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Maigret of the Month: Le Fou de Bergerac (The Madman of Bergerac)

4/01/05 –
At the request of the Director of the Police Judiciaire in Paris, Maigret decides to travel to Bordeaux in order to clear up a certain problem as well as taking the opportunity to visit a friend from the police force who has retired to that region of France.
Travelling by train from the Gare d'Orsay (now redesigned as the Musée d'Orsay — the large art gallery), Maigret opts to sleep in a couchette, but any idea of sleep is interrupted by the restlessness of the person in the couchette above him. As well as being annoyed, Maigret is intrigued and when this passenger suddenly leaves the compartment and jumps from the train as it slows down, on a whim, Maigret follows him into the dark of the countryside, only to receive a bullet in his right shoulder.
Discovered, Maigret is transported in a farm cart to hospital in the town of Bergerac in the département of Dordogne where at first he is mistaken for the serial killer known as the 'Madman of Bergerac'. When his real identity is established, and having received surgery, Maigret insists of recuperating in a hotel room.
Confined to his hotel bed, Maigret sends for his wife to look after him and for the first time Madame Maigret plays more of an important role in an investigation. Unable in his usual way to visit certain locations, to take in the atmosphere and to interview people in their normal environment, he instructs his wife to do some of this work for him. Also he asks his friend Leduc, the retired police officer who lives in the area, to carry out other errands.
But after a while, even with the information that he receives and talking to people who visit him, Maigret is puzzled and feels that he is at an impasse, so much so that when he falls asleep it manifests itself in a nightmare that Simenon describes both vividly and succinctly, reflecting Maigret's lack of progress.
Although strictly not his investigation, and despite being urged to rest and to give up probing, stubbornly Maigret decides to continue. It is suggested to him that it is no more than a simple case in this provincial town, but not convinced, gradually, Maigret unravels a much more complex and wider situation involving a family with tragic consequences, including a form of blackmail.

Simenon wrote this novel in March 1932 at the Hôtel de France et d'Angleterre in La Rochelle (Charente-Inférieure, now Charente-Maritime), whilst he was waiting for some renovation work to be carried out on the house he was renting in Marsilly a few miles to the north. The English translation by Geoffrey Sainsbury was first published under the title of "The Madman of Bergerac" in the two novel volume with the overall title of "Maigret Travels South" (in the UK by Routledge, and in the USA by Harcourt, both in 1940). As part of the centenary commemoration of Simenon's birth in 2003, Penguin Books (UK) and Harvest (USA) reissued in paperback a number of, mainly, Maigret novels. Penguin reprinted "The Madman of Bergerac" and although the translation is credited to Geoffrey Sainsbury, certain passages have been retranslated which are closer to Simenon's French text.

A map of the centre of the town of Bergerac (Dordogne). Guide Michelin, France, 1934. (click to enlarge)
On the map the Place du Marché is indicated by the number 11 and in the novel Maigret looks down on this Place from his first floor hotel window. Although certain hotels are marked on the map, Maigret's Hôtel d'Angleterre is not one of them, nor is its rival on the other side of the Place, the Hôtel de France. It is possible that the author utilised and split the name of his hotel in La Rochelle where he wrote this novel in order to give Maigret a base from which to operate.
Other places mentioned in the novel are the railway station (la gare), the Palais de Justice (marked with the letter J) and the River Dordogne. The location of the public prosecutor's house could be in the Place des Carmes (marked 1).
For the record, on the map, C is the Caserne (Barracks), G the Gendarmerie (Police Station), H the Hôtel de Ville (Town Hall), P the Préfecture, S.I. the Syndicat d'Initiative (Tourist Office) and T the Théâtre.

Peter Foord, UK

Maigret of the Month: Le Fou de Bergerac (The Madman of Bergerac) - 2

4/05/05 –
In his summary of The Madman of Bergerac, Peter Foord wrote that Maigret was hurt in his right shoulder. In French the text where Simenon wrote about this is

"Que Maigret, debout, qui tient son épaule de la main droite. Au fait, c'est l'épaule gauche! Il essaye de bouger le bras gauche .... mais le bras retombe, trop lourd."

From that, in French, it is clear that Maigret was hurt in the left shoulder. What is the English translation of this text?


In the "ever dependable" Geoffrey Sainsbury translation:

"There all by himself, holding his right shoulder with his left hand. Yes, it was the right shoulder that was wounded. He tried to move the arm, but it was too heavy; he could only raise it a few inches."

Maigret of the Month: Le Fou de Bergerac (The Madman of Bergerac) - 3

4/06/05 –

Jerome has raised an interesting point (4/05/05) concerning the site of Maigret's wound. When I was rereading this Maigret novel, I consulted three texts —1. The Madman of Bergerac, the English translation by Geoffrey Sainsbury in Maigret Travels South (London, Routledge, 1940), 2. Georges Simenon's French text Le Fou de Bergerac (Paris, Fayard, 1932) and the reissue of Geoffrey Sainsbury's translation The Madman of Bergerac (London, Penguin Books, 2003). Knowing how Geoffrey Sainsbury can deviate from the author's original text, I looked at the latter as often as I could. Also I noticed in the small print on the reverse of the title page of the 2003 Penguin paperback edition that it states 'Reissued with revisions...' but Geoffrey Sainsbury is still credited with the translation.
Following on from Jerome's point and Steve's follow up, I have had another look.
To quote Jerome's context again, the author writes:

'Que Maigret, debout, qui tient son épaule de la main droite. Au fait, c'est l'épaule gauche! Il essaie de bouger le bras gauche. Il arrive à le soulever légèrement, mais le bras retombe, trop lourd.'
This I translate as:
Only Maigret, standing, who was holding his shoulder with his right hand. In fact, it was his left shoulder! He tried to move his left arm. He managed to raise it slightly, but the arm fell back down again, too heavy.
From The Madman of Bergerac (in Maigret Travels South, London, Routledge, 1940. page 167), translated by Geoffrey Sainsbury:
Only Maigret. There all by himself, holding his right shoulder with his left hand. Yes, it was the right shoulder that was wounded. He tried to move the arm, but it was too heavy: he could only raise it a few inches.
From The Madman of Bergerac (London, Penguin Books, 2003, page 8), translation credited to Geoffrey Sainsbury, but with (anonymous) revisions:
Only Maigret. There all by himself, holding his shoulder with his right hand. Yes, it was the left shoulder that was wounded. He tried to move the arm, but it was too heavy: he could only raise it a few inches.
I note that most of the Penguin Books English translation reissues for the Simenon Centenary year 2003 have minor revisions, both the later as well as the early titles. Ideally, it would be good to have many of the early titles newly translated close to Simenon's original French texts.
But thank you, Jerome, for pointing out my error.

Peter Foord, UK

Maigret of the Month: Le Fou de Bergerac (The Madman of Bergerac) - 4

4/07/05 –
It would be interesting to find a map of the French railways network in the year 1930 to see why Maigret had to take this line. I know that many companies existed before the war and that SNCF was created in 1945 to unify and rebuild all the network.
If you look today at you will find a Hotel de France located at 18 place de Gambetta. I do not know how old the hotel is, but today a Hotel de France does exist. Did they read Simenon to choose the hotel name? On the 1934 map, it is located nearby the theatre location. (T on the map).
In the third chapter, Simenon is referencing the Guide Michelin as used by Maigret to help him build a map of the city in his head. It must be the same one Peter is using. Simenon has some very strong sentences like "C'est une petite ville où il y a une fou !" ("This is a small city where there is a madman!"), always the minimum efficient number of words.
The last sentence of the book in French is rude : "On fout le camp !" Maigret usually does not use this level of French language, which is colloquial. That must express his feeling for the time and lives lost : a mess, a waste.
For information, in chapter 5, Leduc describes the size of the Maison-neuf farm as "200 journeaux". A "journal" is an old French area unit, its definition was the area that one person could work manually in one day : around 5 ares or 500 square meters.


Maigret of the Month: Le Fou de Bergerac (The Madman of Bergerac) - 5

4/14/05 –
As a reply to a couple of Jerome's points (4/07/05), the following may be of interest.
The development of the railways in France is complicated, being bound up with the political and economic state of the country, as well as opposition from certain countryside factions and the well-developed canal trade. Eventually by 1842 an agreement was reached by which the State financed the infrastructure (tunnels, bridges and development of the track bed) and private companies were responsible for tracks, stations, rolling stock and operating costs. The main companies were:

Chemin de Fer de l'Est
Chemin de Fer du Midi
Chemin de Fer du Nord
Chemin de Fer de l'Ouest
Chemin de Fer Paris-Lyon-Méditerranéen
Chemin de Fer Paris-Orléans

These companies operated their own routes independent of each other, which at times lead to passengers having to go unnecessary lengths to reach their destinations.
Maigret was obliged to travel from the Gare d'Orsay in Paris as this station and lines were run by the Chemin de Fer Paris-Orléans, serving Orléans, Limoges and Bordeaux among other towns en route, including Bergerac (These towns and cities served by this railway were inscribed on the façade of the Gare d'Orsay, still to be seen in its transformation as the Musée d'Orsay).
But by the 1930s, the private companies were losing money, so in 1937 the French Government of the time nationalised the railways forming the SNCF (Société Nationale des Chemins de Fer Français). The Second World War interrupted further development, which was continued from 1945 onwards.
Regarding the hotels in Bergerac, Jerome mentions the Hôtel de France, located today at 18 Place Gambetta. Maigret speaks of a hotel of this name as a rival to the one in which he is staying, but although this hotel is listed in the 1962 Guide Michelin at the same address, I cannot find any reference to it before 1960. In the novel, Maigret is recuperating in the Hôtel d'Angleterre overlooking the Place du Marché. As a possible association of ideas, in the 1920 edition of Baedeker's Southern France, in Bergerac there is listed the Hôtel de Londres, situated at 51 Rue Neuve-d'Argenson, which also appears in the 1934 Guide Michelin and is indicated on the map, but there does not appear to be any reference to this hotel at a later date.

Peter Foord, UK

Richard Vinen's introduction to The Madman of Bergerac
12/17/07 –
Reading Richard Vinen's interesting introduction to the 2003 Penguin edition of The Madman of Bergerac, I noticed that near the end he refers to David Drake's chronology:
An American admirer has ingeniously proposed that Maigret must have been in London carrying out secret work for de Gaulle, but this is an unconvincing explanation, if only because the Gaullist secret service spent most of its time spying on the British and Maigret speaks almost no English. Besides, Maigret is not a rebel...



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