Bibliography  Reference  Forum  Plots  Texts  Simenon  Gallery  Shopping  Film  Links

 

The Translation of Maigret Texts into English

(— with a couple of others)

Peter Foord

 
7/21/03 – Jim Dring (6/19/03) and Steve Trussel (6/19/03 and 6/21/03) have raised interesting points concerning the question of translations.
First of all, I cannot recall that Simenon made any objections to the various English titles given to his novels and short stories. Practically all the time that he was writing, he negotiated the terms and contracts with his publishers by himself, without the aid of agents, and in this respect he proved to be a very good businessman.
In Paris, after Fayard had launched and published 31 novels under the author's patronym, Simenon changed publishers in 1934 to the more prestigious Gallimard, only to change again in 1945 to the newly formed Presses de la Cité created by Sven Nielsen (1901-1976). Simenon liked Nielsen's more modern approach and they became life-long friends. It was Nielsen who persuaded Simenon to include "Maigret" in the title of every volume published involving that Police officer, irrespective as to whether it was a novel or a collection of short stories. Even a mixed collection carried the name of Maigret, such as Maigret et les Petits Cochons sans Queue. This is a composite title as the volume contains nine short stories, only two involving Maigret, and of the seven others, one is entitled Les Petits Cochons sans Queue (The Small Tail-less Pigs — not published in translation — a title referring to a collection of little ceramic pigs, each minus a tail, which are central to this short story).

Simenon only objected to one French title. This was Maigret et l'Inspecteur Malchanceux, which was both the title of a Maigret short story and the overall title of the French first edition collection. Simenon's original title was Maigret et l'Inspecteur Malgracieux (Maigret and the Churlish Inspector), but the reader at the publisher's, Madame Doringe, thought it unsuitable and substituted ...et l'Inspecteur Malchanceux (... and the Unfortunate Inspector). At the author's request all French reprints have Malgracieux in the title, both for the collection and the short story.

Steve's article, Maigret in Translation, and the example of how Simenon's short story Stan the Killer has been altered in certain ways, highlights the situation.
Many of the texts of Simenon's novels and short stories in English translation published between 1932 and 1954 (both Maigret and other texts) have been the subject of certain "alterations". In some cases small details, such as names and locations, are the items that have been changed, but in others there are more substantial passages.

Examples occur in the novel La Tête d'un Homme (A Battle of Nerves / Maigret's War of Nerves / A Man's Head — in the translation by Geoffrey Sainsbury). The young American couple's surname has been changed from Crosby to Kirby. And in the first chapter, where two of Maigret's Inspectors are following Joseph Heurtin through Paris in the early hour of the morning:

SimenonSainsbury
Half an hour later, we were at Les Halles....Then half an hour later we were over on the other side of the river by the Palais Royal...

In the dénouement of the short story Le Témoignage de L'Enfant de Choeur (Elusive Witness / According to the Altar-Boy / Crime in the Rue Sainte-Catherine / The Evidence of the Altar-Boy), a character's name and a house number are as follows:

Simenon Anonymous translator J.E.Malcolm Jean Stewart
Frankelstein and N° 14.

(Written 1946)

Perain and N° 14.

(Suspense magazine, US, Summer 1951).

Frankelstein and N° 40

(Argosy, UK, January 1963), only in various reprints the house number remains N° 40, but the name has been changed to Fross!

Frankelstein and N° 14

(In the collection Maigret's Christmas, Hamilton 1976, Harcourt 1977, Penguin and Harvest 1981).

In the short story L'Amoureux de Madame Maigret (The Stronger Vessel / Madame Maigret's Admirer) there is the following passage:

Simenon Anthony Boucher Jean Stewart

...until the moment when, in his lodgings at Corbeil, near the Mills, he spends the night at the typewriter.

...until he spends the night typing it out in his rooms at Corbeill (sic), near the mills.

...until the time when, back in his home at Corbeil, near Moulins, he would spend the night typing it out.

'I wonder how such a clever ploy was discovered by the Kroftas. No doubt by the chauffeur who, around four o'clock, brought the news?'

