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Maigret's Pipe

instrument for reflection and the apprehension of the world

by Murielle Wenger

[Original French]

"He had his hands in the pockets of Maigret's overcoat,
and he was smoking Maigret's pipe.
"Maigret in Exile" [JUG], Ch. 6

1. The object or: What kind of pipe does Maigret smoke?
a) Number
b) Types
c) Tobacco
d) Matches
e) And when Maigret leaves his office...
2. The act or: How and why does Maigret smoke?
a) Step 1: filling the pipe
b) Step 2: lighting the pipe
c) Step 3: smoking the pipe
d) Step 4: putting out the pipe
e) Step 5: emptying the pipe
3. Contact or: The five senses in action
a) Sight: or: Maigret's haze
b) Hearing or: Maigret's silences
c) Touch or: Maigret's thick fingers in his tobacco
d) Taste or: Maigret savors his pipe
e) Smell or: Maigret's office
4. Bearing or: The pipe smoker
5. Need or: The indispensable pipe
a) To smoke like a fireman… policeman!
b) The pipe itself becomes the symbol of the need to smoke
6. Other uses: or: Pipe play
7. The adventures of a pipe or "The pipe in battle"
a) broken pipes
b) forgotten pipes
c) a stolen pipe
d) gift pipes, received or bought
8. Relationships or: Maigret, his pipe and other people
a) Smoking in front of others
b) No Smoking areas
c) Mme Maigret and the pipe
d) Maigret, his pipe... and Simenon

"Without his pipe, Maigret is a naked man. At the start of any investigation, it supports his reflections and his tactile perception of the outside world. "Maigret smoked his pipe in little puffs, trying to imbue himself with all this world he hadn't known the day before, and which had suddenly appeared in his life." (Maigret Hesites. [HES]) Jean Gabin, Michel Simon, Jean Morel, Jean Richard and Bruno Crémer, who successively portrayed Jules Maigret on the screen, were all supplied with the indispensable accessory which became the cover emblem of Simenon's books and the symbol of the writer." (extract of an article in Le Figaro, January 9, 2003: Simenon: the myth in 7 legends, with 1 color drawing by Loustal and 7 drawings in black and white.)


What are the elements which make Maigret a unique and easily recognizable character? The answer is given by Simenon himself, in his preface to Volume I of the Complete Works, published by Rencontre:

"I began to see drawing itself the powerful and impassive mass of a gentleman who, it seemed me, would make an acceptable Chief Inspector. … I added a few accessories to this character: a pipe, a bowler hat, a thick overcoat with a velvet collar."

So there, with a few features, the character is drawn: massive, endowed with specific clothing, and smoking a pipe. An outline, simple, but characteristic: "People must get used to you, to your silhouette, your step… For the moment you are only a shape, a back, a pipe, a way of walking, of grumbling." (Maigret's Memoirs [MEM], Ch. 2).

Throughout the corpus, Simenon will endeavor to describe this "silhouette", massive, heavy, recognizable by certain "accessories", like his overcoat, his hat and his pipe. (TRO: "encased in his overcoat, with his pipe sticking out through the raised collar").

We have previously discussed the clothing worn by Maigret. Today, we will concern ourselves with an accessory – the Chief Inspector's pipe. And it's more that a simple accessory, as we will discover in this study.

1. The object or: What kind of pipe does Maigret smoke?

a) number of pipes
We must recognize right off that Maigret does not smoke only a single pipe. While he may not have the more than 300 of his creator (cf. the Lanzmann interview in Lui, June, 1967), he still has many. There are always two or three in his pockets (LIB, SIG, PIC, LOG, BAN, CON, VOL, HES, CHA), which permits him to have a "spare pipe" (PAT). In his office, at first he has three (amo), then four (MAJ, pip), then six (GRA, DEF, VOL, FOL, CHA), and even seven (NAH), which Simenon appreciated: "He had, as usual, a good half dozen of them spread out, and he examined them with a connoisseur's eye." (MEM).

That enables him to always have several filled at the same time (TRO, ECO) and to smoke them one after another (TEN: "the five pipes which were in the ashtray and which he hadn't taken the time to empty"; NAH: Moving from a (too) hot pipe to a fresh one (NUI, SIG, NEW, DAM, PIC, VOY), allowing him to smoke a succession of pipes at an almost frantic pace. (see below). So that must be part of the pleasure of smoking, to be able to take the time to compare them, to decide among them, and finally to choose the one you want to smoke!:

CEC: "And finally sitting down, choosing the biggest pipe on his desk"
SCR: "Maigret … slowly filled a pipe chosen from among those scattered on his desk."
PAR: "Maigret was deciding between two pipes when the phone rang."
BRA: "He sat down heavily at his desk, selected the largest of his pipes, and filled it."
CLI: "A few minutes later, seated in front of his pipes, deciding among them"
FAN: "Maigret sat playing with his pipes before choosing one and slowly filling it."
DEF: "He chose a pipe, the biggest one, which he slowly filled"
VOL: "… choosing one, the longest, which he filled with care."
TEM: "Maigret remained alone with his pipes, and chose one, the oldest, which he filled slowly"
NAH: "He chose one of the pipes lined up on his desk and filled it"
TUE: "He sat in his chair, chose a curved pipe which he smoked less often than the others" and further: "he arranged his pipes on his desk, choosing one with care"
VIN: "He chose one of the pipes lined up on his desk, the lightest one, and filled it slowly."
CHA: "He … filled the fairly large pipe he had selected."

Simenon beside his pipe rack
And consider this phrase, in CHA: "each time he filled one, he had carefully selected it according to his mood."

This example is noteworthy, because it mentions an important element – the relationship between Maigret's pipe and his mood, his state of mind. We'll return to this below.

b) Types of pipe
If, as a rule, Maigret smokes a briar (HOL, CON), he nonetheless also has a meerschaum (pip). But Maigret's favorite pipe, "the one to which he most readily returns, which he always carries with him" (pip) is "a large briar pipe, slighly curved, which his wife had given him some ten years earlier as a birthday present, the one he called his 'good old pipe'" (ibid.). And so we often encounter Maigret with this pipe in his mouth (HOL, CEC, FEL, GRA, REV).

The size of the pipe is a symbolic reminder of Maigret's physical aspect: "a large pipe which harmonized with his heavy face" (GAI), "this pipe was on the same scale as his broad face: it could hold almost a quarter of a package of gray tobacco" (POR), "the heavy silhouette of Maigret, whose pipe, at times, at a certain angle, seemed immense, almost as large as his head." (JUG).

