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Simenon, Georges

Page history last edited by Jon 11 years, 8 months ago

Georges Simenon

Georges Joseph Christian Simenon (February 13, 1903 - September 4, 1989) was a Belgian writer who wrote in French. Most of his works, including his classic series of short novels about Inspector Maigret, have been translated into English.

 

Simenon, who was born in Liège, established himself in Paris in 1922, and in 1930 he began the famous Maigret series of detective novels, which he published under his own name. Through the dozens of novels in which he appears, as well as through many films and television adaptations of them, Inspector Maigret, of police headquarters in Paris, has become as well known as Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes. Maigret, a sensible and tolerant but not brilliant man with simple tastes, puzzles his way to the solution of his cases by patient thought and insight--all the while peacefully puffing his pipe. The added psychological dimension enriches the reader's normal interest in learning the solution to the mystery.

 

Simenon was one of the most prolific writers of the twentieth century. He was able to write 60 to 80 pages a day. He travelled widely and stayed in the United States for ten years, from 1945 until 1955. In 1957, he moved to Switzerland. During his lifetime, he published about 450 novels and short stories. He is best known, however, for his 75 novels and 28 short stories featuring Commissaire Maigret. The first novel in the series, Pietr-Le-Letton, appeared in 1931; the last one, Maigret et M Charles, was published in 1972. The Maigret novels were translated into all major languages and several of them were turned into films (starting with La nuit du carrefour, adapted for the screen by Jean Renoir as early as 1932).

 

For many critics, however, Simenon's best novels are those that lie outside the Maigret series. In the 1930s he wrote many other thrillers, a notable example being L'Homme qui regardait passer les trains (1938; The Man Who Watched the Trains Go By). Pedigree, written during the war years and published in 1948, is a largely autobiographical novel that presents a powerful and convincing picture of the life of a boy and his parents in Liège from 1903 to 1918. Subsequently Simenon wrote novels in which the psychological analysis of the leading character, exceptional in some way, forms the center of interest. Examples include Les Volets verts (1950; The Heart of a Man), which portrays the closing stages in the life of a great actor, and Le Petit saint (1965; The Little Saint), which treats the formative years in the life of a great artist.

 

During his "American" period, Simenon reached the height of his creative powers, and several novels of those years were inspired by the context in which they were written (Trois chambres à Manhattan (1946), Maigret à New York (1947), Maigret se fâche (1947)).

 

Simenon also wrote a large number of "psychological novels", such as La neige était sale (1948) or Le fils (1957), as well as several autobiographical works, in particular Je me souviens (1945), Pedigree (1948), Mémoires intimes (1981). Simenon was known as "the man of 10,000 women", a self-confessed sex addict who "needed" to have sex three times a day. Quite a few women were prepared to humour him for nothing, but that total was said to include 8,000 prostitutes. In this he was quite different from his fictional creation, Maigret, a homeloving sort of chap (when he wasn't in a bar).

 

He also wrote under many pseudonyms - Christian Brulls, Georges Sims, and Jean du Perry, amongst others.

 

Georges Simenon died in Lausanne, aged 86.

 

A comprehensive Simenon site with an emphasis on Maigret can be found here.

 

It was [Simenon] who led the movement away from detective-fiction towards fiction-about-detectives. He deliberately set out to challenge the GAD style of novel and in the process he allowed a lot of mediocre hacks (of which, IMHO, he was one) to flourish and prosper by writing about psychological mumbo-jumbo instead of contructing ingenious plots and puzzles. You can always spot a fiction-about-detectives novel. There's never a surprise about the guilty party: it's always 'society.' --- John P.

 

Mike Grost on Georges Simenon

 

Georges Simenon's work shows the influence of Freeman Wills Crofts. His Inspector Maigret is a policeman, just like Crofts' Inspector French. Both officers solve crimes by patient, routine investigation, realistically depicted in step by step fashion by their authors. Maigret walking down a suburban street at the opening of his first published case, M. Gallet décédé (The Death of Monsieur Gallet) (1931), reminds one of French sleuthing on suburban streets in The Box Office Murders (1929). Both do a lot of traveling, going to different cities. Both writers have an international orientation, with their characters coming from all over Europe, and their detectives solving international crimes. Both are nationally based, French in Scotland Yard, Maigret with the Sûreté, and both interface with a lot of local police officers. Both study physical clues, and make deductions from evidence left behind at crime scenes. Both detectives are married, and discuss their work with their patient wives. Both have to use considerable tact to deal with difficult suspects.