'I wonder how Krofta caught on to their signals - two regular turns around the place, meaning all's well and so on.'

'I wonder how the Kroftas discovered this extremely cunning device? They probably learned it through the chauffeur, when he came in at about four o'clock.'

Madame Maigret listened without daring to show the slightest emotion, as she was afraid of seeing Maigret stop.

Mme Maigret listened without daring to express the slightest opinion, she was so afraid that Maigret might stop.

Madame Maigret was so afraid of his stopping that she listened without daring to display the least sign of emotion.

(Translated by Peter Foord).

(In Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine, January 1951).

(In the collection Maigret's Pipe, Hamilton 1977, Harcourt 1978, Penguin 1984 and Harvest 1985).

NOTE:   The digest Argosy (UK, February 1963), has published Anthony Boucher's translation of this short story, but with the substituted sentence corrected! However, reprints of the Boucher translation have published his original EQMM version.

The short story La Vieille Dame de Bayeux (The Old Lady of Bayeux / The Bayeux Murder) also has received, in translation, some amendments and additional material.
The page references are taken from the first publications of each translation. The words and sentences in red are not in Simenon's text.

Translator: Anthony Boucher
Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine, August 1952.
Translator: Jean Stewart
Maigret's Pipe (Complete Maigret Short Stories, Volume 2), Hamish Hamilton, October 1977.
p.23
...the carriage gate with its copper ring, the ornate entrance court with its bronze candelabras.
It was almost twenty four hours since the girl's visit. It had taken Maigret that long to clear up enough of the details of his reorganisation to allow him to take charge of the investigation in person; any other Inspector in Caen, he feared, might take the Prosecutor's request for discretion too seriously. And discretion and all he felt in his bones that this was going to be his kind of case - even though he had a sinking feeling that it would be what he called a No-Pipe Case - an investigation conducted in scenes of such respectability that the Inspector could not keep his hay-burner in his mouth.
p. 139
...the carriage gate with its brass knocker, the great courtyard with its bronze lamp-posts.
It was what he called a no-smoking case, in other words an investigation to be carried on in places where he could not decently keep his pipe in his mouth.
p.35
And Maigret turned slowly towards the door.
When he was through at the house in the Rue des Récollets, Maigret found his way to the offices of Caen's leading newspaper, where he purchased a copy of yesterday's paper. Over a glass of beer in a sidewalk café he studied the paper carefully, with particular attention to the obituary column in which Mademoiselle Cécile had learned the news of her aunt's death.
Over a second beer he meditated. Suddenly he said aloud, "Discretion!" Then he rose, paid his bill, flagged a taxi, and rode to the outskirts of town, where the paved streets end.

"The Prosecutor asks you to wait."
Maigret waited. The bench was hard and the hallway was dusty in the Caen courthouse.
p.153
And Maigret made his way slowly towards the front door.

Chapter III

"The Public Prosecutor asks if you will kindly wait."
Maigret was sitting at the end of a hard bench in the dusty corridor of the Palais de Justice of Caen,...
p.37
"I must ask you to explain…"
"As lucidly as I can without wasting your time and without showing you where it all happened… I'll begin, if you wish, with The Mystery of the Yellow Room, which must surely bring back your boyhood reading. And this yellow room was the basis of all my discoveries; or rather, it confirmed my suspicions and allowed me to proceed. - "
p. 156
"Please explain yourself more clearly..."
"As clearly as I can without taking too much of your time, or making you visit the scene of the crime. I shall begin, if you allow me, with the mystery of the blue and yellow bedrooms, which was the basis for my discoveries, or rather which confirmed my suspicions…"

And in the last sentence of this short story:

From Simenon's text in Les Nouvelles Enquêtes de Maigret, Gallimard 1944
(Translated by Peter Foord):
Translator: Anthony Boucher
In Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine, August 1952
Translator: Jean Stewart
In Maigret's Pipe, Hamish Hamilton, 1977
p.247
"I feel rather ill at ease in the locality. My wife is waiting for me in Paris. All I wish is that the juries of this town don't allow themselves to be impressed by this complete scoundrel Philippe's mansion and that they demand the death penalty..."
And between his teeth he muttered a bad joke:
"...in that way he'll be able to continue to be dummy at bridge!"
p.40
"I haven't been too happy here myself. My wife's waiting for me in Paris. All I hope is that your Caen jury won't be so impressed by the luxurious mansion of that blackguard Philippe that they'll forget to ask for the death penalty."
Deliberately Maigret struck a match, held it to his pipe, breathed in deeply, and launched a vast cloud of smoke into the sacrosanct office of the Prosecutor of Caen.