The Chief Inspector has still other pipes at home, so that he leaves some in his office when he is on vacation (AMU). Among those that he only smokes at home is a meerschaum (CON, ENF). At home, he keeps his pipes in a pipe rack (CLO, ENF), which is kept in the dining room (REV), unless it is on the mantle (MIN), or on the sideboard (VIN)... Maigret's sense of order was never his strong point!

c) Tobacco
Without tobacco, a pipe is of no value… but… Maigret doesn't use his pipe only to consume tobacco, as we will see below. All the same, let's consider here, to begin with, the pipe as a utensil for smoking "Nicot's weed". Since I'm not a specialist in the area of tobacco, I'll content myself here with some of Simenon's allusions to the kind of tobacco smoked by his Chief Inspector.

We know that it's "gray" (according to Petit Robert: "Ordinary tobacco in a gray paper package"), fairly strong, brown, sold in France, and that Maigret prefers it over other tobacco, like Belgian, "blond and too light, which took away his desire to smoke" (PHO), English (LIB) and American (NEW). Of course, nothing is better than France for Maigret, whose predilection for things of his own country goes well beyond tobacco! It sometimes happens, however, that he is tempted to be "unfaithful" to French tobacco, and to buy other sorts of tobacco, like Swiss in VOY (perhaps not so bad, after all... maybe Simenon, who lived in Switzerland, had recommended it to him!).

When Maigret is out of tobacco, and doesn't have time to stop at a tobacconist, as he can't do without, he has someone buy it for him (LET; TET, GRA), unless he can "borrow" some from one of his pipe-smoking collaborators, like Torrence (LET) or Lucas (PRO, FEL), or one of his other colleagues (Delvigne in GAI), or someone he is talking with (Ducrau in ECL, Point in MIN). But we must recognize that he hmself also offers his own tobacco (GUI, POR, MAI, SIG, ENF, CHA), with a gesture of offering his pouch, since, if Maigret often has his package of "gray" simply slipped into his pocket, he has, nevertheless, a tobacco pouch, "well worn" (JAU)... no doubt through years of use!

d) Matches
To light his tobacco, Maigret obviously needs some matches, contained in a matchbox (LET), with a side for striking them (a gesture mentioned in many stories) and which often get wet during the adventures of his investigations (PHO, FLA, pip, MOR). Maigret sometimes borrows matches (JAU, GAI, MAI, sta, ber, MEU), but he also sometimes offers them (MAJ, VOL), or lights someone's cigarette with one (REV, VIN).

e) And when Maigret leaves his office, where is he going to "stow" all this material to carry it? To this problem there is but one solution... his pockets! Let's recall here this extract we cited in the study of Maigret's wardrobe...

VAC: "For years and years, you might say forever, each of his pockets had a clearcut role. In his left pants pocket, his tobacco pouch and handkerchief – as a result of which there were always bits of tobacco in his handkerchiefs. In his right pocket, his two pipes and small change. Left hip pocket, his wallet, which, always filled with unnecessary papers, made one side of his rear bigger than the other… He put almost nothing in his jacket, only a box of matches in the right-hand pocket. That's why, when he had newspapers to carry or letters to mail, he slipped them into his left pocket."

As we've already mentioned above, Maigret always carries at least two pipes, which he puts in his pockets, his pants pockets according to the text below, and we often see him taking a pipe from his pocket, where he replaces it according to the situation (see below). And it sometimes happens that he has a pipe in the pocket of his overcoat (NEW, cho).

2. The Act or: How and why does Maigret smoke?

Here we'll examine the sequence of actions employed by Maigret in the act of smoking, and the relationship of these actions with the progress of the investigation.

a) Step 1: filling the pipe: This is Maigret's first action on taking a pipe from his pocket. It is also, chronologically, Maigret's first action with his pipe in the corpus – at the beginning of Ch. 1 of LET we find this phrase we will reread numerous times, "he filled a pipe". Inaugural act, the intitial phase of an almost immutable ritual, in the relationship between Maigret and his pipe. This is the first sequence, the preparation, setting the scene, the introit of the ceremony.

Maigret fills his pipe to "get started" before an interrogation (REN, GAI, OMB, LIB, MAI, eto, owe, TEN, VOY, SCR, VIE), or to gain the strength to continue an interrogation (JAU, NUI, POR, JUG), to gain the patience to wait for something to happen (TET, PAT), to return "to reality" after an interrogation (TEN), to "recover" from a painful or violent scene (LET, PHO, amo, DAM, LOG, CHA), to give himself time to think (LET, CLO, VIC), to regain his "composure" (HOL, REN, MEU), to calm down (MAJ, SIG), to avoid an embarassing question (AMU), so as not to fall asleep (SCR), or more prosaically, to finish off a meal (GAL, FLA, noe, REV, MIN, ECH). And this is not to mention all the other times, when he "simply" wants to smoke for pleasure, or out of need – for this is often the case (see below) – to the extent that he sometimes has to have his pipe filled by others, when he can't do it himself (by Leduc and his wife in FOU)!

We soon realize how much this gesture resembles the beginning of a ceremony, how much solemnity it involves, when we study Maigret's manner of filling his pipe. Simenon has repeated numerous times a characteristic and ritualistic sentence which could be an immutable phrase from a Mass – we find throughout the corpus, "He/Maigret slowly fills/filled his/a pipe"... in JAU, OMB, bea, MAJ, FAC, cho, GRA, DAM, ECH, TEN, VOY, SCR, CLI, COL, CLO, PAT, VIC, VOL, CON, HES, FOL; VIN, SEU, and CHA.

The word "slowly" can be extended by another word, "carefully" (CAD), "meticulously" (LOG), "distractedly" (PEU), "voluptuously" (FLA). We also find variations where the word "slowly" is replaced by another, quasi-synonym... "gently" (LIB), "tranquilly" (noy); or, modifying the sense slightly... "with minute care" (MOR), "methodically" (TEN, ASS), "extremely carefully" (MAJ, eto), "with meticulous movements" (CLI), "with very slow movements" (ECO), "with gestures slow and meticulous" (GRA), "with slowness" (DEF).

We learn also that Maigret uses no other instrument to fill his pipe but his fingers! He can stuff his pipe "with little taps of his finger" (POR, VIC, men), or "with slow little movements of his finger" (LET), or "with little taps of his thumb" (PHO, MAI), or "with minute taps of his finger" (OMB), "with a meticulous finger" (obs), "a familiar gesture of his finger" (PAT), "with a patient thumb" (CEC), and finally, in GAL: "Maigret stuffed his pipe with exagerrated slowness, tamping each pinch of tobacco with a dozen little taps of his finger."

Slowness, attention to detail, and pleasure (volutptuously) seem well to be the keywords for this gesture, which confirms Maigret in his ponderousness, his "quiet force", aids him to concentrate his energy against the difficulties of an investigation. How many times, had he not paused to stuff and light his pipe before confronting an unpleasant reality, would he have blown up at a reluctant witness, made too rapid a judgment about a suspect, or missed the solution by not letting his imagination run free, aided and sustained by the wisps of the smoke of his pipe!