 

While Simenon's works reflect Crofts' in their detective work, characters, and social background, their plotting technique does not completely follow the standard interests of the British realists. There is little emphasis on alibis, or on the "breakdown of identity" used to create them - although Simenon characters often have more than one identity, often to aid in their criminal activities. Science and engineering play a smaller role in the Simenon stories than in Crofts, although there is the murdered man's interest in mechanical gizmos in M. Gallet décédé. Simenon will later introduce a doctor detective, Jean Dollent, in the book The Little Doctor (collected 1943). Physician detectives are part of the traditions of the realist school. The careful account of Simenon's characters' financial status and activities, also reminds one of such British realist writers as Crofts and, especially, Henry Wade. Simenon's characters are often middle class, just as in the realists. Crofts included a portrait of adultery in The Cask; Simenon has many unhappy couples in his novels. Simenon's non-mystery works in which guilty people are psychologically pursued by their crimes perhaps owe something to the inverted detective stories of which the British realists were so fond. The gloomy, downbeat tone of some of Simenon's work also reflects the tragic tone of much British realist writing.

 

Many of Maigret's interviews with suspects are essentially psychological portraits of the characters in the book. This technique is very popular in modern mystery fiction, especially private eye tales, and one associates it with Raymond Chandler, and even more with Chandler's follower Ross MacDonald. But here it is in Simenon, in a fully developed form in the first Maigret novel M. Gallet décédé (1931), long before either Chandler or MacDonald. This gives this Simenon book a peculiarly modern flavor. Many of the chapters seem more like the detective fiction of the 1990's than of the 1930's.

 

The many complex, original criminal schemes in Simenon's tales remind one of the similar criminal operations in Crofts books like The Pit-Prop Syndicate (1922) and The Box Office Murders (1929). Simenon's plotting style often involves two separate plots. The first is a scheme by some crook; the second is a counterscheme developed by a second crook in response to the first. The detective and the reader only see a confused trail of evidence left by the two schemes. Their job is to try to see into the two level scheme behind it. Sometimes this works brilliantly, as in "Death in a Department Store". (This story has also been anthologized by Ellery Queen as "The Slipper Fiend".) But all too often, it results in a non fair play mystery. It is hard to see how any reader could deduce the real nature of the plot and counterplot from the clues given. They are just too complex, and largely hidden from the reader, with only a handful of scattered clues suggesting what is really going on. And M. Gallet décédé, while it starts out with some vivid writing, eventually devolves into a series of tangled coincidences.

 

The film director Akira Kurosawa was a big fan of Simenon, and he reportedly wrote his detective movie Stray Dog (1949) first as a novel, before shooting it as a film. Kurosawa's detectives are policemen, like Maigret, who engage in realistic, ploddingly detailed police work. Like Simenon, and the British realists before him, Kurosawa explores a great many locations, in this case, the poorer districts of Tokyo. The extreme heat, which constantly afflicts the characters, also is present in such Simenon novels as M. Gallet décédé, where it affects his heavily built Maigret perhaps more than it would Kurosawa's athletic star Toshiro Mifune.

 

Bibliography of English translations

 

Maigrets

 

The Strange Case of Peter the Lett aka The Case of Peter the Lett, aka Maigret and the Enigmatic Lett (1931)

The Crime at Lock 14 aka Maigret Meets a Milord, aka Lock 14 (1931)

The Death of Monsieur Gallet aka Maigret Stonewalled (1931)

The Crime of Inspector Maigret aka Maigret and the Hundred Gibbets (1931)

A Battle of Nerves aka Maigret's War of Nerves, aka A Man's Head (1931)

A Face for a Clue aka Maigret and the Concarneau Murders, aka Maigret and the Yellow Dog, aka The Yellow Dog (1931)

The Crossroad Murders aka Maigret at the Crossroads (1931)

A Crime in Holland aka Maigret in Holland (1931)

The Sailor's Rendezvous (1931)

At the Gai Moulin aka Maigret at the Gai Moulin (1931)

Guinguette by the Seine aka Maigret and the Tavern by the Seine, aka The Bar on the Seine (1931)

The Shadow in the Courtyard aka Maigret Mystified (1932)

Maigret and the Countess aka The Saint-Fiacre Affair, aka Maigret Goes Home, aka Maigret on Home Ground (1932)

The Flemish Shop aka Maigret and the Flemish Shop (1932)

Death of a Harbo(u)r Master aka Maigret and the Death of a Harbor Master (1932)

The Madman of Bergerac (1932)

Liberty Bar aka Maigret on the Riviera (1932)

The Lock at Charenton (1933)

Maigret (1934)

Maigret Returns (1934)

Maigret and the Hotel Majestic (1942)

Maigret in Exile (1942)

Maigret and the Spinster aka Who Killed Cécile? Cécile est Morte (1942) 

To Any Lengths aka Maigret and the Fortuneteller (1944)

Maigret and the Toy Village (1944)

