[Magiret Forum, 5/24/2006
Note: The paragraph links are to paragraphs in the original BMC article, to which have been added footnotes linking back to this paper. The footnotes are not numbered consecutively, but rather indicate the paragraph number, to make it easier to compare the article and annotation.]
Simenon in Book and Magazine Collector 2003
Here is a slightly revised version of the letter that I wrote on the 2nd of March 2003 to the then Editor of the Book and Magazine Collector in response to the article about Georges Simenon (BMC March 2003 N° 228).
Most of the editorial team of this magazine has changed since 2003.
In commemorating the centenary of the birth of Georges Simenon with one article, attempting to cover his output of novels and short stories, is like trying to squeeze a few gallons into the proverbial pint pot.
There are 75 novels and 28 short stories involving Maigret (3 of the latter not being translated by his usual publishers). The non-series consists of 117 novels (105 translated) and 142 short stories (49 translated).
The article in BMC (N° 228) has an emphasis on the Maigret output even though BMC has published two articles before, albeit in 1984 (N° 8) and 1992 (N° 98), about the Commissaire, but there hasn’t been one devoted exclusively to the non-series editions. For the benefit of collectors and readers, it is a pity that the non-series bibliography section is not in the same detail as the Maigret. There are 17 non-series volumes that contain two novels each, with two more containing three novels each. For example, The Sacrifice (the cover title only illustrated) contains Mr. Hire’s Engagement and Young Cardinaud. Also two titles of novels are missing from this list Uncle Charles and The Rules of the Game (both Hamish Hamilton, 1988 and 1989 respectively). In the Maigret section the volume entitled Maigret and M.Labbé, The Man from Everywhere is a non-series novel.
In the first volume of Maigret Short Stories entitled Maigret’s Christmas, the last title Maigret in Retirement (Maigret se fâche) is a novel and not a short story.
The two Maigret series, 1992 and 1993, with Michael Gambon in the title role, were made by Granada Television and not the BBC, being transmitted on the then ITV channel.
The cover of Au Grand 13, (illustrated) was published in 1925, and is a collection of 57 short stories not a novel, and the cover of the Maigret novel, M.Gallet, Décédé, (illustrated) is the 1936 reprint.
PS. Unfortunately, some errors occur in the article, as well as some confused facts, so for the record I have listed them separately:
PARAGRAPH 2 Statistics Simenon wrote 192 novels under his own name (75 Maigrets and 117 non-series), together with 170 short stories (28 Maigrets and 142 others). In the early part of his career 190 novels were published under 17 pseudonyms, as well as 1225 short stories that appeared in magazines and newspapers using 17 pseudonyms. (He used some of the same pseudonyms for the novels and short stories with occasionally variations in the spelling). Also there are 7 volumes of short stories Au Grand 13 (Illustrated) being one of them.
PARAGRAPH 8 The Belgium town of Liège, where the author was born, is only 10 miles south of the Dutch border and 25 miles west of Germany, but not close to the French border. The confusion probably arises from the fact that Liège is in the French speaking part of Belgium.
In spite of his mother’s preference for his younger bother Christian, they kept in touch regularly, basically being on good terms. Simenon’s novel The Bottom of the Bottle, centred on two brothers, has echoes of the relationship with his brother. Having visited parts of Africa in 1932, Simenon’s attitude was one of being generally anti-colonial, but not aimed specifically at his brother.
PARAGRAPH 9 After he left school at 15, Simenon became an apprentice pastry-cook, which lasted only a fortnight, then a bookshop assistant before becoming a cub reporter on the daily newspaper the Gazette de Liége.
PARAGRAPH 10 Although he attended the law courts, his reporting covered many other events as the archive material indicates. This period in his life and the relations with his father are paralleled in his novel The Nightclub, although he moved the setting to the French town of Nantes.
His first novel, written in 1920, and entitled Au Pont des Arches under the pseudonym of Georges Sim, had a print run of 1500 copies, but he had to organise a subscription for the first 300 copies before the publisher would print anything. First edition copies of this novel occasionally appear in European book dealers catalogues. Two copies were offered in February 2003, one with a dedication and signature at 750 Euros (c. £500), the other, not signed, at 400 Euros (c. £270). Also this novel has been reprinted four times between 1975 and 1991, so that French readers have a reasonable opportunity to sample Simenon’s first novel.
PARAGRAPH 11 His prolific writing ability lead, in 1927, to the idea of Simenon writing a novel for three days and nights in a glass cage in full public view, but although a contract was drawn up, the event never took place.
In 1928, under pseudonyms, he wrote 53 novels and 69 short stories, whilst in 1929 his total was 47 novels and 91 short stories.
PARAGRAPH 17 The first English translations of six Maigret novels were published in the United States between 1932 and 1934 by Covici Friede. Not made clear in the article was that the same translations were published in Great Britain months later, in 1933 and 1934, by Hurst & Blackett, the scarcest of the Simenon English language editions.
PARAGRAPH 27 In a number of articles there seems to be confusion concerning when Simenon returned to writing about Maigret after he had retired him in the novel Maigret (published by Fayard in 1934 and translated as Maigret Returns in 1941). In October 1936 Simenon wrote nine Maigret short stories, followed by ten more in the winter of 1937-38, which were published soon after in either a French newspaper or magazine, before seventeen appeared in book form in 1944 (published by Gallimard). Between December 1939 and March 1943, the author wrote six Maigret novels. None of these short stories or novels appeared in translation until well after the Second World War.
