Review: The Dancer at the Gai-Moulin, 1931 (Inspector Maigret #10) by Georges Simenon. Trans: Siân Reynolds

Esta entrada es bilingüe, para ver la versión en castellano desplazarse hacia abajo

Penguin Classics, 2014. Format: Paperback edition. First published in French as La danseuse du Gai-Moulin by Fayard, 1931. This translation first published in 2014 by Siân Reynolds. ISBN: 978-0-141-39352-0. 154 pages. The first English edition (published simultaneously in the UK and the United States) was published by George Routledge and Sons in 1940 in a two book volume entitled Maigret Abroad (along with A Crime in Holland) with the title At the Gai-Moulin, translated by Geoffrey Sainsbury. It was reissued in 1991 by Harcourt with its current English title.

cover.jpg.rendition.460.707Book description:

The city of Simenon’s youth comes to life in this new translation of this disturbing novel set in Liège, book ten in the new Penguin Maigret series.

In the darkness, the main room is as vast as a cathedral. A great empty space. Some warmth is still seeps from the radiators. Delfosse strikes a match. They stop a moment to catch their breath, and work out how far they have still to go. And suddenly the match falls to the ground, as Delfosse gives a sharp cry and rushes back towards the washroom door. In the dark, he loses his way, returns and bumps into Chabot.

Maigret observes from a distance as two boys are accused of killing a rich foreigner in Liège. Their loyalty, which binds them together through their adventures, is put to the test, and seemingly irrelevant social differences threaten their friendship and their freedom.

My take: The action takes place mainly in the centre of Liège, at the Outremeuse district, just across the river Meuse, during the month of October. The first chapter unfolds inside a small night-club, the Gai-Moulin, where two young men, almost two kids still, Jean Chabot and his friend René Delfosse are getting ready to walk away, shortly before closing time. Instead, they hide themselves under the staircase leading to the cellar, with the intention of stealing the cash register as soon as everyone would have left. In darkness the club seems immense and they almost stumble on a man’s body, lying on the floor next to the bar. Terrified with the discovery of a corpse, they flee in a hurry. The next  day, the evening papers bring the story of a corpse found that same morning in the Botanical Garden, locked inside a large laundry basket. The body, identified as Ephraim Graphopoulos, it is indeed the man that Chabot and Delfosse had seen the night before at the club, whom they believed a Turk and whose body had made them rush away. The night before, few people where in the club. Besides the Turk and the two youngsters, they were also there Genaro, the owner; Victor, the waiter; Adéle the club dancer, and an unknown foreigner, a broad-shouldered large man, who entered shortly after the arrival of the supposed Turk.

This is a pretty much unusual Maigret novel in the sense that Maigret only makes his formal appearance approximately in the second half of the book. Besides I would lie if I said I’ve not enjoyed it, but I would not consider it among the best in the series. Due to its length, barely 150 pages, it is easy to read and it will certainly delight those unconditional fans of Maigret, such as myself. Certainly, the novel reflects very well the era where the action unfolds and the readers will take a step further in their knowledge of Maigret’s investigative method, that, almost in all likelihood, consists in having none. His technique is based on a sound knowledge of human condition.  Undoubtedly the plot-line has some deficiencies, in fact there are two separate stories that, by chance, will become intertwine. But all these will serve Simenon to analyse the fatal attraction that some may feel for leading a life that will inexorably end up on their self-destruction. And, as always, Simenon/Maigret understands and judges not. At the same time, I wonder if we are not experiencing now similar economic, social and political circumstances.

My rating: B (I liked it)

About the author: Simenon was one of the most prolific writers of the twentieth century, capable of writing 60 to 80 pages per day. His oeuvre includes nearly 200 novels, over 150 novellas, several autobiographical works, numerous articles, and scores of pulp novels written under more than two dozen pseudonyms. Altogether, about 550 million copies of his works have been printed. 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 and radio plays. Two television series (1960-63 and 1992-93) have been made in Great Britain. 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). In 1966, Simenon was given the MWA’s highest honour, the Grand Master Award. In 2005 he was nominated for the title of De Grootste Belg (The Greatest Belgian). In the Flemish version he ended 77th place. In the Walloon version he ended 10th place.

About the translator: Born in Cardiff, Siân Reynolds taught at the universities of Sussex and Edinburgh before being appointed to the Chair of French at Stirling (1990-2004). Since taking early retirement, she has acted as consultant for the School, while continuing with research and translation. Among recent publications, she was co-editor of the Biographical Dictionary of Scottish Women (EUP, 2005), and authored Paris-Edinburgh: cultural connections in the Belle Epoque (Ashgate, 2007, shortlisted for the Saltire Society History Prize). Her latest book is a double biography of two French revolutionaries: Marriage and Revolution: Monsieur and Madame Roland (OUP 2012). She has translated many books on French history, including most of the works of Fernand Braudel. Recent translations include fiction by Virginie Despentes, Antonin Varenne and French crime novelist, Fred Vargas. Four Vargas translations have been awarded the Crime Writers’ Association International Dagger (2006, 2007, 2009, 2013). She is currently Chair of the Scottish Working People’s History Trust, honorary vice-president of the Association for the Study of Modern and Contemporary France, and honorary Fellow of the IGRS. In 2010 she was promoted Officier dans l’Ordre des Palmes Académiques, and in 2013 elected Fellow of the Learned Society of Wales. She is a member of the editorial board of the journal Clio, Femmes, Genre, Histoire, currently taking responsibility for the online

The Dancer at the Gai-Moulin has been reviewed at Crime Review, The Monthly Book Group, Monthly Book Group, and at Maigret Forum by  Andrew Walser.

