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updated:
Simenon and his Inspector

Le Commissaire Maigret
Police Judiciaire
36 Quai des Orfèvres
Paris...

The Maigret Forum This is not a static website. It changes almost daily. The Maigret "Forum," an open bulletin board for notices, opinions, information and discussion related to Maigret and Simenon, has become the most active feature of this site. It's where new books, websites, articles and features are first announced and displayed, and includes an indexed archive of the entire past Forum... back to 1997!

Click here for the current Forum.
Here's a recent sample -

Maigret of the Month: La jeune fille aux perles [The girl with the pearls]

9/23/12 –

"That's pretty much what I remember of that meeting. I'd had to talk to him anyway about something I'd taken care of a few months earlier ... which concerned a girl and a pearl necklace...

Weeks passed, months... One morning I found on my desk, next to my mail, a little book with a horribly illustrated cover such as you find at newsstands, and in the hands of shop girls. It was entitled, «La jeune fille aux perles», "The girl with the pearls", and the name of the author was Georges Sim."

It's with these lines that Maigret tells, in his Memoires [MEM], how after Simenon's visit to the Quai des Orfèvres, the author published his first novel where he used the name of the Chief Inspector. Maigret didn't read the book, tossed it in the trash. But each morning he found a new copy on his desk, put there by way of Janvier. Maigret, encouraged by Lucas, finally read the novel, without great conviction... He found himself "fatter, heavier than actually", utilizing unexpected methods - in short, a sort of caricature of himself with which he wasn't greatly pleased...

And these lines written by Maigret, alias Simenon, call for some comment, and lead us to the novel under discussion. First, this book was not originally published under the title La jeune fille aux perles, but as the banal, La figurante [The Extra]. A title chosen without Simenon's consent, which he didn't like. That's why the original title was restored to the novel when it was republished in 1991, in the series "La seconde chance", by Julliard. Then, we note that Simenon speaks of this novel as if it were the first in which the character Maigret appears. Now he's already present in Train de nuit, the first of the four proto-Maigrets. In Train de Nuit, it's true, Maigret is still a sketch, and perhaps Simenon himself considered that this novel wasn't yet really a part of the series of investigations of the Chief Inspector. After all, it's the Simenon researchers who, after the fact, concluded the existence of these "proto-Maigrets"...

Nevertheless, it's interesting to note that Simenon highlights La jeune fille aux perles as a novel relating a Maigret investigation, since, for Simenon scholars, the "real" first Maigret is rather the last of the proto-Maigrets, La maison de l'inquiétude. But for Simenon, it's clearly La jeune fille aux perles which is the first Maigret novel, even if he still called it a "draft", as Xavier Guichard had explained to Maigret (see Les mémoires de Maigret [MEM]).

As mentioned above, this novel first appeared under the title La figurante, and its publishing history is somewhat interesting. This work, called by Simenon scholars an "authentic popular novel" (Lacassin), and therefore a priori not a detective story, is thus caught between two genres. It uses all the clichés of popular literature, The evil villain with the venomous look, who finds redemption at the end of the story (after all, he'd had an unfortunate childhood, for which he wasn't responsible, according to the Assizes Court...), the pure young girl who remains so, despite all the attacks of which she is the object, without forgetting the dramatic scenes where they pledge their love... But at the same time, this novel introduces the character of the policeman, and in addition, a policeman with unusual methods. We note that Maigret appears in the first chapter (as Chief Inspector in the Sûreté), and that he is present in 11 chapters out of the 21 in the novel (thus, much more often than in Train de nuit). Additionally, certains aspects are already characteristic... the physical - "broad and immense, with a powerful neck", "a man with broad shoulders, a heavy face, but with sparkling eyes, who ate sandwiches", "he slowly filled a pipe, lit it, and stood before the window", "his thick fingers"; moral - "who had throughout his whole person something both gruff and tender", "I don't believe anything! I don't think anything!", "He was both gruff and paternal.". No doubt, Chief Inspector Maigret was already on the case, as much himself as will be found in the "official" cycle.

But what is striking, is that he is not always center stage. In a novel of the official cycle, the entire affair is seen through his eyes, we never find a scene between two characters, like the dramatic scenes of the clashes between Nadia and Morsan, told "from outside", or, if you will, by the narrator, who is the author. At best, these scenes could be evoked by Maigret's own thoughts.