It can sometimes happen for the Chief Inspector to manifest, by his fashion of filling his pipe, other sentiments, like anger or irritation, but this is quite rare. His pipe is synonymous, above all, with pleasure!

MAI: "he couldn't light it, so strongly had he tamped down the tobacco."
sta: "He … emptied his pipe, stuffed it with a crushing finger."
HES: "He grabbed a pipe, which he filled with nervous taps of his finger."
We note also that this gesture has truly become a necessary ritual, a required step in the course of an investigation, when Maigret arrives at stuffing his pipe "automatically" (the term is mentioned in FLA, CEC, noe, VAC, MEU, BAN, PAR, COL, VIC, SEU), without particularly thinking of wanting to light it immediately to smoke it...
TET: "Then, without realizing it, he slowly filled a pipe which he forgot to light."
NAH: "he slowly filled a pipe without realizing what he was doing."
And finally, we see that this gesture has become a necessary step, and even more, a need...
VIN: "he vacillated over filling a last pipe and, of course, finished by doing so."
A need that at this point can't be ignored, even while on the phone!
VIC: "Maigret's pipe had gone out, and he performed delicate gymnastics to fill another without releasing the receiver."
NAH: "Maigret only regretted that he was unable to hold the receiver while filling a pipe, and he looked covetously at those which were lined up so temptingly on his desk."
b) Step 2: lighting the pipe: Once the pipe is filled, it has to be lit. The second gesture of the ritual, the "firing" of the tobacco, whose combustion will allow Maigret to make those smoke rings he requires for his ruminations.

Here also, Maigret lights his pipe for the same reasons as he filled it, since it is the logical continuation: to regain a footing in reality (MAJ: "he lit a pipe, as if to put himself in balance."), to start or continue an interrogation, maintain his calm (ENF: "Maigret relit his pipe, forcing himself to be patient."), to gain his "bearing" (PEU, VIN), before reading a file, etc.

In the same way, this gesture can have the same solemn slowness as the filling: the phrase "Maigret/he slowly (re)lit a/his pipe" is found in GUI, ven, JUG, PIC, ECO, ASS, TEN, FAN; HES; IND; CHA. We also find the phrase: "Maigret/He/The Chief Inspector took the time to (re)light his pipe" in MEU; TRO; SCR, BRA, DEF, PAT, VIC. He can light his pipe "with a voluptuous slowness" (GUI), "placidly" (CEC), "drawing little puffs" (obs, PEU, VOL), "with care" (IND), or "automatically" (GUI, sta, ber, CAD).

And finally, we find the following variations:

POR: "Maigret … took the time to light his pipe."
MAI: "Maigret lit his pipe, letting the match burn down to the end"
SIG: "Maigret is silent. He fills his pipe, lights it, contemplating the match which had burned itself up."
MOR: "He lit his pipe, without stopping speaking, interspersing his words with puffs of smoke."
PEU: "Maigret interrupted himself to strike a match and draw on his pipe."

And again, this gesture can have the same obligatory character, like a need, as the filling:

AMI: "He had put down his pencil, and was trying, with his free hand, to relight his pipe." (Maigret on the phone)
CHE: "'Will you please put out your pipe immediately?' He hadn't even realized it was lit."
REV: "He picked up the phone, placed his call … and, to light his pipe, held the receiver between his jaw and his shoulder."
VOL: "And, striking a match with just one hand to relight his pipe, which had gone out" (again, Maigret on the phone!)
This "lighting" does not always go easily: the wind sometimes blows out the match, and Maigret must "huddle in a corner to light his pipe" (LET), or use the overcoat of a nearby inspector (JAU), or "cup his hands" (ceu).

In the absence of matches, he sometimes uses... a folded piece of paper (PHO), a fuse (NUI), a lighter for the gas (OMB), a piece of newspaper (LIB), a gas lighter (MAI), a paper torch (man).

c) Step 3: smoking the pipe: Now we are at the heart of the Mass: Maigret's way of smoking is like the act of "communion", with his thoughts and reflections.

The density of the smoke parallels the density of the rumination:

TET: "drawing a thick cloud from his pipe"
OMB: "exhaling a large burst of smoke"
CEC: "he smoked in large, thick puffs"
Maigret can also have the need to smoke without stopping, "without a break" (TET), almost like a machine, smoking or thinking. This act of smoking should prolong itself, like Maigret's reflections:
LET: "Maigret reboarded the train, with his heavy step, without ceasing to smoke." and later: "Without stopping smoking, the Chief Inspector set himself to eating and drinking."
OMB: "He didn't stop smoking, regarding his companion with an amused look."

Maigret's most familiar way of smoking is to draw "small puffs" from his pipe (GAL, TET, JAU, GAI, OMB, FOU, amo, sta, man, owe, FEL, NEW, pau, VAC, MOR, AMI, PIC, MEU, GRA, LOG, BAN, ECO, MIN, VOY, AMU, VIE, PAR, NAH, HES, ENF, FOL, SEU, IND, CHA). These puffs can also be, according to the Chief Inspector's mood, "abrupt" (LET, POR, MAI), "short" (arr, JUG, VIE), "very spaced out" (NEW), "rapid" (NEW), "dense" (LET), "thick" (eto, CEC), "long" (NAH), "nervous" (TET), "reflective" (HOL), "gourmand" (GUI, OMB, cho, obs, VIC), "voluptuous" (bay, cho), "slow" (POR, AMU, CLI), "lazy" (GRA, PEU), "angry" (POR, CEC), "savage" (CAD), exhaled "one by one" (FIA), "regular" (MAI), or even "great" (ECL) or "large" (obs, HES)!

Maigret can also smoke "slowly" (JAU, FIA, SIG, obs, REV, AMU, CON, CLI, DEF, VOL, VIC, TUE; FOL, SEU), "tranquilly" (JAU, CAD, VAC, JEU, ECH, SEU), "gravely" (GAI, PIC), "blissfully" (FLA, NEW, pau), "dreamily" (MIN), "peacefully" (ENF), "with an easy-going air" (SIG), "with a dreamy air" (ECH), or draw on his pipe "softly" (MAI, JUG, SIG, DAM, MME, TUE, IND; he sometimes smokes "nervously" (TET), or "savagely" (LIB), or "with a sullen air" (GUI, MOR).

The pipe itself can smoke "softly" (FAC, CLO).

