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Maigret in Translation

Some interesting things I've noticed about various translations of the Maigret Chronicles1. Many of the stories and ten of the novels have been translated more than once (see: Anthony Abbot translations, and Translators), and sometimes the differences are intriguing. In a couple of cases, those I've started with below, the issue is one of translations by the same translator, which differ...

 

In the May, 1969 issue of Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine, appears:

Inspector Maigret Hesitates

from France
a NEW Inspector Maigret story by
GEORGES SIMENON
first publication in the United States

This is the first publication in English, and while the translation was credited to Jean Stewart, the original title, Monsieur Lundi, wasn't mentioned. But there are many small differences between this translation and that in "Mr. Monday," the version in "Maigret's Pipe" (Hamish Hamilton, 1977), also translated by Jean Stewart.

Below you can compare, in parallel columns, the two Jean Stewart translations, (as well as one of my own, which I made to see how different it would be), for the first few paragraphs of Monsieur Lundi, and below them, the French original.

Jean Stewart translation in EQMM
in "Maigret's Pipe"
Trussel translation
INSPECTOR MAIGRET HESITATES
MR. MONDAY
MONSIEUR MONDAY
Inspector Maigret stood still for a moment in front of the black-iron railings separating him from the garden. The enamel plate bore the number 47B.
It was five o'clock in the evening, and totally dark. Behind him a branch of the Seine flowed sullenly round the long unfrequented island of Puteaux, with its waste ground, coppices, and tall poplars.
Maigret stood still for a moment in front of the black iron gate that separated him from the garden, and on which an enamel plate bore the number 47b. It was five o'clock in the evening, and darkness had fallen. Behind him a branch of the Seine flowed sullenly round the deserted Île de Puteaux, with its thickets and tall poplars and patches of waste ground. Maigret stood a moment before the black metal gate that separated him from the garden,and on which an enamel plate bore the number 47b. It was five o'clock in the evening, and the darkness was complete. Behind him flowed a gloomy arm of the Seine in which the desolate island of Puteaux extended, with its wastelands, thickets and tall poplars.
In front of him, by way of contrast, on the other side of the railings was a small modern property of Neuilly, the Bois de Boulogne district, all comfort and elegance, and, just now, carpeted with autumn leaves. In front of him, however, on the other side of the gate was a small modern private house, a typical Neuilly house with all the elegance and comfort of the Bois de Boulogne district, its garden now carpeted. with autumn leaves. In front of him, on the other hand, beyond the gate, was a small, modern Neuilly residence, in the Bois de Boulogne district, with its elegant comfort and, at the moment, a carpet of autumn leaves.
Number 47B stood at the corner of the Boulevard de la Seine and the Rue Maxime-Baes. Lights were on in the second-floor rooms, and Maigret, standing with hunched shoulders under the rain, decided to press the electric bell set in the garden gate.
It is always embarrassing to disturb a quiet house, particularly on a winter's evening, when it is snugly self-contained and full of intimate warmth, and especially when the intruder has come from Police Headquarters with his pockets full of unpleasant documents.
No. 47b was at the comer of the Boulevard de la Seine and the Rue Maxime-Baès. On the first floor some rooms were lit up, and Maigret, hunching his shoulders under the rain, decided to ring the bell. It is always embarrassing to disturb a peaceful house, particularly on a winter's evening when it seems to be guarding its privacy and its cosy warmth, and above all when the intruder has come from Police Headquarters with his pockets full of horrible documents. 47b was on the corner of the Boulevard de la Seine and the Rue Maxime-Baès. Some lights were on in the first floor rooms, and Maigret, his shoulders hunched against the rain, decided to press the doorbell. It is always troublesome to disturb the life of a quiet house, especially on a winter evening, when it is huddled up on itself, all cozy and warm, and even more so when the intruder comes from the Quai des Orfèvres, his pockets filled with unpleasant documents.
MONSIEUR LUNDI

