In May 1933 Simenon went on another visit accompanied by his wife Tigy. This time they visited Turkey, the Black Sea area, Roumania and parts of Russia as it was, including the Ukraine and Georgia. In June he interviewed Leon Trotsky at Prinkipo and he completed a series of articles for his magazine sponsors.
Having returned to his home in Marsilly, Simenon, between July and December 1933, wrote six novels, four of which were the last that Fayard published of his work.
Written at Marsilly in November 1933, Maigret (Maigret Returns) was not only the very last novel published by Fayard, but also the last Maigret that Simenon was to write at that time. As far as he was concerned the Maigret novels had served their purpose.
In the previous Maigret novel, L'Écluse N°1 (The Lock at Charenton) he is about to retire from the Police Judiciaire, and the ending has him quietly escorting a culprit into custody whilst the Seine traffic behind them proceeds as normal. In the novel Maigret (Maigret Returns), the former commissaire has been retired for two years and is now living with his wife at their home at Meung-sur-Loire (Loiret).
Perhaps Simenon felt that the ending of L'Écluse N° 1 and the departure of Maigret was too abrupt and that he wanted to give the reading public a view of Maigret in retirement. Or was it to give Fayard just one more Maigret novel as an appeasement?
Whatever the reason, in this novel Maigret and his wife are woken up in the middle of a February night by their nephew Philippe who is an Inspector in the Police Judiciaire in Paris. Philippe had been instructed to keep watch on the owner of the Floria nightclub in the Rue Fontaine (9th arrondissement) in Paris, but the owner is shot and Philippe finds himself compromised.
Taking the taxi in which he arrived, Philippe, together with Maigret travel to Paris. Having booked into a hotel, Maigret wastes no time in visiting certain establishments. One such is the Chope du Pont-Neuf, a café in the Rue Dauphine (6th arrondissement), close to the Quai des Orfèvres. This café is frequented by several of Maigret's former colleagues, including commissaire Amadieu, Maigret's successor, who is in charge of the investigation involving Philippe.
Simenon has put Maigret into an intriguing situation where the latter, in proving his nephew innocent of a crime, has to deal with individuals and situations mainly with his own intuitive skills and personal experience without much help from his former colleagues.
He visits the Floria club in the Rue Fontaine*. This establishment, together with the café Tabac Fontaine in the same street, is used by a group of criminal types. In the club Maigret meets Germain Cageot who he knows to be the leader of the group, and Fernande Bosquet, a prostitute, from whom gradually he obtains information about certain members of the group. Over a period of time, patiently, obstinately, at times frustrated and annoyed, Maigret moving from place to place, gleans facts by enquiring and observing. He continues to visit the same few places including the Police Judiciaire where he talks to Amadieu, but his longest stay is at the Tabac Fontaine where various members of the group come and go. In the early hours of the morning he decides to follow one member of the group, Joseph Audiat, through the streets, but a car is used deliberately to run them down. Audiat is injured, but Maigret being unhurt looks after him at his hotel.
This incident persuades commissaire Amadieu to think again about the enquiry and various members of the group are brought to the Quai des Orfèvres, but the outcome is still somewhat muddled and Maigret feels frustrated and powerless.
An interlude is provided for Maigret with the arrival of his sister-in-law, Philippe's mother, with whom he spends some time. Possibly relaxing in the company of his sister-in-law clarified his thoughts as now he devises a trap in order to obtain vital information from Germain Cageot.
The only translation of this novel is by Margaret Ludwig who follows Simenon's text closely.
A small error of translation that Roddy has pointed out (7/05/05). Un paquet de gris is pipe tobacco usually called Shag, a strong mixture of tobacco leaves cut and shredded.
* At number 40 Rue Fontaine was Josephine Baker's club, which Simenon frequented until they parted company in the summer of 1927.
|Map 1. Part of the Île de la Cité with the Quai des Orfèvres, and the Rue Dauphine where at the beginning of this street the café the Chope du Pont-Neuf was situated (Paris Plan, Michelin 1988).
|Map 2. Part of the 9th arrondissement showing the Rue Fontaine running south-east from the Place Blanche (Paris Plan, Michelin 1988).