Maigret's Rival aka Inspector Cadaver (1944)

Maigret in Retirement (1947)

Maigret in New York aka Inspector Maigret in New York's Underworld, aka Maigret in New York's Underworld (1947)

A Summer Holiday aka No Vacation for Maigret, aka Maigret on Holiday (1948)

Maigret's Dead Man aka Maigret's Special Murder (1948)

Maigret's First Case (1949)

My Friend Maigret aka The Methods of Maigret (1949)

Maigret at the Coroner's (1949)

Maigret and the Old Lady (1950)

Madame Maigret's Own Case aka Madame Maigret's Friend (1950)

Maigret's Memoirs (1951)

Maigret and the Strangled Stripper aka Maigret in Montmartre, aka Inspector Maigret and the Strangled Stripper (1951)

Maigret Takes a Room aka Maigret Rents a Room (1951)

Inspector Maigret and the Burglar's Wife aka Maigret and the Burglar's Wife (1951)

Inspector Maigret and the Killers aka Maigret and the Gangsters (1952)

Maigret's Revolver (1952)

Maigret and the Man on the Boulevard aka Maigret and the Man on the Bench (1953)

Maigret Afraid (1953)

Maigret's Mistake (1953)

Maigret Goes to School (1954)

Inspector Maigret and the Dead Girl aka Maigret and the Young Girl (1954)

Maigret and the Minister aka Maigret and the Calame Report (1955)

Maigret and the Headless Corpse (1955)

Maigret Sets a Trap (1955)

Maigret's Failure (1956)

Maigret's Little Joke aka None of Maigret's Business (1957)

Maigret and the Millionaires (1958)

Maigret Has Scruples (1958)

Maigret and the Reluctant Witnesses (1959)

Maigret Has Doubts (1959)

Maigret in Court (1960)

Maigret in Society (1960)

Maigret and the Lazy Burglar (1961)

Maigret and the Black Sheep (1962)

Maigret and the Saturday Caller (1962)

Maigret and the Dosser aka Maigret and the Bum (1963)

Maigret Loses His Temper (1963)

Maigret and the Ghost aka Maigret and the Apparition (1964)

Maigret on the Defensive (1964)

The Patience of Maigret aka Maigret Bides His Time (1965)

Maigret and the Nahour Case (1967)

Maigret's Pickpocket (1967)

Maigret Takes the Waters aka Maigret in Vichy (1968)

Maigret Hesitates (1968)

Maigret's Boyhood Friend (1968)

Maigret and the Killer (1969)

Maigret and the Wine Merchant (1970)

Maigret and the Madwoman (1970)

Maigret and the Loner (1971)

Maigret and the Flea aka Maigret and the Informer (1971)

Maigret and Monsieur Charles (1972)

 

Non-Maigrets

 

The Man from Everywhere (1931) aka Le Relais d'Alsace

The Mystery of the Polarlys (1932) aka Le Passager du 'Polarlys'

Danger Ashore (1933) aka The Window voer the Way, aka Les Gens d'en face

Mr Hire's Engagement (1933) aka Les Fiançailles de M. Hire

The House by the Canal (1933) aka La Maison du canal

The Night Club (1933) aka L'Âne rouge

The Woman of the Gray House (1933) aka Le Haut Mal

Tropic Moon (1933) aka Le Coup de lune

Newhaven- Dieppe (1934) aka L'Homme de Londres

One Way Out (1934) aka Les Suicidés

The Lodger (1934) aka Le Locataire

A Wife at Sea (1935) aka Les Pitard

Aboard the Aquitaine (1936) aka 45° à l'ombre

The Breton Sisters (1936) aka Les Demoiselles de Concarneau

The Disintegration of JPG (1936) aka L'Évadé

The Long Exile (1936) aka Long Cours

Home Town (1937) aka Faubourg

Talatala (1937) aka Le Blanc à lunettes

The Murderer (1937) aka L'Assassin

The Shadow Falls (1937) aka Le Testament Donadieu

A Chit of a Girl (1938) aka La Marie du port

Banana Tourist (1938) aka Touriste de Bananes

Blind Alley (1938) aka Blind Path, aka Chemin sans issue

Monsieur La Souris (1938) aka Monsieur La Souris

Poisoned Relations (1938) aka Les Sœurs Lacroix

The Green Thermos (1938) aka Le Suspect

The Man Who Watched the Trains Go by (1938) aka L'Homme qui regardait passer les trains

The Mouse (1938) aka Monsieur La Souris

The Survivors (1938) aka Les Rescapés du 'Télémaque'