Maigret resta un moment immobile devant la grille noire qui le séparait du jardin et dont la plaque d'émail portait le numéro 47 bis. Il était cinq heures du soir et l'obscurité était complète. Derrière lui coulait un bras maussade de la Seine où s'étirait l'île déserte de Puteaux, avec ses terrains vagues, ses taillis et ses grands peupliers.
Devant lui, par contre, au-delà de la grille, c'était un petit hôtel moderne de Neuilly, c'était le quartier du bois de Boulogne, avec son élégance, son confort et, présentement, son tapis de feuilles d'automne.
Le 47 bis faisait l'angle du boulevard de la Seine et de la rue Maxime-Baès. Au premier étage, on voyait des pièces éclairées et Maigret, qui faisait le dos rond sous la pluie, se décida à presser le timbre électrique. C'est toujours gênant de troubler la vie d'une maison quiète, surtout par un soir d'hiver, quand elle est frileusement repliée sur elle-même, toute pleine d'une chaleur intime, à plus forte raison quand l'intrus vient du Quai des Orfèvres, les poches gonflées d'horribles documents.
 

Of course the differences between the three are relatively minor, as all stay pretty close to the original. But somehow it comes as a surprise to me to discover that there can be two different translations in print of the same story by the same translator. Is that why the stories have different titles?

Not necessarily. In the early '40s, the Philadelphia Inquirer published thirteen2 "complete" Maigret novels as pull-out supplements to the Sunday edition. I was surprised to note that "A Crime in Holland" (Nov. 30, 1941) only took up 19 newspaper-size (11" x 14" / 28 x 36 cm) pages, but was described as "Gold Seal $2.00 Novel - complete in this issue." The translator was Geoffrey Sainsbury, who produced the original English version which had appeared the year before in "Maigret Abroad" (along with "At the Gai-Moulin"). Could a full-length novel actually fit in 19 newspaper pages?

I compared the Inquirer translation with that in the (165-page paperback) Harcourt Harvest edition, and... not too surprisingly, corresponding sections in the Inquirer were generally significantly shorter than in the book. There are fairly large differences in the two texts, although both have the same title and translator.

The two versions of the opening few paragraphs of the first chapter are shown below.