In the reprint in Argosy, November 1962, page 135, the Anthony Boucher translation is published, but the passage ends with:
"...that they'll forget to ask for the death penalty."   The final sentence is omitted.

p.160
"I felt somewhat ill at ease in this part of the world. My wife is expecting me back in Paris. I can only hope that the jurers of this town will not let themselves be overawed by the grand mansion of that utter scoundrel Philippe, and that he'll get the death penalty..."
And he muttered between his teeth:
"Someone else will have to make a fourth at bridge!"

M. Gallet, décédé (The Death of Monsieur Gallet / Maigret Stonewalled) was one of the first of two Maigret novels to be published by Fayard under the author's patronym in Paris in February 1931. This novel was the first one to be translated into English and published in 1932 by Covici, Friede (US) and soon after by Hurst & Blackett (UK) in January 1933.

In M. Gallet, décédé, Fayard, 1931 (The beginning of chapter one, pages 7 and 8) Simenon's text
(Translated by Peter Foord)
In The Death of Monsieur Gallet (in INTRODUCING INSPECTOR MAIGRET), Hurst & Blackett, 1933 (The beginning of chapter one, page 145)
Translated by Anthony Abbot
In Maigret Stonewalled, Penguin Books (paperback), August 1963 (The beginning of chapter one, page 5)
Translated by Margaret Marshall
A Chore

The very first meeting between Superintendent Maigret and the dead man, with whom he was going to live for weeks during the most disconcerting of close terms, had taken place on the 27th of June 1930 in circumstances at the same time ordinary, difficult and unforgettable.
Above all unforgettable because, for a week, the Police Judiciaire received note after note announcing the visit of the king of Spain to Paris on the 27th and calling for precautions to be taken in such a case.
The director of the P.J. was in Prague, where he was attending a technical police conference. The assistant director had been called away to his villa on the Normandy coast by the illness of one of his children.
Maigret was the most long standing of the Superintendents and was to take charge of everything, through a stifling heat, with a workforce that the holidays reduced to a bare minimum.
The Death of Monsieur Gallet

It was one of those cases which, beginning obscurely and stigmatised by all the earmarks of banality, gradually blossom, sprout new branches, and end in some remote byway, far from the original problems. Even the most acute detective, served unerringly in the actual chase by that sixth sense developed by the trained investigator, is often misled by these deceptively humdrum affairs.
Inspector Maigret, who is the most astute but also, fundamentally, the most human of the Judiciary Police, at first found little in the case of Émile Gallet to exercise his ingenuity. Possibly the devastating heat of June 27th, 1930, had dulled his senses somewhat; possibly he was merely peevish because, in this suffocating weather, the director of the J.P. had gone to Prague to address a congress of police officials, while the vice-director had been called to his villa on the Normandy coast by the illness of one of his children, leaving Maigret, as senior inspector, to take care of everything with a force considerably reduced by summer holidays.
Just Another Job

It was on 27 June 1930 that Chief Inspector Maigret had his first encounter with the dead man, who was destined to be a most intimate and disturbing feature of his life for weeks on end. There were several aspects to this encounter, some commonplace, some harrowing, some unforgettable.
The unforgettable aspect was that for a week now the Criminal Police had been receiving a stream of notes announcing that the King of Spain would arrive in Paris on the twenty-seventh, and calling attention to the precautions laid down for such an event.
On top of that, the Head of the Criminal Police was in Prague for a technical Police Conference. The Deputy Head had been called away to his villa on the Normandy coast as one of his children was ill.
Maigret was the Chief Inspector and had to attend to everything. The heat was suffocating, and the staff cut to a minimum for the holiday season.