The seven volumes of translated novels (13 Maigrets and 1 non-series) published by Routledge between 1939 and 1941 where all written from February 1931 to November 1933.
PARAGRAPH 29 During the Second World War 9 films were made based on his work, five of them under the control of Continental, the German based film company. He negotiated the film rights, as he did with all cinema projects over the years, but once they were agreed he lost interest in the film making, leaving that to others.
It wasn’t until July 1949 that his position during the war was looked into by the French committee just before it was disbanded. Simenon was living in America then, but the committee found him guilty and put a two-year ban on all aspects of his work in France nothing to be published, no radio programmes or films, no press coverage, a complete shut down of anything associated with his work. Simenon responded by drawing up a document in response, and with the help of his lawyer in Paris, won his side of the argument, so that the committee withdrew their verdict.
Far from being an exile from France thereafter, he visited that country often, was awarded the Légion d’honneur in February 1955 and lived on the Riviera for two years on his return from the United States. In the summer of 1957 he moved to Switzerland, mainly as the tax laws there were very much better for him than elsewhere.
PARAGRAPH 30 In 1945 Simenon moved firstly to Canada before living in Florida, then Arizona, California and finally Connecticut. Several of his novels have American settings.
Apart from the promotional side, he found that some of the translators that Routledge used had altered his texts. From 1954 onwards Hamish Hamilton became his publisher in the U.K.
PARAGRAPH 37 There is a plaque on the façade of the town hall in Liège in honour of police officers who died for their country. One of the names is Arnold Joseph Maigret born in March 1896 who entered the police force in 1920 at the same time that Simenon was working for the Gazette de Liége. This police officer also had a son whose first name was Jules.
PARAGRAPH 40 Three novels are partly set in Lausanne, in Switzerland, where Simenon was living Maigret and the Millionaires, The Venice Train and The Disappearance of Odile.
Other information (not enclosed in the original letter)
The Bibliography, which resembles a simpler version to the listings in my bibliography, omits the last two novels in the Non-Series listing. They are not listed in my bibliography as the two novels only appeared after it was published (January 1988).
London, Hamish Hamilton Ltd. 1988.
French title: Oncle Charles s’est enfermé. Translator: Howard Curtis.
THE RULES OF THE GAME
London, Hamish Hamilton Ltd. 1989.
French title: La Boule Noire. Translator: Howard Curtis.
From the Bibliography of the Non-Series Novels in BMC N° 228, the seventeen titles that contain two novels each are:
IN TWO LATITUDES (contains The Mystery of the “Polarlys” and Tropic Moon). (Routledge 1942)
AFFAIRS OF DESTINY (contains Newhaven Dieppe and The Woman of the Grey House). (Routledge 1942)
HAVOC BY ACCIDENT (contains Talatala and The Breton Sisters). (Routledge 1943)
ESCAPE IN VAIN (contains The Lodger and One Way Out). (Routledge 1943)
ON THE DANGER LINE (contains Home Town and The Green Thermos). (Routledge 1944)
LOST MOORINGS (contains Banana Tourist and Blind Path). (Routledge 1946)
BLACK RAIN (contains The Survivors and Black Rain). (Routledge 1949)
CHIT OF A GIRL (contains Chit of a Girl and Justice). (Routledge 1949)
A WIFE AT SEA (contains A Wife at Sea and The Murderer). (Routledge 1949)
POISONED RELATIONS (contains Monsieur La Souris and Poisoned Relations). (Routledge 1950)
THE WINDOW OVER THE WAY (contains The Window over the Way and The Gendarme’s Report). (Routledge 1951)
THE HOUSE BY THE CANAL (contains The House by the Canal and The Ostenders). (Routledge 1952)
VIOLENT ENDS (contains Belle and The Brothers Rico). (Hamish Hamilton 1954)
DANGER AHEAD (contains Red Lights and The Watchmaker of Everton). (Hamish Hamilton 1955)
A SENSE OF GUILT (contains Chez Krull and The Heart of a Man). (Hamish Hamilton 1955)
THE JUDGE AND THE HATTER (contains The Witnesses and The Hatter’s Ghosts). (Hamish Hamilton 1956)
THE SACRIFICE (contains Mr. Hire’s Engagement and Young Cardinaud). (Hamish Hamilton 1956)
From the Bibliography of the Non-Series Novels in BMC N° 228, the two titles that contain three novels each are:
AFRICAN TRIO [contains Talatala (reprint), Tropic Moon (reprint) and Aboard the Aquitaine]. (Hamish Hamilton 1979)
THE WHITE HORSE INN (contains The White Horse Inn, The Grandmother and The Country Doctor). (Hamish Hamilton 1980)
As one American edition has been listed in the Bibliography, here are the six titles that are the first English translations of Maigret novels (refer to PARAGRAPH 17):
Published in New York by Covici, Friede Inc.
Hardback edition with Dustjacket. Translated by Anthony Abbot
1932 THE DEATH OF MONSIEUR GALLET
1932 THE CRIME OF INSPECTOR MAIGRET
1933 THE STRANGE CASE OF PETER THE LETT
1933 THE CROSSROAD MURDERS
1934 THE SHADOW IN THE COURTYARD and THE CRIME AT LOCK 14