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Cahiers Simenon
N°1 Simenon et le cinéma

Les Amis de Georges Simenon, 1988

Maigret

Jean DELANNOY

Maigret has no connection with trends, because this character, unlike so many others, is no longer a creation.
So you don't misunderstand me, I'm not questioning Simenon's paternity – far from it. If he took a real police commissioner for a model, he developed him, modified his behavior, changed certain facts. He practiced his novelist's trade completely while creating this fellow... but he gave him so many features, so many details, so much simple complexity that his character escaped him, went out all alone into the street, and lives his own life.
Simenon himself understood that so well that he had to write Maigret's Memoirs, where the commissioner settles some accounts with his creator...
"Simenon said that I wore a bowler hat... that isn't true... he spoke of my overcoat with a velvet collar... that's a ridiculous detail that struck him... I had one once, of course, but I changed... my career is long..."
Simenon confesses that when he reads Maigret's Memoirs, he doesn't always agree, and so by his own account, Maigret exists.
It goes so far that even the Police, who don't joke, presented an inspector's card to Maigret... If Simenon can participate in certain confidential or official functions, it is not as a novelist, but as the representative of Maigret. He is to some extent a part of the corps. This has never happened to a fictional character, not even to Sherlock Holmes.
Maigret interests me because he is not an absolute winner, not a flamboyant hero, he is a man. He has a wife whom we know, who has her own habits and charm... we know where he lives, we know his apartment with its character and even its ridiculous sides. We know that Maigret himself catches cold easily, and how he takes care of himself.
We not only know his habits, his penchant for a small glass, his familiar words, but we know his problems. We know that he feels for some of his clients a kind of sympathy, that some affairs disturb him enough to make him sick. He has bouts of conscience, he doesn't always follow the rules, but still considers himself a horse grown gray under the harness. He has his favorite inspectors, and puts up with others, while some bother him.
Maigret exists, and I believe that I have no friends about whom I know so many intimate details of their daily lives.
To make this character come alive is a passionate adventure for a director.
Among all the books of the series – and I've read them all several times – I especially chose one, Maigret Sets a Trap, because it allows the commissioner to manifest himself completely.
It is not the number of revolver shots that interests me. I don't believe that it is enthralling, neither for authors nor for readers, to redo in a different shape, what everybody knows.
Whereas in our story, Maigret meets a kind of criminal new to him. Denied his usual game, he must use new weapons, and it drives him into such a hell that he feels a kind of fear...
All this makes more human, and I would say almost weaker, my friend Maigret...


This text appeared in the press release of Maigret Sets a Trap [directed by Jean Delannoy], at the time of the film's release in 1957.

translation: Stephen Trussel
Honolulu, November 22, 2005

 

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