The smoke can be provocative, gay, voluptuous or gloomy:

TET: "He leaned back, blew the smoke of his pipe toward the ceiling."
JAU: "Maigret regarded him with a cheerful look, spewed a great puff of smoke into the air."
HOL: "Maigret had a joyful way of smoking his pipe"
OMB: "at each puff, his lips parted voluptuously, with a little "pop". And the smoke wasn't blown forward, but escaped slowly, forming a cloud around his face."
ECL: "Maigret smoked and regarded the smoke rising in the transparent air."
MAI: "Maigret smoked his first pipe with an unadulterated joy."
JAU: "Maigret smoked, placid"
MAI: "Maigret breathed gently the smoke of his pipe."
FLA: "He smoked slowly, sending puffs of smoke towards the ceiling."
But it can also happen that, in the midst of a "tornado" of events, the Chief Inspector can even forget to smoke (believe it or not!):
LET: "He filled his pipe and suddenly realized that for several hours he had forgotten to smoke."

d) Step 4: putting out the pipe: we will soon come to the end of the ceremony; the tobacco is consumed;, the ritual will be consummated. Often, the pipe goes out by itself, as Maigret has set it aside; the ritual is accomplished without any action. Thus, caught up in an event, in his ruminations, he "let his pipe go out" (GAL, NEW, BRA).

But since, in fact, the ritual should be accomplished, Maigret is free to relight his cold pipe, to lead his investigation to its conclusion.

HOL: "Then, for the first time, we see the Chief Inspector embarrassed. He stuffed a pipe, lit it, let it go out… He relit his pipe, to give himself time to reflect."
BAN: "He watched with growing interest, and sometimes he forgot to draw on his pipe. He had to relight it two or three times."

e) Step 5: emptying the pipe: The Mass is said, the nave is empty; Maigret empties his pipe, but he doesn't hesitate to fill another, because the ceremony is without end, infinitely repeatable (the numerous cases where we read that "he filled a new pipe").

Let us examine the way that Maigret empties pipe, and where he does it: he can empty his pipe "in the coal scuttle" (Coméliau's office in LET), "in the fireplace" (at the Mayor's in JAU, at Grandmaison's in POR, at Mlle Decaux's in TRO), "in the ashtray" (at Ducrau's in ECL, at Little John's in NEW, at Mme Boursicault's in MEU, in his office in SCR, in the doctor's office in CLO, at Nahour's in NAH, at Parendon's in HES, in the house at Meung in ceu (we can well imagine that Mme Maigret wouldn't permit her husband to empty his pipe on the floor!); in the airplane in VOY), "in the sawdust of the spittoons" (at the PJ in MAI), "in the coal bucket" (in his office in CEC, MAJ, JEU), in an enormous spittoon " (at the movies in MME), "on the rug" (at the Le Cloaguen's in SIG, at the hotel in DAM and in owe), "on the floor" (in a bar in owe, in the inspectors' office in MAJ), by tapping his pipe "against the window sill" (in the local of the Police-Secours in SIG) or "on the window ledge" (in his office in pip), and also:

fen: "Maigret took the time to fill a pipe, after having emptied his on the ground, because the floor was already dirty." (good excuse!) (at Laget's)
sta: "And Maigret emptied his pipe with little taps against the window sill, so that the ashes fell somewhere on the quay, perhaps on some passerby's hat." (Simenon's humor noted) (in the Chief's office at the PJ)
not: "Maigret looked for something pointed to clear his pipe with, then leaned over the wastepaper basket" (Couldn't Maigret sometimes find a more distinguished action?! Don't forget, he's a guest at a lawyer's!)
ECO: "He... emptied his pipe on the grayish floor, looked at the ashes on the ground with an air of embarrassment" (understandably!) (in the classroom)

But the most familiar gesture is that of Maigret tapping his pipe against his heel (mentioned in TET, JAU, HOL, POR, FLA, MAI, fen, bay, ber, not, CEC, MAJ, JUG, pip, NEW, VAC, MOR, AMI, DAM, BAN, TRO, ECO, JEU, MIN, COR, VIE, PAT, VOL, VIC, HES), without worrying about carpets or other flooring!

3. Contact or: the five senses in action

a) Sight: or: Maigret's mists:
Let's look at the descriptions of the smoke emanating from Maigret's pipe, whose blue cloud envelopes his reflections and gives its characteristic halo to the atmosphere. The smoke can rise "slowly" (LIB), "into the sky" (MAI) or "in the air" (MAJ) "blue with smoke" (LET, CEC; GRA; IND, MAI, eto, TRO, VIN, SEU).

The smoke can be "a thin blue stream which rises in a spiral" (sta), "a thin gray stream" (JAU), " a trail of smoke rising straight up from the bowl of his pipe" (FEL), "pale blue smoke escaped from his pipe" (SIG), or "in slow puffs of smoke" (CON), "a light cloud of smoke" (cho).

The smoke can form "a moving layer" (MEU), "a layer of fog at the level of the lamp" (GRA), "a cloud of smoke which spread with the slightest movement of the air" (TET), "a blue layer at forehead level " (TEM) of Maigret, whose "head was haloed by the smoke of his pipe" (ber).

The smoke can "cloud the air" (MEU, HES), "spread around the lamp" (OMB), or "gently pile up into a surrounding blue veil" (bay).

b) Hearing or Maigret's Silences
Thes silences of Maigret's are punctuated by the crackling of the tobacco in his pipe:

LET: "The silence was not broken, but rather emphasized by the crackling of his pipe."
TET: "his pipe crackled at regular intervals."
REN: "There was a long silence during which the crackling of Maigret's pipe could be heard"
GAI and POR: "Maigret's pipe crackled."
CEC: "In Maigret's office… there was silence. The crackling of a pipe."
NAH: "He drew long puffs on his pipe, whose tobacco crackled"

c) Touch or Maigret's thick fingers in his tobacco
Maigret likes to feel the heat of the tobacco burning in his pipe, by "tamping with a finger the tobacco" (GAL) "burning" (ENF), or "the ash" (FOU, VIN) "hot" (PHO), "very gently" (ECL), "with little taps of his thumb" (CEC, PRO), "a careful thumb." (ENF), or "his index finger" (SIG).

But it's also the material of the pipe itself that Maigret appreciates

FAC: "this caress of his large thumb on the bowl"
pip: "Maigret caressed his pipe complacenlty"
CON: "a pipe that he filled slowly, with the air of caressing the briar"
TEM: "He felt the need to retake possession of his office, to sit down heavily, caress his pipes, as if to assure himself of the existence of a daily reality"
Maigret also touches his pipes when he is lost in reflection: his most usual action is to "fiddle" with them (FAN, DEF, VIC, ASS, CON, BRA).

d) Taste or Maigret savors his pipe
The flavor of Maigret's pipe depends both on external circumstances and his mood:

– Maigret and the seasons:

FEL: "His large pipe itself had a flavor of spring."
JEU: "to savor a spring breeze which gave a particular flavor to his pipe"
HES: "His pipe was good." (spring)
CEC: "The pipe which Maigret lit... was already tastier than other mornings." (autumn)
BRA: "drawing on the pipe he had just lit, and which, for the first time this year, had a taste of autumn."
PAR: "Even his pipe had a different taste." (winter)
CLI: "He could continue to smoke his pipe. Did it really have a special taste? He would have sworn so. Perhaps because of the fog, a certain quality of the air. A very good taste." (winter)