Maigret in Holland

Geoffrey Sainsbury translation in Inquirer
Sainsbury translation, book version
Inspector Maigret had only a faint idea what it was all about when he arrived at Delfzijl, on the northern coast of Holland. Maigret had only a faint idea of what it was all about when he arrived one May afternoon in Delfzijl, a small town squatting on the low coast in the extreme northeast of the Netherlands.
Jean Duclos, a professor at the University of Nancy, had been on lecture tour. At Delfzijl he had been the guest of Conrad Popinga, a teacher in the training ship there. Popinga had been murdered, and though the French professor could hardly have been called a suspect, he nevertheless had been requested not to leave the town. Duclos at once had informed the University of Nancy, whose authorities had asked for a member of the Judiciary Police to be sent to the spot. The job was only semiofficial and Maigret had made it even less formal by not informing the Dutch police he was coming. A certain Jean Duclos, a professor at the University of Nancy, had been on a lecture tour through the countries of northern Europe. At Delfzijl he had been the guest of Monsieur Popinga, who was a teacher on the training ship there, and this Monsieur Popinga had been murdered. Though the French professor could hardly have been called a suspect, he had nevertheless been requested not to leave the town, and to hold himself at the disposal of the police.
That was about all Maigret knew, except for a rather confused report Jean Duclos had forwarded to the Paris police himself. He had at once informed the University of Nancy, whose authorities had then asked for a member of the Police Judiciaire to be sent to the spot.
It was just the job for Maigret, being semiofficial. He had made it all the less formal by having taken no steps to warn the Dutch police that he was coming.
At the end of Jean Duclos's report was a list of the principal people involved, and it was this list that Maigret had been studying during the last half hour of his journey:
  • CONRAD POPINGA, the victim, forty-two, formerly a captain in the merchant service, now teaching cadets on the training ship at Delfzijl. Married. No children. Spoke English and German fluently, and fairly good French.
  • LIESBETH POPINGA, his wife. Daughter of the headmaster of a lycée in Amsterdam, a woman of considerable culture, including a thorough knowledge of French.
  • ANY VAN ELST, the latter's younger sister, on a visit of some weeks in Delfzijl, recently completed her degree in law. Twenty-five years old. Understands a good deal of French, but speaks it badly.
  • THE WIENANDS, living next door. Carl W. teaches mathematics on the training ship. Wife and two children. No French.
  • BEETJE LIEWENS, eighteen, daughter of a farmer who breeds pedigree cows. Has twice been to Paris. French quite good.
The names conveyed nothing to Maigret. He had been traveling for a night and half a day and wasn't feeling particularly enthusiastic.
From the start he found Delfzijl disconcerting. It was far more Nordic than anything he had imagined. A small town. At the most, ten or fifteen streets paved with beautiful red tiles, as regularly laid as those on a kitchen floor. Low houses of brick ornamented with a profusion of carved woodwork painted in light, gay, colors. The whole place, completely encircled by a dyke, was like a toy. Beyond was the estuary of the Ems, then the North Sea, a long silver ribbon. Right from the start, he found Delfzijl disconcerting. At dawn he had found himself rolling through the traditional Holland of tulips. Then came Amsterdam, which he already knew. But Drenthe, an endless stretch of heather, had taken him by surprise. A twenty-mile horizon sectioned by canals.
And what he now came to was something that bore no relation to the ordinary picture postcard of Holland. It was far more Nordic than anything he had imagined.
A small town. At the most, ten or fifteen streets paved with beautiful red tiles, as regularly laid as those of a kitchen floor. Low houses of brick, ornamented with a profusion of carved woodwork painted in cheerful colors.
The whole place was like a toy, all the more so because it was completely encircled by a dike. In this dike were openings with heavy lock gates, which were no doubt closed during spring tides.
Beyond was the estuary of the Ems River, and then the North Sea, a long silver ribbon of water. Ships were unloading their cargoes under the cranes on the quay. In the canals were innumerable sailing boats, big as barges and as heavy, built to withstand the open seas.
The sun shone brightly. The stationmaster was wearing a bright orange cap, to which he automatically raised his hand to salute the unknown passenger.
There was a cafe opposite the railroad station and Maigret went in, but he hardly dared sit down. Not only was it polished like the most respectable off dining-rooms, but the atmosphere was no less homelike. There was a cafe opposite. Maigret went in. But he hardly dared sit down. Not only was it scrubbed and polished like the most respectable of dining rooms, but also the atmosphere was equally homelike.
There was only one table and the proprietor, who was having a glass of beer with two customers, came over to welcome the newcomer. There was only one table, on which lay all the morning papers, fixed to wire frames. The proprietor, who was having a glass of beer with two customers, came over to welcome the newcomer.

But even more dramatic than either of these examples of somewhat different translations by the same translator is the case of "Stan the Killer," the translation of the short story "Stan le Tueur."

Until Jean Stewart's 1977 translation for Hamish Hamilton's "Maigret's Pipe," the only translation of this story in print was by Anthony Boucher [1911-1968], who translated many Simenon stories, and was a well-known sci-fi and mystery writer and editor himself.

Below, the first sections of these two translations (from near the very end of the story) are almost identical. But what has happened in the second parts of these translations? They're suddenly almost two different stories! Which one is closest to the original?

