Review: Maigret and the Man on the Bench, 1953 (Inspector Maigret #41) by Georges Simenon (Trans: David Watson)

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

Penguin Classics, 2017. Format; Kindle edition. File size: 5693 KB. Print length: 192 pages. ASIN:B01M2ANSV6. ISBN: 978-0-141-98399-8. First published in French as Maigret et l’homme du banc by Le Figaro in serial form between 31 January 1953 and 3 March 1953 in 29 episodes. The original book edition was published by Presses de la Cité in 1953. The book was written by Simenon in 1952 while staying in Shadow Rock Farm, Lakeville (Connecticut). This translation first published  2017. The first English editions were published in 1975 by Harcourt Brace Jovanovich (USA) as Maigret and the Man on the Bench and by Hamish Hamilton (UK) as Maigret and the Man on the Boulevard. Eileen Ellenbogen was the translator in both instances.

cover.jpg.rendition.460.707Opening paragraph: For Maigret the date was easy to remember, as it was his sister-in-law’s birthday: 19 October. It was a Monday, which also made it memorable, as it is common knowledge at Quai des Orfévres that murders rarely take place on a Monday. And as well as this, it was the first investigation of the year that had a feel of winter about it.

Book description: When Maigret discovers an unexpectedly flamboyant detail about an otherwise unremarkable man, the inspector is determined to uncover what lies beneath the stuffy appearance of his Parisian household.

‘He was wearing a dark suit, a beige raincoat and on his feet, which were twisted at an odd angle, he wore yellow-brown shoes, which seemed out of keeping with a day as colourless as this.
Apart from his shoes he looked so ordinary that he would have passed completely unnoticed on the street or on one of the numerous café terraces on the boulevard.’

My take: Thematically, Maigret and the Man on the Bench has plenty of similarities with some other Simenon novels, both in the Maigret saga and in his ‘romans durs’. As I already had occasion to point out in my review of his short story, Death of a Nobody here. Both stories have a similar onset, and they both play with the idea of ​​a man who, overwhelmed with his existence, decides to lead a double life behind his family’s back. The difference, in this case, is that his decision is not voluntary initially and, somehow, he finds himself forced by the circumstances. In addition both stories also have a different ending. It’s curious to note how, although in both cases these two people have the possibility to change their lives, both choose to continue living their lives in a very similar way to how they lived before. The question is whether they really had a choice, if they were truly free to take a decision or if, on the contrary, they were conditioned to always live the same life. Despite this bitter aftertaste with which we are left, I found this book really fascinating thanks, to a large extend, to some memorable characters. Highly recommended.

My rating: A (I loved it)

About the Author: Georges Simenon was born in Liège, Belgium. At sixteen he began work as a journalist on the Gazette de Liège. He moved to Paris in 1922 and became a prolific writer of popular fiction, working under a number of pseudonyms. In 1931 he published the first of the novels featuring Maigret, his most famous and enduring creation. (Source: Fantastic Fiction)

About the Translator: To the best of my knowledge, David Watson is a freelance French translator. He holds a PhD in French and also  speaks German. His services include book editing in all fields: fiction/non-fiction, academic; translating literary and commercial; and also proofreading and indexing services.

Maigret and the Man on the Bench has been reviewed at Crime Review, Simenon Simenon, Classic Mysteries, among others.

Penguin UK publicity page

Penguin US publicity page 

Maigret et l’homme du banc 

Maigret of the Month: June, 2007

audible

Maigret y el hombre del banco, de Georges Simenon

Párrafo inicial: Para Maigret, la fecha era fácil de recordar, ya que era el cumpleaños de su cuñada: el 19 de octubre. Era un lunes, lo que también lo hacía inolvidable, dado que es de conocimiento público en Quai des Orfévres que los asesinatos raramente ocurren los lunes. Y además de esto, fue la primera investigación del año que tuvo sobre todo una sensación de invierno.

Descripción del libro: Cuando Maigret descubre un detalle inesperadamente llamatido sobre un hombre que de otra manera no tendría nada especial, el inspector está decidido a descubrir qué es lo que hay debajo del sofocante aspecto de su hogar parisino.

“Llevaba un traje oscuro, una gabardina beige y en los pies, que estaban retorcidos en un ángulo anormal, llevaba zapatos de color amarillo-marrón, lo que parecía estar fuera de lugar en un día tan incoloro como este.
Además de sus zapatos, parecía tan ordinario que habría pasado completamente desapercibido en la calle o en una de las numerosas terrazas de los cafés del bulevar.”

Mi opinión: Temáticamente, Maigret y el hombre del banco tiene muchas similitudes con algunas otras novelas de Simenon, tanto en la serie de Maigret como en sus “romans durs”. Como ya tuve ocasión de señalar en mi reseña de su  relato breve, No se mata a los pobres tipos aquí. Ambas historias tienen un inicio similar, y ambas juegan con la idea de un hombre que, abrumado por su existencia, decide llevar una doble vida a espaldas de su familia. La diferencia, en este caso, es que su decisión no es voluntaria inicialmente y, de alguna manera, se ve obligado por las circunstancias.Además, ambas historias también tienen un final diferente. Es curioso observar cómo, aunque en ambos casos estas dos personas tienen la posibilidad de cambiar sus vidas, ambos eligen continuar viviendo sus vidas de una manera muy similar a cómo vivían antes. La pregunta es si realmente tenían una opción, si eran realmente libres de tomar una decisión o si, por el contrario, estaban condicionados a vivir siempre la misma vida. A pesar de este amargo regusto que nos queda, encontré este libro realmente fascinante gracias, en gran medida, a algunos personajes memorables. Muy recomendable.


Mi valoración
: A (Me encantó)

Sobre el autor: Georges Simenon nació en Lieja, Bélgica. A los dieciséis años comenzó a trabajar como periodista en la Gazette de Liège. Se trasladó a París en 1922 y se convirtió en un prolífico escritor de novelas populares, utilizando una gran variedad de seudónimos. En 1931 publicó la primera de las novelas protagonizadas por Maigret, su creación más famosa y duradera.

OT: Exhibition “Views of Rome. Dąbrowski and the Lázaro Collection”

The Lázaro Galdiano Museum presents, until September 9, the exhibition Views of Rome. Henryk Dąbrowski and the Lázaro Collection, organized with Instituto Polaco de Cultura and in collaboration with the Embassy of Poland. The exhibition proposes two perspectives of Rome’s majesty: that of the artist Henryk Dąbrowski and that of the collector José Lázaro.

The exhibition presents, for the first time in Spain, eleven drawings made by the famous Polish architect between 1965 and 1966; in dialogue with more than ten works of the Lázaro Collection, such as Arco di Settimio Severo by Piranesi, drawings –among them several by Valentín Carderera–, bronzes, medals or books such as La citta di Roma by Dominique Magnan.

Museo Lázaro Galdiano

Serrano 122, 28006 Madrid

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Henryk Dąbrowski. Plaza Navona, 1965. Colección Izabella Godlewska de Aranda, Madrid