(And there are still more examples…!)

But those that Steve has indicated, and the ones I have listed here, show how some of Simenon's French texts were "processed" in the English translations. And this "treatment" was not just confined to the Maigret novels and short stories, but to the author's other works as well.
As the examples show, not just one publisher or translation exhibited this trend and I do not believe that it was just marketing that was behind this "doctoring".
By the number of examples that I have so far come across, it seemed to be a trend of that particular period. It is difficult to tell whether alterations and additions were the work of a translator, an editor or a publisher, or possibly a combination of any of these.
Simenon had a concise way of writing, an ability of selecting the right words and expressions to convey the feeling of the whole, without resorting to lengthy descriptions or explanations and this way may not have appealed to some at the time.
Some of the examples suggest that a certain amount of "padding" was felt necessary to give readers more for their money, that Simenon's style of writing was thought to be "too simple".
In some cases, perhaps certain egos were brought into play, deciding that some "improvements" to Simenon's text were necessary.
How many readers in the 1930s and 40s had access to both the French and English translation texts for comparison purposes, or who, given the particular skill, would have wanted to make comparisons? In any case, the first half of the 1940s was the time of the Second World War, and into the post-war period, there were more pressing needs for everyone to consider.
Simenon was not aware of the quality of the translations when the first six Maigret novels were published in English in the early 1930s, as his knowledge of English at that time was virtually non-existent.
During the Second World War he was living in the Vendée region of south-west France with his family, and in 1945, a few months after the end of the war, he moved to a French speaking part of Canada for nearly a year prior to living in various locations in the United States.
At this time he expressed his pleasure at the regularity that his novels, Maigret and others, had been published in English both in the United Kingdom and the United States during the wartime and immediate post-war periods. But he was to find difficulties with the American publishers during 1948 and 1949 when not a single novel of his, in any format, appeared in print. (Only five short stories were published during these two years in Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine, including Anthony Boucher's translation of "Stan the Killer").
However there were more novels published on a regular basis by his British publisher Routledge, and Simenon singled out the translator Geoffrey Sainsbury (who was to translate 28 novels and one of the longer short stories) as his "ambassador" for the English reading public.
But later Simenon's attitude changed.
This came about mainly as a result of two factors: Soon after settling in Canada, Simenon employed as his secretary Denyse Ouimet, a bilingual Canadian (who in 1950 became his second wife), and his own grasp and knowledge of English was increasing.
Thus in the early 1950s, with a much better understanding of the English language, Simenon was able to check the English translations, discovering how many of his texts had been altered in some way.
The outcome was that he changed his British publisher from Routledge to Hamish Hamilton, who from 1954 remained his main publisher in the United Kingdom. In the United States, after a decade with Doubleday, Simenon reverted to Harcourt. So now he had three publishers that he felt that he could trust to promote his work to its best advantage, Presses de la Cité in France as the prime source, followed by the main English translation outlets in the United Kingdom and the United States, Hamilton and Harcourt.
From 1954 there were many more English translators commissioned and the presentation was much improved.
And as far as the Maigret titles were concerned, both Hamilton and Harcourt followed Sven Nielsen's idea of using the name Maigret for the appropriate volumes.

Ideally it would be good to have new translations of all these early novels, translations that follow Simenon's text faithfully, but whether this is economically feasible with the numbers involved is a moot point.
For Maigret readers the first six novels that were published by Covici, Friede (US), and then Hurst and Blackett (UK), received new translations in 1963 and 1964 from Penguin Books, which are closer to Simenon's texts, as follows:

original translationnew translation
The Crime of Inspector Maigret (Covici, Friede, US, 1932 / Hurst & Blackett, UK, 1933). Translated by Anthony Abbot. Maigret and the Hundred Gibbets (Penguin paperback, UK, 2025, 1963 and reprints). Translated by Tony White.
The Death of Monsieur Gallet (Covici, Friede, US, 1932 / Hurst & Blackett, UK, 1933). Translated by Anthony Abbot. Maigret Stonewalled (Penguin paperback, UK, 2026, 1963 and reprints). Translated by Margaret Marshall.
The Crossroad Murders (Covici, Friede, US, 1933 / Hurst & Blackett, UK, 1933). Translated by Anthony Abbot. Maigret at the Crossroads (Penguin paperback, UK, 2028, 1963 and reprints). Translated by Robert Baldick.
The (Strange) Case of Peter the Lett (Covici, Friede, US, 1933 / Hurst & Blackett, UK, 1933). Translated by Anthony Abbot. Maigret and the Enigmatic Lett (Penguin paperback, UK, 2023, 1963 and reprints). Translated by Daphne Woodward.
The Crime at Lock 14 (Covici, Friede, US, 1934 / Hurst & Blackett, UK, 1934). Translated by Anthony Abbot. Maigret Meets a Milord (Penguin paperback, UK, 2027, 1963 and reprints). Translated by Robert Baldick.
The Shadow in the Courtyard (Covici, Friede, US, 1934 / Hurst & Blackett, UK, 1934). Translated by Anthony Abbot. Maigret Mystified (Penguin paperback, UK, 2024, 1964 and reprints). Translated by Jean Stewart.

Four other early Maigret novels have also received new translations:

original translationnew translation
A Face for a Clue (in The Patience of Maigret, Routledge, UK, 1939 / Harcourt, US, 1940). Translated by Geoffrey Sainsbury. Maigret and the Yellow Dog / The Yellow Dog (Harcourt, US, 1987 / Harvest paperback, US, 1988 / Penguin Classics paperback, UK, 2003). Translated by Linda Asher.
The Guinguette by the Seine (in Maigret to the Rescue, Routledge, UK, 1940 / Harcourt, US, 1941). Translated by Geoffrey Sainsbury. The Bar on the Seine (Penguin Classics paperback, UK, 2003). Translated by David Watson.
The Saint-Fiacre Affair (in Maigret Keeps a Rendez-vous, Routledge, UK, 1940 / Harcourt, US, 1941). Translated by Margret Ludwig. Maigret Goes Home / Maigret on Home Ground (Penguin paperback, UK, 1901, 1967 / Harcourt, US, 1989 / Harvest paperback, US, 1990). Translated by Robert Baldick.
A Summer Holiday (in Maigret on Holiday, Routledge, UK, 1950 / as No Vacation for Maigret, Doubleday, US, 1953 / Bantam paperback, US, 1959). Translated by Geoffrey Sainsbury. Maigret on Holiday (Penguin paperback, UK, 2898, 1970). Translated by Jacqueline Baldick.

As indicated earlier, some of the Maigret short stories, when they first appeared in English translation, were subject to "alterations". Unfortunately occasional reprints of these texts still surface in anthologies, but more recent new translations have grouped them conveniently into two volumes, and these translations are close to Simenon's texts.
The two volumes are:

Maigret's Christmas (Hamish Hamilton, UK, 1976 / Harcourt, US, 1977 / Penguin paperback, UK, 1981 / Harvest paperback, US, 1981). Translations by Jean Stewart.
This contains 7 Maigret short stories, one novel (Maigret se fâche / Maigret in Retirement), and the non-Maigret short story, Seven Little Crosses in a Notebook.
A paperback reprint of this volume is scheduled to be published by Harvest, US, in November 2003.

Maigret's Pipe (Hamish Hamilton, UK, 1977 / Harcourt, US, 1978 / Penguin paperback, UK, 1984 / Harvest, US, 1985). Translations by Jean Stewart.
This contains 18 Maigret short stories (only in the UK editions). All the US editions omit Jeumont, 51 Minutes' Stop! In 1977, in the United States, the Bobbs-Merrill Company published the anthology entitled "Midnight Specials" a collection of mystery short stories associated with the railways, which included this Maigret short story but in the earlier translation by J.E.Malcolm and with the title Inspector Maigret Deduces. Did the publisher Bobbs-Merrill have an agreement with Harcourt for the latter to omit this short story from their second Maigret collection?
Both collections published by Hamish Hamilton in the United Kingdom bear the sub-title Complete Maigret Short Stories, Volumes 1 and 2, which is a misnomer, as three titles are missing. These are L'Improbable Monsieur Owen (The Improbable Monsieur Owen), Ceux du Grand Café (The Group from the Grand Café) and Menaces de Mort (Death Threats). Translations by Steve Trussel of these three titles can be found on the Maigret Web Site under the section entitled Texts.

