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Lognon Special

by Murielle Wenger

 
original French

1. The Appearance of a character, or, Lognon before Maigret
2. Lognon in the Maigrets
a) Physical portrait
b) Lognon and his entourage
c) Mental portrait: "the lugubrious Lognon"
d) Unlucky Lognon
e) Maigret and Lognon


I return here, as promised, to the analysis of Maigret's collaborators. As my study of the "faithful four" is still far from finished, I'd like to offer to all the readers and fans of Maigret, as a sort of early Christmas present, an analysis of the character Lognon.

1. The Appearance of a character, or, Lognon before Maigret

Lognon, with the first name Joseph, initially sprang from Simenon's pen in 1937, in a non-Maigret novel, The Mouse. The title of the first chapter immediately gives us one of his characteristics: "The Silences of Inspector Grouch". This is certainly how Lognon is referred to by his colleagues. In fact, it's old Mouse, a clochard, who gave him the name.

Lognon is a plainclothes inspector on the municipal police force, who works out of a station in the 9th district, Opera. He is charged with monitoring the public roads, and in particular with preventing clandestine prostitution, which is why he deals particularly with registered prostitutes and bar girls.

His portrait is well drawn, mental as well as physical: "In front of this door waited the doleful Lognon." "Dark and sullen," he is not given to speaking unnecessarily. His glance is stubborn, and he seems "to be always working on the solution to a difficult problem". He has a closed face, a heavy look, an unsociable eye, an obstinate face, a sad demeanor, and he grumbles when he speaks. He doesn't like jokes, always worried about being taken in. But basically he is a shy person, aware of his inferiority. He realizes well that he is "wrong to want to do too well, as his wife never stops repeating" and he risks by his actions – which he never announces to his chiefs – compromising his situation. But all in all he is an "honest man", and "even, in the end, a good man".

He has a bony face, with heavy features "cut as hard as a wooden head", coal-black hair, enormous eyebrows which cross his forehead. He smokes cigarettes, and a pipe at home. He wears a brown suit, a hat of the same color, a stiff false collar...

Entirely caught up in his job, he works overtime, follows his suspects, "on the trail", "dark and patient", "heroic and obstinate", never quitting before learning what he wants to know. He is a stubborn man, uncompromising in questions of service, respecting professional secrecy, who knows all the rules by heart, but whose lack of writing skills prevents him from reaching a higher position than that of inspector, which he put in more than twelve years to attain. His dream is to belong to the Quai des Orfèvres. Sometimes attacked by those he pursues, he gets beaten up or shot, rendering him unavailable, and resulting in his case being "stolen" by the men of the Quai.

He lives in the 18th arrondissement, at 29 Place Constantin-Pecqueur, on the fourth floor, and he is married. His wife is in poor health and often reproaches him ("It's your fault! Why do you always have to put yourself in front?... Certainly you're not there when it's time to reap the rewards...") and he has a son (who is not mentioned at all in the Maigrets). He spends his holidays in the Cantal, has a brother-in-law who is a teacher.

At the end of The Mouse, Chief Inspector Lucas supports the request to enter the Quai made by Lognon, "who would make a good inspector of the P.J., assuming that he could resign himself to moderating his initiative, and submitting to his superiors", as Lucas writes in his report.

Apparently, this request met with success, for we meet Lognon as Chief Inspector of the PJ in The Outlaw (1939). In this novel, Lognon has his office at the Quai des Orfèvres, dresses poorly, but has the medal of the Legion of Honor. His manner is calm, with an apparent indifference; he "doesn't seem to think", makes little drawings while listening to suspects. He calls the inspectors "my boys", is married, and smokes cigarettes or a pipe. Good grief, our Lognon has changed! Does he take himself for Maigret, now that he's been posted to the Quai des Orfèvres?!

2. Lognon in the Maigrets

Lognon first appeared in a Maigret in 1946, in the story "Maigret and the Surly Inspector" [mal]. He appears in six novels: PIC, LOG, JEU, TEN, PAR and FAN. And he appears in a short story, outside of the Maigrets, "Le petit restaurant des Ternes" [The little restaurant in the Ternes district] (1947).

Let's look first at this last story. Lognon is working at the police station in the Rue de l'Etoile, at the border of the 8th and 17th arrondissements. His portrait, so to speak, is in conformity with himself: always called "Inspector Grouch", he wears a badly cut overcoat, a colorless hat, and appears morose. He grumbles and groans. We learn further that he wears glasses to write his reports.

We'll summarize here the information we find on this character in the seven Maigrets he appears in, as mentioned above, mal, PIC, LOG, JEU, TEN, PAR and FAN.

a) Physical Portrait

Lognon's physical appearance does not speak in his favor: he wears old clothes, poorly pressed, his shoes are often wet and muddy, his suits are drab (mouse gray), his sole overcoat is gray, and his hat an unpleasant brown; he wears dark ties, raised by a celluloid device (except the one time he wore a red tie: he was taking advantage of the absence of his wife, who was off taking the cure (TEN); he even wore a straw hat!). All that makes of him a gray silhouette, short and thin, his step always tired, eyes teary, red-rimmed, and worried-looking, with a long bulbous nose, red from his perpetual head cold. We also learn that he hardly ever drinks, because of a stomach problem. He doesn't smoke (or not anymore...) because of his wife, who can't abide the odor of tobacco.

b) Lognon and his entourage

In the Maigrets, Lognon still lives in the Place Constantin-Pecqueur, but this time on the 5th floor, in a cramped apartment in a red brick building.

