green." (La patience de Maigret [PAT])

4. Conclusion

In this study, we have seen how Simenon uses colors to make Maigret's world come alive, how he "composes his paintings" by combining description and symbolic meaning. We have also discovered that he knows, on occasion, how to use certain terms of color fields to refine this description. All this has shown us that what can be called "Simenon's atmosphere" is far from limited to black and white and gray. Colors are a part of Maigret's world, and of Simenon's, a brilliant symphony of life...

To conclude, along with my desire to do similar Simenonian research for the corpus beyond Maigret, I'd like to say that I long hesitated to enhance this study with color illustrations, and finally I gave up, out of loyalty to the Simenonian principle that the author's texts speak well enough so that each reader can make their own images, their own colorful paintings...

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