– Maigret in a good mood:

PHO: "Maigret sat in a taxi, savoring both his pipe and the familiar bustle of the street."
amo: "Maigret had possibly never found his pipe so good"
LIB: "Now this pipe had the same taste as usual!"
cho: "His mouth was filled with a good taste of tobacco"
TEM: "lighting a pipe which had refound its flavor"

– Maigret in a bad mood:

man: "his pipe didn't have the same taste as other mornings"
FAC and VAC: "His pipe had a bad taste"
GRA: "His pipe didn't have a good taste"
PEU: "He had an uncomfortable feeling in his chest, and his pipe started to taste bad."
DEF: "when he got it lit, it didn't have a good taste"

– Maigret ill:

cho: "He must have caught the flu… On top of that his pipe didn't have the same taste as usual, and that was the sign." And further. "His pipe had a strange taste of illness, which wasn't without its flavor"
LOG: "Did the tobacco really have a different taste, or was he just about to catch a cold himself?"
VIN: "Didn't the tobacco seem to have to taste of a cold coming on?"

e) Smell or Maigret's office
This is perhaps the first thing that strikes you on entering Maigret's office, its special smell:

MAI: "He smoked his pipe, whose odor impregnated the office"
amo: "Maigret… entered his office, which smelled of a cold pipe"
pip: "He reentered his office, where the odor of tobacco always lingered"
TEN: "the air smelled of tobacco, already cold"
This pipe odor becomes "professional":
BRA: "Even the tobacco smell was a professional smell: that of a pipe, extinguished the night before, relit in the middle of the night on being awakened for an emergency."

4. Bearing or: The pipe smoker

Cézanne: The pipe smoker
At the beginning of LET, we find this image of a characteristic pose of Maigret, who we will see many times in this posture: "Maigret planted himself, broad and heavy, his hands in his pockets, his pipe in the corner of his mouth." What more typical – or more realistic– than this image!

The phrase "his hands in his pockets, pipe in his teeth / mouth" appears again in PHO, JAU, HOL, REN, GUI, POR, OMB, FLA, LIB, MAI, pei, CEC, MAJ, FAC, NEW, MOR, DAM, MME, PEU, JEU, MIN, COR, CLO, ENF and CHA.

More often, he has simply "his pipe in his mouth" (pip, MEU, PEU, VOY, ASS, COL, CLO, DEF, NAH, VOL), "pipe between his lips" (pip), or "his pipe in his teeth" (GAL, PHO, PRO, JAU, HOL, POR, OMB, LIB, MAI, fen, bay, amo, sta, eto, man, not, owe, CEC, MAJ, JUG, SIG, CAD, FEL, NEW, mal, MOR, MEU, BAN, MIN, CLI, CLO, DEF, VIN).

But his pipe can also be "rivited to his jaw" (LET), "glued between his teeth" (REN, NEW) or "fiercely glued to his jaw" (CEC).

Bruno Crémer

Jean Richard

Jean Gabin

Rupert Davies

This way of holding his pipe in his mouth gives him a certain power:

LET: "Was it because he had his pipe once more between his teeth? … It was always at this moment that he was more solid than ever."
SIG: "His way of gripping the stem of his pipe between his teeth... that alone spoke volumes about his intentions."
NEW: "Maigret, suddenly, seemed thicker, heavier. He had a different way of gripping his pipe in his teeth"
But it can also be his emotions which are revealed in his fashion of holding the pipe in his mouth: Very often, he "clenches" his pipe or the stem of his pipe between his teeth (LET, GAL, TET, JAU, NUI, REN, GUI, CEC, MOR, VAC; ECH, COL, DEF, VIC, noy), sometimes "with force", or "strongly", "furiously"; he may also "bite" it (PHO), or "chew" it (POR, owe, JUG, ASS), "munch" it (ber), and futher:
NUI: "His lips made a funny crease around the stem of his pipe."
CEC: "He walked the halls of the PJ, heavy, menacing-looking, chewing with the stem of his pipe his furious thoughts."
JUG: "And the Chief Inspector, while speaking, while walking, was chewing on the stem of his pipe"
His attitude can also reveal his thoughts:
FAC: "Maigret was deep in himself… with that pout of his lips around the stem of his pipe"
He could also attach to it a certain gaiety:
pip: "with a funny little short laught around the stem of his pipe"
ven: "Maigret smiled, his lips drawn up strangely around the stem of his pipe."
AMU: "Maigret smiled around his pipe."
And it can serve for daydreaming:
obs: And he dozed voluptuously throughout the whole trip, his eyes half-closed, a ribbon of smoke drifting from his lips which circled the stem of his pipe."
pau: "Lucas wondered if the boss wasn't falling asleep, he was so calm and heavy. But, from time to time, you could see a little smoke escape from his lips wrapped around the stem of his pipe."

In summary, all these attitudes add up to an authentic "pipe smoker", as he recognized himself in fen: "Me, I'm an old pipe smoker", or as others define him as well:

PRO: Willy Marco to Maigret: "It's true that you're a pipe smoker"
MAJ: The director of the Majestic translates Miss Darroman's words: "It's enough to see your hat on your head and your pipe in your mouth"
JUG: the judge, to Maigret: "You only smoke a pipe, I believe?"
SIG: in Blaise's letter: "the man with the heavy face and the pipe"
SCR: the American criminologist to Maigret: "you're a pipe fanatic"
VOL: François Ricain to Maigret: "Have you a cigarette?" "No. I only smoke…" "a pipe, I know."
VIC: the doctor to Maigret: "Heavy smoker, I suppose?"
HES: Parendon to Maigret: "You're not smoking? … I thought you always had your pipe in your mouth." And further, Mme Parendon to Maigret: "Please, do smoke your pipe… The photographers, they too, never missed reminding him: 'Your pipe Monsieur Chief Inspector…'"
TUE: Monique Batille to Maigret: "I forgot that you smoke your pipe all day!"

It's also to preserve this identity, this image of himself, that he refuses other forms of tobacco: offered a cigar or cigarette, he responds "thanks, nothing but a pipe" (TET, LIB), "only the pipe" (PRE, FAN), "always a pipe" (PEU) or "thanks, I prefer my pipe" (FOL, men) or "thanks, I only smoke a pipe" (ECO).

