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Maigret and the mysteries of Gien(s)

A little ortho-geo-graphic mystery in Un échec de Maigret [ECH]

In Chapter 2...

'You are the chauffeur's mistress?'
'If you wish to put it crudely, yes. We're engaged, too, and we shall get married as soon as we've saved enough to buy an inn somewhere near Giens.'
'Why Giens?'
'Because we're both from there.'
'Did you know each other before coming to Paris?'
'No. We met in the Boulevard de Courcelles.'
'Does Monsieur Fumal know about your plans?'
'I hope not.'

Louise Bourges, Fumal's secretary, tells Maigret that she and her lover, Félix the chauffeur, have decided to open an inn at Giens, because, she says, they're both originally from that city.

However, the name Giens, written with an "s", refers to the peninsula on the Mediterranean, and not to the name of a city. We might surmise that Simenon intended to say that Louise and Félix wanted to open an inn on the beaches in the south.

But, in Chapter 8...

'I merely wonder why you put up with it.'
'Because I want us to get married.'
'And to set up at Giens!'
'What's wrong about that?'
'What was she keenest about, what did she put first, -- marriage to Felix, or the ownershop of an inn on the Loire?'
'How were you getting the money?'
Émile Lentin took it from the petty cash. She, too, must have her system.

Maigret wonders about Louise Bourges and her wish to open an inn, and the text says that she would like to become the "owner of an inn on the Loire". We can thus understand that the place the author is referring to is Gien, written without an "s", and which is a town, famous among others for its castle, found not far from the Loire. And so we must admit that it's this Gien that Simenon was thinking of in writing his novel, and that he wrote it with an "s", perhaps influenced by his Mediterranean memories, or more probably by the proximity of the locations... in fact he wrote this novel while he was living in Cannes.

We note that on other occasions, he correctly used the two spellings. Thus, as listed by Steve in his "Maigret Encyclopedia", we find "Giens" in Mon ami Maigret [AMI], where it's said that Marcellin would moor at the Giens pier, and "Gien" in L'écluse no 1 [ECL], where Decharme says that he would like to live in the Loire, for example, at Cosnes or Gien, and in Maigret et le corps sans tête [COR], when Aline explains to Maigret that she is originally from Boissancourt, a hamlet between Montargis and Gien.

An interesting little anecdote... in La guinguette à deux sous [GUI], Victor Gaillard explains that he lived in the municipal sanatorium of Gien. However, an internet search shows that there is a sanatorium, but that it's found in Giens, that is, not in the Loire, but on the Mediterranean...

(Maiget's Failure, tr. by Daphne Woodward)

original French

Murielle Wenger

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