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Maigret of the Month: Félicie est là (Maigret and the Toy Village)
12/01/05 –
Whilst living at the Château de Terre-Neuve in Fontenay-le-Comte (Vendée), Simenon probably wrote in the winter of 1941 to1942 one of the longer Maigret short stories, Menaces de Mort, which was published in the weekly Révolution nationale in six instalments from March to April 1943. It did not appear in book format until Presses de la Cité included it in volume 25 of Tout Simenon in 1992. Steve Trussel has translated this short story under the title of Death Threats (refer to Maigret Forum 8/1/1998).

As far as his writing was concerned, the year 1942 proved to be a sparse one for Simenon. Several films based on his work were released during the year, but perhaps the author was more concerned about the health of his son Marc who was three year’s old. The Château proved to be damp and a doctor advised the Simenons to take their son to the coast for a while so that he could receive the sea air. A friend found a vacant villa for Simenon to rent in La Faute-sur-mer (Vendée) where Simenon, Tigy, their son Marc and Boule stayed for over two months. Here in April 1942 Simenon wrote the second part of his longest novel, Pedigree and in May the Maigret novel, Félicie est là (Maigret and the Toy Village). In July, having moved back to the Château de Terre-Neuve, he wrote one more novel, La Fenêtre des Rouet (Across the Street).
In Félicie est là, Maigret is investigating a murder which has taken place about thirty kilometres west of Paris. The location is between Poissy and Orgeval (both then Seine-et-Oise – now Yvelines) in a house on an estate that is in the process of being built, which Simenon calls Jeanneville.
[Near the beginning of the novel Monsieur Gallet, décédé (The Death of Monsieur Gallet/Maigret Stonewalled), written in the summer of 1930, Maigret visits the Gallets’ home on a similar new housing estate, but at St. Fargeau (Seine-et-Marne)].
The novel Félicie est là is lighter in tone than the previous two Maigret novels (Signé Picpus and Cécile est Morte) written within the past sixteen months, and the investigation turns out to be less complex.
Simenon concentrates mainly on a kind of duet between the twenty-four year old Félicie and Maigret. Throughout it is a battle of wills between the two, when at times the atmosphere created becomes one of annoyance and irritation, frustration and stubbornness, but not without touches of humour and empathy. With the character of Félicie it is almost as if Simenon is echoing one of those from his other novels – les romans durs – such as Marie Le Flem in La Marie du Port (Chit of a Girl/Girl in Waiting) written in October 1937.
The English translation of Félicie est là by Eileen Ellenbogen is close to Simenon’s French text. It was first published in hardback format in 1978 by Hamish Hamilton (UK) and in 1979 by Harcourt Brace Jovanovich (USA).
A section of a map of 1925 that shows Poissy and Orgeval in relation to their environment
(Albert Dauzat et Fernand Blournon, Paris et ses Environs, Paris, Librairie Larousse, 1925).

A section of a later map that shows Poissy and Orgeval in relation to the city of Paris
(Map N° 55, Paris, Michelin, 1963).

Peter Foord

Félicie est là / Cécile est morte
12/06/05 – I just finished "Félicie est là" and found some similarities with "Cécile est morte". In both books, there is a young women in front of Simenon and in both case, the emphasis is put by his colleague.

In "Cécile est morte" , Simenon wrote (chapter 1, 2nd page)
- Dites donc, Maigret ... Elle est là!....

In "Félicie est là", Simenon wrote (chapter 1, 2nd page)
- Dites donc, Maigret...
- Quoi ?
- Félicie est là!

The text is the same! The similarities stop here, one has to wait a month before getting Maigret's attention and the other needed only a few minutes (and a murder), as one is going to be murdered and not the other. Did Simenon remember his previous story when he started "Félicie est là"?


More similarities with Félicie est là
12/07/05 – A prostitute named Adele is one of the characters in Félicie est là. The same name was used for women of easy virtue in Au Rendez-vous des Terres-neuvas and La Danseuse du Gai Moulin.