5. Need or: the indispensable pipe

a) To smoke like a fireman…a policeman!:
To maintain, and sustain, his ruminations, Maigret needs to smoke his pipe; and since this rumination will last for some time, the Chief Inspector cannot be content with smoking just a single pipe, which is why the pipes follow one after another, he smokes "pipe after pipe" (TET; POR, LIB, SIG, BRA, ENF, ASS):

LET: "He stayed camped there for nearly an hour, smoking his pipes"
FAC: "He didn't want to show his nervousness, but his pipes followed one after another with an unusual rapidity."
JEU: "Maigret had smoked so much that his throat hurt"
IND: "Maigret's pipes followed one after another and the air was blue with smoke."

b) The pipe itself becomes the symbol of the need to smoke:

GAL: mechanically raising his empty pipe to his mouth "
PRO: "Without realizing it, he had taken his pipe from his pocket, but he didn't think of filling it."
GAI: "Maigret had automatically taken his pipe from his pocket. But he didn't light it."
CAD: "he held his tobacco pouch in one hand and his pipe in the other, but he didn't think of filling it."
NEW: "Maigret had let his pipe go out, though he needed it to keep himself in touch with reality."
cho: "I know that at first you'll refuse, but it's indispensable… Pass me my pipe and tobacco…"
ECH: "to regain his self-control, to smoke peacefully a pipe while drinking a glass of beer to calm his nerves"

6. Other uses: or: pipe play

Maigret sometimes uses his pipe for other purposes than smoking:

  • for drawing: amo: "With the stem of his pipe, he drew a bench"
  • as a paper weight: in REV, Lucas had placed a note on Maigret's desk "protected from currents of air by one of the pipes which served as a paper weight"
  • to play: a way for Maigret to sustain his reflections:
    mal: "Maigret, himself, played with his pipe, which he had let go out"
    BAN: "Maigret played with the pipes lined up on his desk"
  • to look at, to regain his bearing:
    AMI: "Maigret kept silent a moment, examining his pipe attentively."
    PIC: "Maigret regarded his pipe without saying a word."
  • putting them in order: he "arranged" his pipes on his desk (BAN; TEN, FAN, CLO, TUE), "in size order" (VOL), " in Indian file like tin soldiers." (VIE), or "put them (back) in order" (PAT, JEU), as if putting his ideas in order.

And lastly let's note, in CHA, this lovely scene which opens the novel:

"Maigret played, in a ray of March sun still a bit cool. He didn't play with blocks, like when he was a child, but with some pipes. … Mechanically, with the greatest seriousness, he arranged the pipes on his blotter in a way of making more or less geometrical shapes, or suggesting some animal." And further: "He played, his mind empty. The pipes, in their last arrangement, looked like a stork." And still further: "He stared at the pipes that he sometimes rearranged, like chess pieces."

7. The adventures of a pipe or "the pipe in battle" (PAT)

The events which befall Maigret's pipe are tied to the development of the investigation, which they change the course of or depend on:

a) broken pipes: if Maigret knows well to hide his nervousness, it is however betrayed by the force with which he clamps down on the stem of his pipe: it "cracked between his teeth" (owe), or it's the ebonite which "cracks" (FEL, PAR), "splits" (ENF) or "shatters" (PAT).
And when the emotion is truly too strong, he chomps down on his pipe so strongly that it breaks, as in GAL, NUI, NEW and HES.

b) forgotten pipes: The case is rare, although it arrives in TET, when Maigret assists in Heurtin's flight to the Citanguette café, where he is so caught up in the events that he forgets to pick up his fallen pipe. But Maigret can also pretend to forget a pipe, an excellent pretext to reenter a house! That's the case in POR, where Maigret pretends to have forgotten his pipe in Grandmaison's office, and in BAN; where Maigret claims to have forgotten his pipe in Thouret's room at Mariette Gibon's.

c) a stolen pipe: we can simply recall here that the entire short story "Maigret's Pipe" [pip] revolves around the theft of his pipe by a young man who wants to emulate him. "Maigret's pipe, well! And, you know, Maigret said these words with the certain satisfaction of a man whose pride was somehow agreeably tickeled. Someone had stolen his pipe, like they might have swiped a famous writer's pencil."

d) gift pipes, received or bought: Maigret received a present of a Belgian pipe from Delvigne (GAI), was offered one in New York (NEW), which he regretted because usually it was Mme Maigret who gave them to him "for every birthday" (see also noe), because this pipe was very expensive and also because it was the fault of this pipe that Maigret had arrived too late at old Angelino's. And "as if by chance", it was that pipe that he would break. He also bought a Swiss one in VOY. And he gave (or lent?) one of his pipes to Picard in SIG, and to Joseph in pip.

8. Relationships or: Maigret, his pipe and other people

a) Smoking in front of others:
Maigret smokes – or doesn't smoke – in someone's presence, depending on his mood, the person before him, and his feelings for them: he "hesitated to light his pipe" before certain women (Arlette in DAM, Mme Lognon in LOG, Mme Cuendet in PAR, Aline Bauche in PAT), sometimes awaits, or requests, permission to smoke; we note also:

LET: with Mortimer-Levingston: "He put his pipe once more between his teeth – since he had deigned to remove it to speak to the millionaire – and groaned."
GAL: with Mme Gallet, in the train: "Maigret had taken his pipe from his pocket, then he had regarded his companion and abandoned the idea of smoking in her presence."
NUI: with Else: first visit: "Somehwat clumsily, he put his pipe back in his pocket, although it wasn't empty"; second visit: "Maigret hadn't removed his pipe from his mouth."
POR: Mme Grandmaison insists and offers some cake to Maigret: "Two times! That was too much! And Maigret almost, in protest, took his large pipe from his pocket." And further, at his last meeting with her, after the death of her husband: "He … almost took his pipe from his pocket, shrugged his shoulders. A strange feeling of respect, of sympathy was born in him for this woman."
OMB: before entering Mathilde's: "He had his pipe in his lips. He thought for an instant of putting it in his pocket, then… he shrugged his shoulders."
FLA: Maigret was going to have one more discussion with Anna: "Finally the Chief Inspector put his pipe, still lit, in his pocket… entered and reclosed the door behind him."
LIB: "At other times, he would have entered Brown's apartment without his pipe. He purposely lit it."
ECL: Maigret with Aline who is nursing her infant: "The Chief Inspector shoved his pipe… his still-hot pipe, into his pocket"
ber: Maigret at Mlle Berthe's: "Automatically, he lit his pipe, which until then he hadn't dared to take from his pocket."
not: Maigret at the beginning of his visit with the lawyer: "Certainly, he would have preferred his pipe! But he didn't want to smoke, because of the three young girls and Mme Motte"; and further: "By evening, he'd had about enough, and promised himself that after dinner he would smoke his pipe in the living room."
CAD: "Relighting his pipe which he had put out with some taps of his thumb before entering Mme Retailleau's"
FAC: "as was fairly rare for him, he emptied his pipe and put it in his pocket before knocking on the door… The gesture was simple, and yet it was like an homage to Bernadette Amorelle."
MEU: Maigret was going to see Mme Boursicault: "He filled his pipe. Then he stuffed it into his pocket remembering that his was going to visit someone ill, and he scowled at the idea that for perhaps a period of time he wouln't be able to smoke." And further, after she'd told him he could smoke: "as a kind of decency, he only smoked in little puffs"
PEU: Maigret with Vernoux, who offers him a cigar: "Maigret accepted one, because he didn't dare take his pipe from his pocket."
BAN: Maigret at Léone's: "He didn't dare smoke his pipe."
REV: Maigret in Jeanne Debul's room: "'You can begin by removing your pipe from your mouth.' He did so clumsily. He hadn't remembered his pipe."
TEM: Maigret is rebuffed by Catherine because he smokes at the Lachaume's: "What else to do? Under the ironic regard of the judge, Maigret set his pipe on the rail with a sigh." And further, with the judge during the final confrontation: "Maigret... would have liked to have lit his pipe, which he held filled in his pocket, but he didn't dare" then Maigret leaves the room, lights his pipe, and returns to the office, where Paulette was telling the story: "He had forgotten to put out his pipe, which he continued to smoke in his corner without realizing it."
BRA: Mme Josselin had just told about her brother's life: "the Chief Inspector fidgeted with one of his pipes, decided to fill it and to light it, which he hadn't dared to do while she was speaking."
FAN: Maigret has just discovered where the painter had been locked up: "Maigret took his pipe from his pocket without being invited to do so"
DEF: Maigret in the dentist's waiting room: "He sat, playing with his pipe in his pocket. He would probably have lit it if it hadn't been for the young woman before him with the sad look."
We should give particular mention to Judge Coméliau, whose relationship with Maigret finds an original illustration in the manner in which the Chief Inspector smokes with him:
TEN: "Coméliau... stared at Maigret's pipe, which he had never gotten used to. The Chief Inspector was actually the only one permitted to smoke in his office, and the judge felt a sort of defiance to it."
COR: the famous scene, where Maigret is trying to explain the Calas affair to the judge, is punctuated by Maigret's play with his pipe: "Maigret had hesitated to take his pipe from his pocket, something which happened in fairly few places, and when he'd done so, he took on the innocent air of someone whose fingers are unconsciously operating while he's talking."; further: "Without seeming to, Maigret had his tobacco pouch in his left hand just awaiting the slightest inattention of the speaker to fill his pipe."; and finally: "The trick was accomplished: a match had emitted a brief glow and Maigret's pipe was lit. Coméliau, who hated tobacco, stared at it, as each time Maigret had the nerve to smoke in his chambers, but the Chief Inspector had already decided to maintain his innocent air."