The White Horse Inn (1938) aka Le Cheval-Blanc

Chez Krull (1939) aka Chez Krull

The Burgomaster of Furnes (1939) aka Le Bourgmestre de Furnes

The Family Lie (1939) aka Malempin

The Strangers in the House (1939) aka Les Inconnus dans la maison

Black Rain (1941) aka Il pleut bergère

Justice (1941) aka Cours d'assises

Strange Inheritance (1941) aka Le Voyager de la Toussaint

The Country Doctor (1941) aka Bergelon

The Delivery (1941) aka Bergelon

The Outlaw (1941) aka L'Outlaw

The Trial of Bébé Donge (1942) aka La Vérité sur Bébé Donge

Ticket of Leave (1942) aka La Veuve Couderc

Young Cardinaud (1942) aka Le Fils Cardinaud

The Little Doctor (1943) aka Le Petit Docteur

The Gendarme's Report (1944) aka Le Rapport du Gendarme

Across the Street (1945) aka La Fenêtre des Rouet

Magnet of Doom (1945) aka L'Aîné des Ferchaux

Monsieur Monde Vanishes (1945) aka La Fuite de Monsieur Monde

The First-born (1945) aka L'Aîné des Ferchaux

The Couple from Poitiers (1946) aka Les Noces des Poitiers

Three Beds in Manhattan (1946) aka Trois Chambres à Manhattan

Act of Passion (1947) aka Lettre à mon juge

The Fate of the Malous (1947) aka Le Destin des Malous

The Ostenders (1947) aka Le Clan des Ostendais

The Stowaway (1947) aka Le Passager clandestin

Pedigree (1948) aka Pedigree

The Reckoning (1948) aka Le Bilan Malétras

The Snow Was Black (1948) aka La Neige était sale

Four Days In a Lifetime (1949) aka Les Quatre Jours du pauvre homme

Inquest on Bouvet (1949) aka L'Enterrement de Monsieur Bouvet

The Bottom of the Bottle (1949) aka La Fond de la bouteille

The Burial of Monsieur Bouvet (1949) aka L'Enterrement de Monsieur Bouvet

The Hatter's Phantoms (1949) aka Les Fantômes du chapelier

Aunt Jeanne (1950) aka Tante Jeanne

The Heart of a Man (1950) aka Les Volets verts

A New Lease of Life (1951) aka A New Lease on Life, aka Une vie comme neuve

The Girl in His Past (1951) aka Le Temps d'Anaïs

The Girl with a Squint (1951) aka Marie qui louche

Belle (1952) aka La Mort de Belle

The Brothers Rico (1952) aka Les Frères Rico

Antoine and Julie (1953) aka Antoine et Julie

Red Lights (1953) aka The Hitchhiker, aka Feux Rouges

The Iron Staircase (1953) aka L'Escalier de fer

The Magician (1953) aka Antoine et Julie

Account Unsettled (1954) aka Crime impuni

Big Bob (1954) aka Le Grand Bob

The Clockmaker (1954) aka The Watchmaker, aka The Watchmaker of Everton, aka L'Horloger d'Everton

The Fugitive (1954) aka Crime impuni

The Witnesses (1955) aka Les Témoins

In Case of Emergency (1956) aka En cas de malheur

The Accomplices (1956) aka Les Complices

The Little Man from Archangel (1956) aka Le Petit Homme de Arkhangelsk

The Negro (1957) aka Le Nègre

The Son (1957) aka Le Fils

Striptease (1958) aka Strip-tease

The Premier (1958) aka Le Président

Sunday (1959) aka Dimanche

The Grandmother (1959) aka La Vieille

The Widower (1959) aka Le Veuf

Teddy Bear (1960) aka L'Ours en peluche

Betty (1961) aka Betty

The Train (1961) aka Le Train

The Door (1962) aka La Porte

The House on Quai Notre Dame (1962) aka The Others, aka Les Autres

The Bells of Bicêtre (1963) aka The Patient, aka Les Anneaux de Bicêtre

The Blue Room (1964) aka La Chambre bleue

The Man with the Little Dog (1964) aka L'Homme au petit chien

The Little Saint (1965) aka Le Petit Saint

The Venice Train (1965) aka Le Train de Venise

The Confessional (1966) aka Le Confessional

The Old Man Dies (1966) aka Le Mort d'Auguste

The Cat (1967) aka Le Chat

The Move (1967) aka The Nieghbors, aka Le Déménagement

The Man on the Bench in the Barn (1968) aka La Main

The Prison (1968) aka La Prison

November (1969) aka Novembre

The Rich Man (1970) aka Le Riche Homme

When I Was Old (1970) aka Quand j'étais vieux

The Disappearance of Odile (1971) aka La Disparition d'Odile

The Glass Cage (1971) aka La Cage de verre

The Innocents (1972) aka Les Innocents

Letter to My Mother (1974) aka Lettre à ma mère

 

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