Stan the Killer

'Listen to me, Lucas...'
The sergeant had been about to leave, but he waited a moment, and his feeling for Maigret was akin to pity.
'I'm listening, Chief.'
'One-Eye is not Stan. Spinach is not Stan. The bearded fellow is not Stan. But I'm convinced that Stan lived in this hotel and was the focus of the whole group!'
Lucas refrained from speaking, leaving the Superintendent to ride his hobby horse.
'If Ozep had been Stan he had no reason to come here and kill an accomplice. If he was not Stan...'
"Listen, Lucas..."
The sergeant had been about to leave. He paused, feeling for Maigret something akin to pity.
"One-Eye is not Stan. Spinach is not Stan. The Beard is not Stan. But I'm convinced that Stan lived in this hotel and was the focus around which the others gathered."
Lucas thought it better to say nothing. Let the inspector have his monomania.
"If Ozep was Stan he had no reason to come here to kill an accomplice. If he was not Stan..."
And suddenly, standing up so abruptly that the sergeant gave a start:
'Look at this woman's shoulder... The left shoulder, yes...'
He bent forward himself. Lucas drew aside the woman's dress and uncovered white flesh on which was the mark with which, in America, they brand criminal women.
'Have you seen, Lucas?'
'But, Chief...'
'Don't you understand? She was Stan! ... I had read something of the sort, but I hadn't made the connection because I was so firmly convinced that our Stan was a man... Four or five years ago, in America, a young woman led a gang of criminals in attacks on lonely farms, just as has been happening here... And, just as here, the victims had their throats cut by this woman, whose cruelty was described with a certain relish in the American papers...'
'She was that woman?'
'Almost certainly... I shall know that within an hour, if I can lay my hands on the requisite documents... I had cut a few pages out of a magazine one day... Are you coming, Lucas?'
Suddenly Maigret rose, crossed to the wall and pulled down the brightly colored picture of Olga. He tore away the tape that framed it, revealing lines of lettering above and below the face. He handed it to Lucas.
The sergeant knew enough English to make out both the line above:
Real Life Detective Cases
and the lines below:
The Pretty Pole and the
Terror of Terre Haute
Maigret was smiling now. "Vanity," he said. "They can't ever resist it. They had to buy the magazine when they saw it on the stands, and she had to frame the picture.
"I knew I'd seen her face before. I do remember the case roughly. I kept some clippings on it. Very similar to ours. In the Middle West of America, four or five years ago. A gang attacking lonely farms, cutting throats... just like ours... and they had a woman leader. The American press took great pleasure in describing her atrocities."
"Then Stan...?"
"...was Olga. Almost certainly. I'll be positive in an hour, now that I know what to look for in the office. Are you coming with me, Lucas?"

Have you guessed which is closest to Simenon's? It's the one on the left, Jean Stewart's, a very close translation of the original French.

Here it is again, with Simenon's original French on the left, my translation on the right:

Et soudain, se dressant dans un mouvement si brusque que le brigadier sursauta
— Regarde l'épaule de cette femme, à tout hasard... La gauche, oui...
Lui-même se penchait. Lucas écartait la robe, découvrait une chair très blanche et, sur cette chair, la marque dont les Américains flétrissent les femmes criminelles.
— Tu as vu, Lucas ?
— Mais, patron...
— Tu ne comprends donc pas ? Stan, c'était elle !... J'avais lu quelque chose dans ce goût-là, mais je ne faisais pas le rapprochement tant j'étais persuadé que notre Stan était un homme... Il y a quatre ou cinq ans, une jeune femme, en Amérique, à la tête d'une bande de criminels, menait l'assaut contre les fermes isolées, tout comme cela s'est passé ici... Tout comme ici aussi, les victimes étaient égorgées, de la main de cette femme dont les journaux américains ont décrit avec complaisance la cruauté...
— C'est elle ?
— C'est presque sûrement elle... Mais je le saurai dans une heure, si je retrouve les documents en question... J'avais découpé un jour quelques pages dans un magazine... Tu viens, Lucas ?
 

And suddenly, standing up with such an abrupt movement that the sergeant jumped,
"Let's have a look at this woman's shoulder, just on the off chance… yes, the left.
He bent over. Lucas moved the dress aside, uncovering very pale flesh, and on the skin, the mark with which the Americans brand their criminal women.
"Do you see it, Lucas?"
"But, boss... "
"Don't you get it? This is Stan! I'd read about something like this, but I couldn't make the connection as long as I was convinced that our Stan was a man... Four or five years ago in America, a young woman led a band of criminal attacks on isolated farms, just as happened here... Just like here, all the victims had their throats cut, by the hand of this woman, whose cruelty the American newspapers have described with relish.
"This is her?"
"It is almost certainly her... But I'll be sure in an hour, if I can locate the necessary documents... I'd cut out some pages one day from a magazine... Are you coming, Lucas?"
 

My attempt at an explanation is that Boucher, an American, found Simenon's reference to branding women in American prisons unbelievable - the story was written in the winter of 1937-38, before Simenon lived in the U.S. - and likely to be unacceptable to Americans, and so he substituted his own "newspaper photo" episode.


NOTES
1. I'm proposing using (Maigret) "Chronicles" to refer to the complete corpus of Maigret stories and novels.
2. Including A Crime in Holland, November 30, 1941; The Flemish Shop, March 15, 1942; The Saint-Fiacre Affair, September 20, 1942, Maigret Returns, November 29, 1942. more here.

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