b) No Smoking areas
Maigret's decision to smoke or not in a certain place depends a lot on his mood, his relationship with the place, and the stage of his investigation:

LET: "Maigret's presence at the Majestic was unavoidably tinged with hostility. He had formed a sort of block which the atmosphere could not penetrate. … His pipe was riveted to his jaw. He would not remove it just for being in the Majestic."
FIA: "Maigret was used to smoking anywhere. but not in the château! That was a place apart, which, throughout his youth, had represented what was the most inaccessible!"
lun: Maigret entered Dr. Barion's: The hall was elegant, and Maigret had automatically stuffed his pipe in his pocket."

We find in bay numerous characteristic examples:

  • Maigret at the Deligeards': "It was what he called a "pipeless affair", an investigation which took place in areas where the Chief Inspector couldn't decently keep his throat-burner in his mouth. That was why he was still smoking a little, before going in… 'This ought to be fun!' he sighed, tapping the bowl of his pipe against his heel. .
  • Maigret in conversation with Deligeard, who is telling of Cécile's lover: "Either Maigret's indignation was real, or it was acted perfectly. It's true that he profited by taking his pipe from his pocket with a perfectly innocent air, as if he had forgotten the luxurious surroundings in which he found himself."
  • further: "Maigret was at the Public Prosecutor's, a Maigret calm and ironic who played with his pipe in his pocket, since the Caen prosecutor wasn't the sort to let him smoke in his office."
  • Maigret learns that Deligeard is already in the prosecutor's office: "A funny smile crossed Maigret's lips, and he didn't hesitate to fill his pipe."
  • Maigret enters the prosecutor's office: "Maigret shoved his lit pipe into his pocket";
  • in the prosecutor's office, where Maigret has shown him Deligeard's culpability: "Maigret, as if unconsciously, but perhaps with some malicious pleasure, set himself to filling his pipe while pacing the office."
MAJ: Maigret is about to enter the office of the director of the Majestic: "Maigret… was about to knock his pipe against his heel to empty it. Then he shrugged his shoulders and set it back between his teeth." And further, Maigret at the Pelican bar: "He took his pipe from his pocket, understood from the patron's look that it would be inappropriate, and put it back with a sigh." Further: "He took advantage of the fact that he was in the basement to stuff a pipe" and finally, Maigret is about to enter the judge's office: "Maigret automatically thrust his still-hot pipe into his pocket."
NEW: before his first meeting with Maura: "They left him stewing in the corner for a good quarter of an hour, and he angrily smoked his pipe, although he recognized it wasn't the place for it."
VAC: Maigret had visited Lili's room: "And Maigret relit his pipe which he had mashed out with his thumb on entering the young girl's apartment."
MOR: Maigret in Maria's room at the hospital: "With an unexpected docility, the Chief Inspector removed his pipe from his mouth and let it go out between his fingers."
CLO: "He waited some ten minutes, ending up, in protest, by lighting his pipe. It's true that he took it from his mouth as soon as Mme Keller made her entrance."
DEF: the scene of the confrontation between Maigret and the prefect is punctuated by the Chief Inspector's use of his pipe. "Maigret was at his grouchiest, and played with an empty pipe without daring to fill it."; further: "This time Maigret decided, and, teeth clenched, filled his pipe."; still further: "The match cracked and surprised the young man"; and finally: "his fingers turned white with his grip on his extinguished pipe."
VIN: Maigret with Mlle Blanche: "He fidgeted with his pipe as if he hesitated to fill and light it in this setting. He finished by going ahead with it."
CHA: Maigret leaving the Sabin-Levesques': "Maigret descended the stairs, finally filling his pipe on the way, since he had avoided smoking in the apartment." Further, during another visit with Nathalie: "as if out of defiance, he kept his pipe in his mouth", and finally, after Nathalie's suicide attempt: "Maigret kept silent and never thought of removing his pipe from his pocket."