There is a crusty old bachelor called Monsieur Charles, although he is a harmless character compared to his namesake in Cécile est morte. The last Maigret of course is called Maigret et Monsieur Charles.


Maigret of the Month: Félicie est là (Maigret and the Toy Village)
12/20/05 –
One of the most interesting aspects, to my mind, of Maigret's characterization is the way in which he immerses himself in the atmosphere of the crimes that he investigates. There are a number of pertinent passages in Félicie est là, such as the following (excuse my translations - I don't have the English version to hand):

Maigret? Que voulez-vouz que je vous dise? Il s'installe dans une enquête comme dans des pantoufles. (chapter 2) Maigret? What do you want me to say? He settles into an enquiry as if it were a pair of slippers.
Il fait doux. Le ciel vire sensiblement au violet. Des boufées fraîches viennent de la campagne et Maigret se surprend, la pipe aux dents, à se tenir un peu voûté, comme se tenait Lapie. Voila même que, en se dirigeant vers le cellier, il traine la jambe gauche. (chapter 2) It's mild. The sky is turning markedly violet. Cool gusts of wind are coming from the countryside and Maigret is surprised, the pipe between his teeth, to find himself stooping a little, as Lapie did. He even drags his left foot as he heads towards the storeroom.
...c'est autre chose que cherche le commissaire, c'est le sens du drame et non sa reconstitution mechanique. (chapter 5) ...the commissaire is looking for something else, the meaning of the drama, and not its mechanical reconstruction.
Maigret a un façon de s'étaler, de s'épanouir, de respirer la vie par tous les pores... Il regarde autour de lui ce décor qui lui est devenu si familier, que par une sorte de mimetisme, il prend les allures des habitants. Maigret has a way of spreading himself out, of opening up, of breathing life through every pore... He looks around him at this décor, which has become so familiar that, by a sort of mimicry, he begins to ressemble the inhabitants. lui semble qu'il est obligé, par ce sacré métier qu'il a choisi, de vivre la vie de tout le monde au lieu de vivre tranquillement la sienne. (chapter 6) It seems to him that he is obliged, by this damned job that he has chosen, to live the life of everyone instead of quietly living his own.

Such explanations and representations of Maigret's "methods" are, of course, strewn throughout the novels and are, perhaps, as crucial to the character as his pipe. Is anyone aware of any work done to inventory them?


A New Year's Blog
12/31/05 –

I guess I can call it that. I don't usually talk much here, mainly put up articles and add new features to the site. Actually, I had started to write about Félicie. First, how I was surprised in the Bruno Cremer tv version that they'd gotten rid of the "toy village" – it was set in a small country village, but not a development like Jeanneville, and so the house was quite different, and there were animals everywhere. It seemed very faithful to the plot, but if you just looked at the pretty images, it should have been called "Maigret at the Petting Zoo" – ducks, geese, rabbits, cats, dogs, mice, goats, sheep... all over the place, indoors and out. (Actually, it was called La Maison de Félicie (Félicie's House.)) Then I watched the Michael Gambon version (Maigret and the Maid) and there was the red hat (green in Crémer), and a feistier and more memorable Félicie, but in only 60 minutes, so the story was a bit condensed... (I've still to see Jean Richard play it, and find out what kind of Félicie Frédérique Meninger was... but coincidentally I had these two just in time for Félicie's Month.)

But then I got to thinking that Félicie wasn't a detective story at all, that it was a portrait, and I started to collect the references and it began to seem like maybe it wasn't a portrait either, or not as much as it was... a love story! Blasphemy! Mme Maigret's suspicions and joking take on a sharper meaning after Maigret hastens to reply, at the end of Ch. 6, before the Lobster Dinner... "And I, my dear Félicie, adore you!" So I gathered the quotes, and they tell their own story, as far as it went... and I thought, oh, this is too long for the Forum, I'll have to make it a full-fledged article...


Oh you want to see the Félicie? Well, it's really not finished... but what is? Click here.

Happy 2006!


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