Lognon has been married for 30 years, and, unfortunately for him, his wife is "the world's worst shrew", always out of sorts, reducing Lognon to doing the housework after he returns home. Furthermore, she passes her time reproaching him, telling him that he is "too conscientious, that he's ruining his health, and that no one appreciates him". She calls him "Charles" (was he perhaps, actually Charles Joseph Lognon?).

As Mme Lognon is small, thin, poorly-coifed, poorly-dressed, and always complaining, Maigret can't help being irritated by her ("he ends up by being nauseated" LOG). We get the impression that Simenon himself is a little annoyed by this character, and that he took malicious pleasure in having her attacked by gangsters!

Lognon is a plainclothes inspector, who works in the St-Georges district (9th arrondissement) (PIC), at the Rue de La Rochefoucauld (JEU and LOG), or in the 18th arrondissement (which borders the 9th) (PAR and FAN), at the Montmartre station (Grandes-Carrrières) (TEN). He's very familiar with the areas of Place Blanche and Place Pigalle.

c) Mental portrait: "the lugubrious Lognon"

Two aspects are mixed in Lognon: on one side, there's "the gloomiest man in the Parisian Police force" (LOG), always in a bad mood, with a sullen look, his voice sad and gloomy.

But Maigret ends up discovering that he was "the best of men, in the end, the most conscientious of the inspectors, conscientious to the point of insufferability": nit-picking, form-loving, scrupulous, without genius, but meticulous, honest, a good police officer, "the most obstinate hunting dog there could be" (PIC), "the officer who had the greatest intuition of Paris, the most obstinate, and the one who wanted most desperately to succeed" (PAR). Dead of fatigue, worn down by his cold, he continues nonetheless his relentless work, and refuses to rest. He must feel "a bitter pleasure of being a victim of injustice and his own conscience" (JEU). But that is not enough to get him into the Quai, in spite of his ardent desire, for he fails all his examinations (he took the examination four times!), due to a lack of basic education.

d) Unlucky Lognon

Bad luck follows him "with such insistence that he has developed the anger of a mangy dog". He hates all those who work at the Quai, all who hold a rank superior to his. He believes himself to be the victim of a conspiracy which keeps him from rising in rank and gaining entry to the Quai. His bad luck is "so proverbial that some believe he has the evil eye". Every time he becomes involved with an investigation... Lognon can't make an arrest because the criminal is highly connected... he falls ill and someone else finishes for him... the Prosecutor takes the credit for himself... a murder occurs when he's not on duty... the Crime Squad (and Maigret!) takes over the investigation. "Poor Lognon, who wanted so much to distinguish himself! Every time he started off on a case, it was like fate... he saw Maigret arrive to take over." (PIC). But he ends up by having "his" case, since it's his photo which appears in the newspapers at the end of the Jonker investigation (FAN)!

Lognon is furthermore so used to seeing his initiatives turn against him that he starts to make himself look ridiculous in his precautions (like sending copies of the same report to all his superiors); he portrays himself as "too humble to be true".

And further, we wonder if he doesn't like it: "He had a need to feel truly unfortunate, truly unlucky, to feel like a sort of victim." (PIC). "At heart, he would have been unhappy to no longer merit the title "Inspector Grouch". He had a need to groan and lament, to feel like the unluckiest man on earth." (LOG)

e) Maigret and Lognon

While the Chief Inspector "truly feels sorry" for "poor Lognon", he never achieves with him the familiar rapport that he has with other inspectors. As an example, while in the heat of the action he sometimes calls Lognon "tu", for the most part he uses "vous".

In spite of the fact that Maigret offers him "much ointment to soothe his wounded self-esteem", that the Chief Inspector is cautious to a fault about the sensitivity of this inspector (whom he considers "a poor devil full of good will") (mal), that he shows him degrees of patience he can't always find for his own inspectors, that he emphasizes his merits in official reports... such cordiality has no grip on Inspector Grouch, and Lognon "is too worthy of his name to respond to the advances of the Chief Inspector." (mal)

Basically, Maigret likes him, not resenting his moods and even pitying him, since he knows that his wife does not to help make his life agreeable. And Maigret prefers to call him "Inspector Unlucky", because he has "a gift for attracting all misfortune". Furthermore, Maigret suspects that he "has developed a taste for bad luck and bad moods, made of it a personal vice, which he lovingly nurtures." (PIC)

 
So there is a portrait of Inspector Lognon, a stickler for the rules, but who transgresses them himself when he believes he is on the "big case" which will result in his promotion; his gruff manner hiding, in fact, a fierce desire not to be taken for an idiot, and his "excessive humility only an excess of pride"… Irritating at first, he ends up being almost sympathetic as a result of being a victim of events, more "unlucky" than "grouchy".
 

translation: S. Trussel
Honolulu, December 2006


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