And lastly we should mention the bus with the outside platform, preferred by Maigret and missed by him, which we often meet at the end of the Presses de la Cité period:

TEM: "it made him even more sullen to see that the great machine arriving had no platform, which obliged him to put out his pipe."
BRA: "he took a bus… and had to put out his pipe, as it had no platform."
CLI: "he waited for his bus… found a place on the platform where he could continue to smoke his pipe."
PAT: "Luck was with him. An old bus with a platform stopped next to the sidewalk, and he could continue to smoke his pipe."
VOL: "He was lucky to see a bus arrive with a platform…. That kind was becoming more and more rare… and soon he'd be obliged to empty his pipe before enclosing himself in one of these enormous vehicles of today where you feel like a prisoner."
HES: "he finally took a bus. He couldn't get one with a platform and had to put out his pipe, and sit inside."
TUE: "By luck he found a platform bus and so could continue to smoke his first pipe of the morning."

c) Mme Maigret and the pipe
Mme Maigret understood well her husband's need to smoke his pipe. And if she grumbled a little because she wished he'd smoke a little less, she knew well that she couldn't stop him, and, out of need, it was she who fills his pipe (MOR) or holds his matches (BRA, DEF):

LET: Maigret has finally returned home at the end of his investigation: "She scurried around the apartment, content…, asking from time to time: 'A pipe?'"
FOU: Mme Maigret at the bedside of her husband, wounded and confined to bed:
  • Mme Maigret to the doctor: "There is one thing you must forbid him: his pipe! ... like the beer!" and further: "You should completely forbid him his pipe, Doctor"
  • Maigret to his wife: "Now, if you would be so kind, please fill me a pipe" and further: "And, in a tender voice, he mumbled, his eyes half closed: 'Give me a pipe anyway!" Maigret will ask his wife twice more: "Fill me a pipe!", then, when he can do it himself: "Give me some matches"
  • Maigret to Leduc: "She'll say that I smoke too much, and hides my tobacco. So slip a little under my pillow."
  • "Mme Maigret… came to sit next to the bed, mechanically picked up his empty pipe which she set herself to filling."
  • "She had to fill his pipes for him, because he was unable to use his left arm, so she took advantage of it to make him cut back!"
cho: the same sort of scenario presents itself: Maigret is in bed with the flu, and tries various ways to "swindle some pipes" (see the title of Chapter 2: "Mme Maigret's herbal tea and the Chief Inspector's pipes"):
  • "she refused to go out, since he would have wanted to fill a pipe"
  • "Mme Maigret kept watch over him fiercely to prevent him from smoking his pipe"
  • "'Don't you think I could smoke just a couple of puffs on my pipe?' 'Are you crazy?'"
  • "'I know that at first you'll refuse, but it's indispensable‚Ķ Pass me my pipe and tobacco‚Ķ Just a few puffs… She went to get his pipe on the mantle and gave it to him, resigned, with a sigh: 'I knew you'd find a good reason….'"
  • Maigret to Justin: "don't tell; Mme Maigret that I smoked three pipes"
The scenario becomes so familiar that Mme Maigret and her husband repeat it over time:
PRE: Maigret is in bed following a blow he received to his head: "'Will you give me a pipe.?' 'You think you should?' 'Did the doctor say I can't smoke?' 'He didn't mention it.' 'Well, then...' she sets herself to filling a pipe, offers it to him, along with a match."

d) Maigret, his pipe… and Simenon
Maigret is a pipe smoker, as is also Simenon, and that explains at once their meeting, their close relationship, and their more and more similar attitudes towards life: as proof, these few extracts from MEM:

"My host [Simenon] studied my pipes, my ashtrays"
Simenon to Maigret: "I see you too are a pipe smoker. I like pipe smokers."
"He [Simenon] smoked his pipe gravely, as if to add ten years to his age, to put himself on equal footing with the middle-aged man that I was then."
"Not put out at all, our friend Sim. On the contrary, absolutely at his ease, a bigger pipe than ever in his mouth."
Maigret to Simenon: "Do you know that as the years go by your way of walking, of smoking your pipe, even of speaking are like "your" Maigret?"


To end this journey into the relationship between Maigret and his pipe, I'd like to examine here a few extracts from the novel "The House of Anxiety", where we discover the importance the pipe already has for the Chief Inspector.

This novel, the last of the four "proto-Maigrets", is the one where the character is the closest to that which he will become in the official cycle. As Lacassin wrote: "Unlike his preceding attempts, the story is not told from the point of view of one of the ephemeral characters, the guilty or the victim. It is no longer a novel of misfortune, but a police story. And Maigret takes possession of the stage from the first lines, and until the last. … the author endows him with all his accessories … inseparable from his pipe …". And Claude Menguy and Pierre Deligny in their The true beginnings of Chief Inspector Maigret, "This work, centered indeed on the police enigma, is the first where Superintendent Maigret is the central character, and in which he does his investigation from beginning to end … in "The House of Anxiety" it is certainly a flesh and blood Maigret who walks, the pipe already clamped in his teeth, a Maigret who isn't missing any of his sartorial attributes." And, finally, Lemoine writes: "Thus, at the end of The House of Anxiety, Maigret is ready for the great adventure that will be his: many of his notable characteristics are already very present, and all that is left for Simenon is to exploit this character of a policeman created with small strokes at the end of his twenties. ".

If I cite here these three texts, it is indeed to underline how much Maigret's pipe is one of his essential attributes, to the point where it is an obligatory index for the recognition of the character, allowing us to consider that "The House of Anxiety" is actually a "true" Maigret. Here are some phrases taken from this novel, where we not only see already the necessary relationship between Maigret and his pipe, but where we will note the same genre of formulations for this "pipe play" that we have found throughout the length of the corpus:

"Maigret filled a pipe with slow movements of his thick fingers."
"Chief Inspector Maigret lit a new pipe"
"he gripped the stem of his pipe strongly between his teeth"
"he took his pipe from his mouth, put it out with a stab of his thumb and shoved it into his coat pocket."
"Maigret, with a familiar gesture, searched for a pipe in his pockets."
"now that, above all, he was caressing an old pipe with a scorched bowl, he felt well composed."
"The Chief Inspector filled his pipe with voluptuous slowness."
"His pipe, too small, was already out. He emptied it with little taps on the stove."
"you could see him, straddling a chair, his pipe in his teeth."
"Maigret filled a new pipe."
"shaking his pipe above the stove."

By this journey through the corpus, we have discovered the importance the pipe has in the Chief Inspector's reflections. It is often said, and it's true, that Simenon does not describe the functioning of Maigret's thinking, but we can discover this process through his gestures, and in particular in those regarding his pipe. In his way of filling it, lighting it, smoking it and emptying it, we discover Maigret's progress in his investigation, his relationship with others and his way of apprehending the world.

To complete this study, I'd like to mention some links:

–first, I encourage you to reread the text of Lanzmann's interview of Simenon which appeared in LUI of June 1967, and where Simenon speaks of his relationship with the pipe: you will see that we can draw a parallel with Maigret!

–next, I suggest the exposition "Simenon of a pipe": 31 (minus one) pipes in the streets of Liège a seriously funny manifestation, which took place in 2003 in the place Saint-Lambert, where some 30 trash cans were decorated and transformed into giant pipes. The site shows the photographs,

–and finally, for those among you who like pastiches, you can read this little text (in French) on Jacques-Yves Depoix's site, where you will discover a further adventure of one of Maigret's pipes!

translation: Stephen Trussel
November, 2006

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