Finally, there are two recent publications that are marred in different ways by the translations or editing.
Roddy Campbell commented (6/16/03) on Pierre Assouline's Biography of Simenon that 'it might have lost something in translation'. It has.
The original French text — Pierre Assouline, Simenon, Biographie, Julliard, Paris, 1992— was published as a large paperback comprising 736 pages (Preface 6 pages, Text 633, Notes 54, Bibliography/Index etc. 43). The text is in twenty chapters and Assouline deals with certain topics of Simenon's life and work in more detail than in the other three biographies of the author.
The English translation by Jon Rothschild was published in the United States by Alfred A.Knopf and in the United Kingdom by Chatto & Windus in 1997.
But the English text is very much abridged, according to my calculation, by about 27%.
All three volumes have almost the same cover size, in height and width, and the page grids are similar, with the English text having a slightly smaller type face. The British and American editions are identical in layout having 466 pages (Preface 3 pages, Text 389, Notes 25, Biography/Index etc. 29), but with nineteen chapters.
Pierre Assouline has annotated his text throughout, quoting reference sources and other information in the notes, listed by chapter, at the back of the book. A further indication of the extent of the abridgement is that the French text has 1643 annotations whereas the English text has 1271.
Chapters 18 in the French text entitled "Un homme pas comme les autres, 1972" (A man like no other, 1972) is missing from the English edition.
Chapters 18 to 20 of the French edition have been condensed into chapters 18 and 19 for the English translation and throughout whole paragraphs and some sections are omitted, breaking into the flow of the topics that Assouline has researched so thoroughly, as well as leaving out some interesting facts and figures.
Having re-read Maigret and the Hundred Gibbets (Le Pendu de Saint-Pholien), I looked up Assouline's account of the death of Joseph Kleine that Simenon incorporated into the novel.

Assouline: Chapter 3, page 66 (French edition, translated by Peter Foord)Assouline: Chapter 3, page 36 (English edition, translated by Jon Rothschild)
One morning the sacristan of the Church of Saint-Pholien found the body of Joseph Kleine hanging from one of the door handles by his own woollen scarf. Had the young cocaine-addicted painter committed suicide or had he been murdered to settle a score over a drug deal? One doesn't know. Simenon stuck to the theory of suicide. He was one of the last people to see Kleine alive, the evening before the tragedy. He had helped to put him to bed because he was too drunk to make it by himself. How had Kleine found the energy several hours later to get up, to walk and to hang himself? If his death had been caused by a third party, was it not carried out by a ritual of La Caque?* A crime made up to look like suicide?
One still doesn't know. Everything is only pure speculation. The tragedy will make its lasting mark on Simenon, since it will re-emerge notably in Le Pendu de Saint-Pholien (1931) and Les Trois Crimes de Mes Amis (1938).** But curiously, while the tragic death of Kleine occurred in March, Simenon's memory reinstated it during Christmas Eve at the door of the church, as if it was necessary to place it in the context of a redemption.
One morning the sexton of the Church of Saint-Pholien found the body of Joseph Kleine hanging from a clapper on the front door, his woollen scarf wrapped around his neck. Was it suicide or had the young cocaine-snorting painter been murdered in a drug deal gone wrong? Simenon held out for suicide. He was one of the last to have seen Kleine alive the night before, having helped to put him to bed. But if Kleine had been too drunk to walk, how had he found the strength to get up, go back to the club, and hang himself several hours later? If someone else killed him, was his death the result of some bizarre La Caque ritual? Was it murder made to look like suicide? The mystery was never solved, and the tragedy marked Simenon deeply. The incident recurs in Le Pendu de Saint-Pholien (1931) and Les Trois Crimes de Mes Amis (1938).
* La Caque
In Liège, this was the group of former students from the Academies of Fine Art and Music, and the University, who met together in various venues in or near the town centre. One of their favourite places was a disused building at the end of a narrow passageway named the Rue de Houpe at N° 13, Rue des Écoliers, behind the church of Saint-Pholien in the Outremeuse district. Their meetings were a time of carousing well into the early hours, discussing philosophy, mysticism, the occult and anything else that took their fancy. They saw themselves as a close-knit group standing apart from others, which is maybe why they finally called themselves "La Caque", a type of barrel used for packing herrings tightly together. They came together soon after the end of the First World War and Simenon, who became a reporter on the Gazette de Liège, was introduced into the group at the end of 1919. The members of the group drifted apart soon after the death, on March the 2nd 1922, of Joseph Kleine.
** Le Pendu de Saint-Pholien (The Hanged Man of Saint-Pholien — but the novel is entitled The Crime of Inspector Maigret / Maigret and the Hundred Gibbets, for the English translations). In this novel there is a group calling themselves "The Companions of the Apocalypse", which is undoubtedly based on "La Caque", and one of the characters is called Klein (without the final "e").

