Sunday, July 5, 2015

A Maigret Trio by Georges Simenon (Maigret's Failure; Maigret in Society; and Maigret and the Lazy Burglar)

Hello from the Hill Country, south of Austin Texas.  Josh and I are enjoying our first anniversary returning to near where we spent our honeymoon.  This time we're staying in an Airstream Trailer.  It's cute and cozy.  I told Josh I think it would be fun to live here.  I would only need an outside room because even though I could squeeze my active library in the trailer I would need another room to house the rest of my books and also the occasional guest.

Josh said, yeah and that outside room would need to have four rooms inside of it and a full bath and high ceilings then he wouldn't mind living in an Airstream, either.  

Well, it was a romantic thought.

While here I finished the last of three novels by Georges Simenon.  Simenon was a Belgian writer best known for his prolific amount of murder mysteries centered around a Parisian detective, Inspector Jules Maigret.

Maigret is a cynical slow moving character that is incapable of drawing conclusions as to the moral compass murderers and thieves live by.  He seems to solves these problems because they are his job and they seem to ningle him like some mathematical problem that gives him no peace until he finds the solution.

None of his stories are formulaic.  In the three murders in this collection the people are murdered for very different reasons.  The first man is an extremely unpleasant man and everyone connected to him, including his family, had good reason to want him dead.  This of course leaves the reader clueless as to the actual perpetrator because everyone else had equally good motives and when we do find out who did it, it leaves one shrugging and thinking, "Oh. That one did it."  

The next one,  everyone involved in the victim's life is suspected, especially one unpleasant and uncooperative caregiver to the dead man but the ending is as unexpected as it is different from the first story.  Not all things or people are as they seem.

Finally, the last story is about a petty thief who is brutally murdered.  Maigret had dealings with the man before and had grown to have a sort of, not affection, but perhaps a compassion, for him.  Maigret himself doesn't know how to describe it.  He simply cannot dislike the man, even though in my opinion, he was a creep.  Apparently this murder victim, Honore Cuendet is some sort of adrenaline junkie.  He carefully cased his houses, only of the very rich, and only robbed them while they were at home.

Because a parallel storyline about a gang of bank robbers travels abreast with the murder mystery, one assumes there's a connection but it turns out to be a red herring (sorry for the spoiler).  And the actual murderers are people who one could not have suspected because they were barely in the story.  Yet the conclusion is entirely logical.

I don't know if everyone would enjoy Simenon's stories.  He writes as though everyone were clinically depressed.  No one shows emotion over anything.  I know it is a characteristic, even a stereotype, of French culture but everyone, I mean  everyone, has mistresses or are mistresses.  There is really no moral compass to anyone's life.

When Maigret interviews a girlfriend of Cuendet, he asks why the victim never married her.  The woman shrugs and replies that she assumes he probably already had a wife.  As if it were of no importance.

And yet, Maigret does not have a mistress.  His wife is there in the background, calm, loving and supportive.  When he is woken at 2am for an investigation, she is immediately in the kitchen making him coffee.  She is waiting for him when he returns at the end of a harrowing day.

Strangely there is no emotion revealed between the two of them but the actions show a genuine love: her's through support and his through his implied fidelity.

While I find none of the characters sympathetic or particularly likeable, I still enjoyed romping through the Parisian streets with this laconic inspector and encountering the different character types that he must confront in order to solve his murders.

Whether Simenon is giving the reader a realistic taste of Parisian life and culture, who knows?  As Oscar Wilde says, perhaps our image of a thing is more enjoyable than the actual thing itself.
Georges Simenon (1903-1989)


  1. I've seen Maigret on T.V. and I've always wanted to read the novels, so thanks so much for the background!

    Love the trailer and setting, BTW. It looks like a wonderful place to kick back, relax and read.

    1. HI Cleopatra! I did not know there was a TV show. I'm going to look it up. I hope it's on Netflix. Thanks for telling me! Have a good week.

  2. I think that the lack of emotions in the characters might get in the way of me enjoying these books. I do like the fact that the main character does not fit the stereotypical detective.

    Enjoy the remainder of your vacation!

    1. Hi Brian! It seems that Camus and Sartre set a precedent in French writing where existentialism sets the overall tone. I agree with you that I couldn't connect with the characters even though I found the stories interesting. Take care!

  3. I have a stack of Simenon novels waiting for me, and you may be providing the catalyst I have needed to read them. BTW, if you know anything about Simenon's personal life, it might forever affect your attitude toward Maigret.

    1. R.T. Now I'm afraid to find out. I know he was friends with Colette who encouraged him to write. I have more of his stories. Perhaps I'll read them first before reading about his personal life. Take care!

    2. HI again, RT. I read Simenon's bio. He seems to be a typical French man. His writing reflects his own values. Strangely, I think Maigret is someone a trifle more honorable than his creator. Perhaps Simenon wanted to make a persona that he could never aspire to.

    3. If was a typical Frenchman, then they are either extravagantly boastful or incredibly hyperactive in their love lives.

    4. Ha! I know what you mean. Really? Ten thousand women? His body must have been riddled with stds. Hope I didn't offend you with that last remark, but c'mon.

    5. It is nearly impossible to offend me. Simenon, however, seems like a person I would have avoided, but I'm sure he would have had no time for the likes of me. Hell, when did he have time to write?

    6. Well, RT. Quantity doesn't mean quality. And frankly, without going too much into it, someone who was that promiscuous doesn't sound like he got to know people very deeply. Or cared too much about anyone but himself. Perhaps that is why his stories have an emotionally detached quality to them. The characters are shallow because their creator was.

      I don't think Simenon would have cared much for me either.


I welcome comments from anyone with a mutual interest in the subjects I written about.