Penguin Classics publicity page

Penguin Random House publicity page

Geroges Simenon Website

The Dancer at the Gai-Moulin 

Maigret of the Month: October, 2004

Tout Maigret


La bailarina del Gai Moulin / El cadáver del señor Graphopoulos, de Georges Simenon

Descripción del libro:

La ciudad en donde Simenon pasó su juventud cobra vida en esta nueva traducción de esta inquietante novela ambientada en Lieja, el décimo libro en la nueva serie de Maigret de Penguin.

En la oscuridad, la sala principal es tan vasta como una catedral. Un gran espacio vacío. Un poco de calor todavía se filtra por los radiadores. Delfosse enciende una cerilla. Se detienen un momento para recuperar el aliento, y averiguar lo lejos que tienen que ir todavía. Y de repente la cerilla cae al suelo, mientras Delfosse da un grito agudo y se apresura hacia la puerta de los aseos. En la oscuridad, se desorienta, se gira y choca contra Chabot. (Mi traducción libre)

Maigret observa de lejos cómo dos muchachos son acusados de matar a un extranjero rico en Lieja. La lealtad, que los une por sus aventuras, es puesta a prueba, y las diferencias sociales aparentemente irrelevantes amenazan su amistad y su libertad.

Mi opinión: La acción tiene lugar principalmente en el centro de Lieja, en el distrito de Outremeuse, justo al otro lado del río Meuse, durante el mes de octubre. El primer capítulo se desarrolla dentro de un pequeño club nocturno, el Gai-Moulin, donde dos jóvenes, casi dos niños todavía, Jean Chabot y su amigo René Delfosse se preparan para irse, poco antes del cierre. En cambio, se esconden bajo la escalera que conduce a la bodega, con la intención de robar la caja registradora tan pronto como todos se hubieran ido. En la oscuridad el club parece inmenso y casi tropiezan con el cuerpo de un hombre, tumbado en el suelo junto al bar. Aterrorizados por el descubrimiento de un cadáver, huyen a toda prisa. Al día siguiente, los periódicos de la tarde traen la historia de un cadáver encontrado esa misma mañana en el Jardín Botánico, encerrado dentro de una gran canasta de ropa sucia. El cuerpo, identificado como Ephraim Graphopoulos, es precisamente el hombre que Chabot y Delfosse habían visto la noche anterior en el club, a quien creían un turco y cuyo cuerpo los había hecho huir. La noche anterior, pocas personas estaban en el club. Además del turco y los dos jóvenes, también estaban allí Genaro, el dueño; Víctor, el camarero; Adéle la bailarína del club, y un extranjero desconocido, un hombre grande de hombros anchos, que entró poco después de la llegada del supuesto turco.

Esta es una novela de Maigret bastante inusual en el sentido de que Maigret sólo hace su aparición formal aproximadamente en la segunda mitad del libro. Además mentiría si dijera que no lo he disfrutado, pero no lo consideraría entre los mejores de la serie. Debido a su extensión, apenas 150 páginas, es fácil de leer y sin duda encantará a los incondicionales aficionados de Maigret, como yo. Ciertamente, la novela refleja muy bien la época en que se desarrolla la acción y los lectores avanzarán en su conocimiento del método investigador de Maigret, que casi con toda probabilidad consiste en no tener ninguno. Su técnica se basa en un sólido conocimiento de la condición humana. Indudablemente, la trama tiene algunas deficiencias, de hecho hay dos historias separadas que, por casualidad, se entrelazan. Pero todo esto servirá a Simenon para analizar la atracción fatal que algunos pueden sentir por llevar una vida que terminará inexorablemente en su autodestrucción. Y, como siempre, Simenon / Maigret entiende y no juzga. Al mismo tiempo, me pregunto si no estamos experimentando ahora circunstancias económicas, sociales y políticas similares.

Mi valoración: B (Me gustó)

Sobre el autor: Georges Simenon (Lieja, Bélgica, 1903 – Lausana, Suiza, 1989) escribió ciento noventa y una novelas con su nombre, y un número impreciso de novelas y relatos publicados con pseudónimo, además de libros de memorias y textos dictados. El comisario Maigret es el protagonista de setenta y dos de estas novelas y treinta y un relatos, todos ellos publicados entre 1931 y 1972. Célebre en el mundo entero, reconocido ya como un maestro, hoy nadie duda de que sea uno de los mayores escritores del siglo XX. En esta editorial han aparecido El gato (Acantilado, 2012), Pietr, el Letón (Acantilado, 2012), El perro canelo (Acantilado, 2012), La casa del canal (Acantilado, 2012), Los vecinos de enfrente (Acantilado, 2013), Las hermanas Lacroix (Acantilado, 2013), Maigret en los dominios del córoner (Acantilado, 2013), La nieve estaba sucia (Acantilado, 2014), El círculo de los Mahé (2014), Pedigrí (2015), El arriero de «La Providence» (2015), Maigret tiende una trampa (2016), El muerto de Maigret (2016) y La noche de la encrucijada (2017).

Maigret y el extraño caso del corredor de fondo

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