Maigret

Penguin are reissuing all 75 of Georges Simenon’s Inspector Maigret novels – in their original order and with new translations – at the rate of one a month. Mrs. Peabody will be reading them as they are published, and will provide mini-reviews and observations on this page. Please do feel free to join in!

1. Pietr the Latvian / Pietr-le-Letton [1930], trans. by David Bellos, Nov. 2013

In which Maigret tracks international criminal ‘Pietr the Latvian’ here, there and everywhere, while trying to unravel his complex identity. A brilliant early example of Eurocrime, which betrays its 1930s origins through a negative depiction of Jewish characters. Full review available here. Interesting fact: Pietr the Latvian was first published in serial form in the magazine Ric et Rac.

2. The Late Monsieur Gallet / M. Gallet décédé [1931], trans. by Anthea Bell, Dec. 2013

In which Maigret investigates the suspicious death of Monsieur Gallet in a hotel in Sancerre, and discovers that little is as it seems. Maigret’s investigative skills are fully tested in a case that explores identity, class … and criminality. Interesting fact: Monsieur Gallet was the first Maigret to be published in novel form, and was launched at a glamorous themed party whose invitations looked like police record cards.

Lizzie over at Lizzie’s Literary Life is planning to read the whole series as well. See her post on the first two novels here.

3. The Hanged Man of Saint-Pholien / Le Pendu de Saint-Pholien [1931], trans. by Linda Coverdale, Jan 2014.

In which Maigret inadvertently commits a crime and uncovers a ten-year-old secret. A simple story, but brilliantly told, with Maigret crisscrossing Europe in search of the truth. An intriguing ending too, which raises questions about policing and justice. Interesting fact: the story is based in part on the author’s own youthful experiences while living in Liège in Belgium.

4. The Carter of La Providence / Le Charretier de la Providence [1931], trans. by David Coward, Feb 2014.

In which Maigret investigates the death of a well-heeled woman in a stable near a canal. No one knows who she is or how she got there, and it’s up to Maigret to uncover her complex story. The investigation takes place almost entirely in the closed community of France’s canals and rivers, and sees Maigret show off his bicycling skills. Interesting fact: The novel was one of several written on Simenon’s boat the Ostrogoth.

5. The Yellow Dog / Le Chien Jeune [1931], trans. by Linda Asher, March 2014.

In which Maigret investigates a shooting and a poisoning in the seaside town of Concarneau, while its citizens become increasingly unnerved by a strange yellow dog. This is one of the most famous Maigret novels, with good reason: the policeman is at his most perceptive and humane, and is not above bending the law for those who have been wronged. Interesting fact: this was the first Maigret novel to be adapted for film.  

6. Night at the Crossroads / La Nuit du Carrefour [1931], trans. by Linda Coverdale, April 2014.

In which Maigret investigates the murder of a Jewish trader at The Three Widows Crossroads outside Paris. A Danish aristocrat is suspected, but maintains his innocence during a seventeen-hour police interrogation. When Maigret travels to the small community, things get very strange indeed; like The Yellow Dog, this novel has a very unsettling feel. Interesting fact: the 1931 film adaption was directed by Jean Renoir.

7. A Crime in Holland / Un Crime en Hollande [1931], trans. by Sian Reynolds, May 2014.

In which Maigret is summoned to the small Dutch town of Delfzijl when a French lecturer is suspected of murder, and faces the dual challenges of linguistic and cultural differences. While not overly impressed with the characterisation of the culprit, I liked Maigret’s astute psychological analysis of the identity of the victim and his ‘respectable’ community. Interesting fact: Simenon’s and Maigret’s motto is ‘understand and judge not’.

Note: A couple of things stand out for me at this stage. Firstly, Simenon was unbelievably prolific: six out of the seven novels above were published in 1931. Secondly, most of the investigations are set in small towns or isolated communities rather than in the big city of Paris, where Maigret is based. It will be interesting to see if this is still the case as the series evolves.

Some catching up to do on this list… More coming shortly!

16 thoughts on “Maigret

  1. Pingback: Jakob Arjouni event / A trip to Swansea Library / Maigret | Mrs. Peabody Investigates

    • I know! The whole thing really appeals to my sense of logic and order – there would be something so very satisfying about having read all 75 in sequence.

  2. I had the same idea! A quick check on the titles I have already read shows that Penguin has given new titles to books they published as Modern Classics, so it will need care to avoid duplication. For example, new series title number 4, for Feb 2014 The Carter of La Providence was previously published as Lock 14 – whether the new translations are radically different remains to be seen. . Also, the order of publication is a little different than that given at what looks to be a well-researched Bibliography, http://www.trussel.com/maig/maig.htm .

    • Thanks for this interesting comment, Philip, and for the extra info. The question of order is a fraught one, if online discussions are anything to go by – there is fuzziness and a bit of dispute in some cases.

      I’ll stick to the Penguin ordering for now, but will check against the bibliography you mention. Happy reading!

  3. Hi! Georges Simenon was the favourite author of the great Spanish surrealist filmmaker, Luis Buñuel, who boasted of having the complete collection. It would be very interesting to learn if the novels betray any influence on Buñuel’s films.

    • Hi Rob! Well I’ve learned something new there – who would have thought it? What I’ve read of Maigret so far seems a long way from surrealism, but there are plenty of novels to go yet! Or perhaps Bunuel was attracted to the series for its very solidity? A little break from the surreal?

      A nice extra little project though; will bear in mind as I’m reading – thanks.

  4. Hello. One of the keys to surrealism is the incongruence of everyday objects, things out of place. Like a fish on a bicycle. Such items provoke the subconscious and Buñuel’s films are full of such things: the artificial leg on the bed in ‘Tristana’, the switchblade in the shape of a crucifix in ‘Viridiana’. I’m wondering if this is essentially what Simenon’s Maigret does – look for things out of place that might be clues to crimes. If so, the Surrealist’s delight at ‘finding things out of place’ may have its parallel in the detection of clues – things out of order and out of place that signal unexplained horrors. I’ve been meaning to read some Simenon for years because of this…so please let me know if there’s any meat on these bare bones.

    • Thanks for elaborating, Rob. Right then: looking for or finding things out of place that signal crimes/unexplained horrors. I will keep an eye out and report back (and if anyone else has any thoughts on this fascinating angle, please do let us know).

      How about this quote from The Late Monsieur Gallet for starters (not quite what you’re looking for, but shows the emphasis on seeing / decoding signs): ‘Maigret had an impression that he had never had before, and it unnerved him. It seemed to him that the whole truth was here, scattered round him, and everything he saw had its meaning. But to understand, he would have to see it clearly, not through a sort of fog that distorted the view’.

    • Excellent – thanks for letting me know. Great post – I’ll include the link in my own post shortly.

      Already rubbing my hands in glee at the thought of the next one…

  5. Pingback: Hinterland on BBC4 … and other crime news | Mrs. Peabody Investigates

  6. Three of the above are among my favourite Maigret novels (Le Pendu, the Yellow Dog and Night at the Crossroads), so it’s even more amazing to find out that they were written within such a short space of time. I too would love to read them in sequence… and yes, own all of them.

    • I’m becoming more and more beguiled by the series as I read on. And I love Maigret’s grumpy characterisation and refreshing impatience with the daft people around him.

      I may be lucky enough to receive all of them from Penguin. Delightful if so, but I’m not *quite* sure where they will go. Bookshelves already groaning… But a happy problem to have.

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