** Les Trois Crimes de Mes Amis (The Three Crimes of My Friends — an untranslated novel). Although a novel, it is very much autobiographical and the three main characters were friends of the author. One of them is merely named "petit K…", a student at the Academy of Fine Art who was found hanged on the door of the church of Saint-Pholien.

The book Simenon: The Thirteen Culprits has been mentioned by Roddy Campbell (9/19/02) and John H.Dirckx (9/23/02). This set of thirteen short stories was published by Crippen & Landru, Publishers, P.O. Box 9315, Norfolk, Virginia, USA, in August 2002 with translations by Peter Schulman. Both the Trade paperback and the Limited hardback edition are well presented, but although it is good to have this set of short stories available, the enterprise is marred by some sloppy passages in the translations.
The Thirteen Culprits (Les Treize Coupables) was the third set of short stories that Simenon wrote for the weekly magazine Détective which was owned by the publisher Gallimard and edited by Georges and Joseph Kessel. He wrote them during the winter of 1929-30 at Stavoren, in The Netherlands, whilst he was exploring the canals and rivers of that country, as well as those of Northern France and Belgium, in his boat the "Ostrogoth". Each short story involves Judge Froget, an examining magistrate, who interrogates a suspect of a criminal offence and the setting of all 13 stories is in the Paris area. The previous two sets are entitled Les Treize Mystères (The Thirteen Mysteries) with the investigator Joseph Leborgne presenting thirteen different cases, and Les Treize Énigmes (The Thirteen Enigmas) where Inspector "G7" of the Police Judiciare is at the centre of each case. These two sets were written in the winter of 1928-29 at Simenon's home at 21 Place des Vosges in Paris. All thirty-nine were published in the magazine Détective during 1929 and 1930 under the pseudonym of Georges Sim and presented to the reader as a competition. This magazine published each story in two parts. The first part consisted of the story minus the ending, the dénouement, and the magazine invited readers to submit the solution, with the incentive of prizes to be won for the correct ending. The second part, the author's conclusion, was published a fortnight later. These are not vintage short stories from Simenon, but even so he creates enough intrigue to involve the reader with an interesting puzzle.
In 1932, Fayard acquired the rights to publish them in three volumes, under the name of Simenon, and without any interruptions to the texts. In these collective first edition formats each short story is illustrated by a full-page black and white photograph by J.Constantinesco.
Previously, only ten of these short stories, drawn from across the three volumes, have appeared in English translations by Anthony Boucher, being published in Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine between November 1942 and December 1948.
This is the first time that a complete volume of these thirteen short stories has appeared unabridged in English, but mistakes occur in various places throughout all the texts. Unlike examples of some of the "altered" or "padded-out" early texts listed above, the translation errors here could have been made by working in a hurry and not checking the results before the texts were printed.