In this sense, this novel is therefore still a proto-Maigret, a draft before the "semi-literary" novels which constitute the Maigret series. But we have the impression that Simenon has already "tried out" his character, done a sort of "first casting" to see how this anti-hero could fit into a story. As Lacassin wrote,

"Knowing that to gain the acceptance of the publisher, he couldn't do a psychological novel and a detective story... he therefore used all his arts to develop and refine the character of Maigret without making him seem too much a star - which must be reserved exclusively for the victims."
Even so, this almost "sneaky" attempt to introduce his character was not so well received by his publisher... Written during the summer of 1929, the book was first refused by Fayard, who eventually published it... in February 1932, in a collection with no detective stories, "Les maîtres du roman populaire" [Masters of the popular novel]. Worse still, giving it the insignificant title, La figurante [The Extra]. However, by then, twelve novels of the official cycle had already appeared, with well-known success... We can also wonder if the readers of the time, those who read the "popular novels", were the same ones who read the Maigret novels, and if they made the connection between La jeune fille aux perles and Le chien jaune [JAU] or La tête d'un homme [TET]...

Finally, we note that this novel was published under the pseudonym Christian Brulls, and not Georges Sim, as Maigret recounts in his Memoirs [MEM]... It's the next two proto-Maigrets, La femme rousse and La maison de l'inquiétude, which will be published under the pseudonym Georges Sim, but by Tallandier this time, in the collection "Criminels et policiers". Certainly, Fayard had nothing to do with these trials. He wanted to publish the "real" Maigrets, after finally being convinced by Simenon, though not without difficulty, that "this will work", while remaining skeptical about the police side of the novels itself. He wasn't completely wrong... if the Maigrets had been "just" simple detective stories, would they have met with the success they still find today?


Murielle Wenger

original French


 

A phenomenal author and his phenomenal character

Georges Simenon was by many standards the most successful author of the 20th century, and the character he created, Inspector Jules Maigret, who made him rich and famous, ranks only after Sherlock Holmes as the world's best known fictional detective. There is nothing commonplace about the life of Georges Simenon, and he and his works have been the subject of innumerable books and articles. The Maigret stories are unlike any other detective stories — the crime and the details of unraveling it are often less central to our interest than Maigret's journey through the discovery of the cast of characters... towards an understanding of man. Simenon said he was obsessed with a search for the "naked man" — man without his cultural protective coloration, and he followed his quest as much in the Maigrets as in his "hard" novels.

Although most of Simenon's work is available in English, it was originally written in French. Simenon was born and raised in Belgium, and while Paris was "the city" for him, the home of Maigret, he was 'an international,' a world traveler who moved often and lived for many years in France, the United States, and Switzerland.

Because he wrote in French, and for the most part lived in French-speaking countries, most of the books and magazine articles about him were written in French as well. Unlike his own books however, many of these have never been available in translation. Because Simenon lived to be nearly 90, and left a legacy of hundreds of books — from which more than 50 films have been made, along with hundreds of television episodes — there is much to collect, to examine, to display and discuss.

This site takes Maigret as its theme, and Simenon as its sub-theme. There is much here about all aspects of Simenon and Maigret, but not so much about Simenon's other, non-Maigret books. There are full texts of many magazine and journal articles, including many translated into English here, as far as I am aware, for the first time. In this way non-French-speaking Maigret fans can now share, in a time-compressed form, articles about Simenon and Maigret spanning more than 70 years, as well as a forum for discussion and contribution which...

Enough. There's a lot here. Enjoy your visit. Come back again, and feel free to contribute to the Forum. Corrections, comments, and suggestions are welcome.

Steve Trussel

Bibliography: booklists etc.

    This site, first opened on August 29, 1996 as "Inspector Maigret," has spread in various directions from its beginning as primarily a bibliography of editions in English. The "new look" reflects various aspects of this development, but the bibliography remains a central feature.
Counting Maigret: statistics etc.
    For the forty-year period from 1931 through 1972, a new Inspector Maigret investigation appeared at the average rate about 2.5 per year: 75 novels and 28 short stories, 103 episodes of what has been called George Simenon's "Maigret Saga."

Texts: Maigret on-line

    Full-length texts - reviews and articles about Maigret and Simenon, as well as new translations of stories, articles, (and even a novel!) which have never appeared in English.

    Index to the texts and articles on various pages.

Simenon

    Articles from the Simenon symposiums, journals, program listings, and other not-Maigret-only Simenon material.

Gallery: Maigret covers and photos

    Maigret paperback covers, postage stamps, theme music, locations... more.

Plots

    Plots of all the Maigret novels and stories.

Shopping for Maigret: books on-line

    The one-button, quick-links to the main on-line book dealers are still available, for shopping for Maigret titles.

Maigret on Screen: films and videos

    Various aspects of Maigret on film and video.

Maigret on the Web: Links

    Links to the rest of the on-line world of Maigret on the Internet.
background photo: adapted from "Two models for Maigret,
Commissaires Massu and Guillaume.
" [Ph. Keystone]
"Quai des Orfèvres on the Cité Island at night" [Jean-Pierre Ducatez]

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