Some examples:
(The page and line numbers refer to those in the Crippen & Landru volume.)

C & L — the text as published in the Crippen & Landru volume, 2002, translated by Peter Schulman. G.S. — Georges Simenon's text as published in the Fayard volume, 1932, translated by Peter Foord.
Short story title: MONSIEUR RODRIGUES. Page 31: Lines 1 to 16.
There was only one thing that was bothersome about Monsieur Froget's presence in that apartment perched on the sixth floor of a building on the rue Bonaparte. One could hardly decide what was more shocking, what was even becoming indecent — the apartment or the judge in black, as he focused on the site of the drinking glasses, which were clear and round like targets.
The two undercover policemen who had brought Monsieur Rodrigues into the apartment remained standing outside the door on the landing. The sheriff had gotten so used to the judge after ten years that his presence fit him like a glove to the point where he even forgot that he was there.
As for Rodrigues himself, he added the final touch to the enigmatic atmosphere; he made it comprehensible, even though a few days of incarceration took the edge off his asperity.
There were five rooms with arched ceilings, as the apartment was directly beneath the line of roofs.
Monsieur Froget's presence in this apartment perched on the sixth floor of a building in the Rue Bonaparte was by itself something of an embarrassment. One could scarcely say what was the more displeasing, what was becoming improper, the apartment or the judge in black, gazing about him with clear and round spectacles like lenses.
The two plainclothes police officers who had brought Monsieur Rodrigues along remained on the landing. The clerk being accustomed to the judge for ten years and supporting him like a glove fitting the hand was almost on the point of forgetting his presence.
As for Monsieur Rodrigues himself, he complemented this incredible atmosphere, making it understandable, even though a few days imprisonment had blunted his quick-wittedness.
There were five rooms, with sloping ceilings, as one was directly under the roofs.
Short story title: NICOLAS. Pages 122 and 123: Lines 26 to 29 and Lines 1 to 3.
"At Picratt's, I told him that I would leave him before the end of the evening and I advised him to hand over five hundred francs to each of the women. He laughed. He acted as though five hundred dollars were more than enough. I insisted. I was nervous. And so he declared that…" Nicolas had trouble saying it. "…that I was defending my cut, even that the two women worked for me. I hit him. Automatically! The bottle shattered on his head and he collapsed." "At Picratt's, I told him that I would leave him before the end of the evening and I recommended him to give five hundred francs to each of the women. He laughed. He asserted that five dollars were more than sufficient. I insisted. I was nervous. Then he declared that... Nicholas had difficulty saying it. "...that I was protecting my cut, perhaps these two women were working for me personally. I struck. Automatically! The bottle smashed on his head before he was able to finish."
Short story title: PHILIPPE. Page 103: Line 1 and Footnote.
Police Inspector Lucas of the P.J.*...
Footnote states: *Palais Justice, the headquarters of the French equivalent of the British Criminal Investigation Department.
The second half of this footnote is correct, but as it stands "Palais Justice" is meaningless and should read "Police Judiciaire".
 

These examples are typical of the mistranslations made of words, phrases and sentences that occur throughout these short stories. But readers do not have to be aware of the French origin to discern certain awkward passages when reading through the English texts.
In his Introduction to The 13 Culprits (pages 11/12), the translator, Peter Schulman states:

Contrary to Boucher's translations which were very creative, but sometimes took liberties with Simenon's writing, I have stuck quite loyally to the text, and tried to preserve Simenon's elegant, sometimes labyrinthine, formal sentence structures which, I feel, are not only reflective of Froget's thinking, and even of his personality, but also convey a period, the 1920's, and an atmosphere of propriety that is no longer as present in the Paris of today.

A fine aim, but the purchaser of this book, at the least, should expect the basic facts and vocabulary to be accurate in translation.

Peter Foord
July, 2003
UK

 

Home  Bibliography  Reference  Forum  Plots  Texts  Simenon  Gallery  Shopping  Film  Links