My Book Notes: Maigret Defends Himself, 1964 (Inspector Maigret #63) by Georges Simenon (Translated by Howard Curtis)

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Penguin, 2019. Format; Kindle Edition. File Size: 3798 KB. Print Length: 160 pages. ASIN: B07D46H5S3. ISBN: 978-0-241-30407-5. The story was subject to a pre-publication in the daily Le Figaro between 20 November and 17 December 1964 (24 episodes), it was published in book form as Maigret se défend by Presses de la Cité in November 1964, and it was written between 21 and 28 July 1964 in à Épalinges (Canton of Vaud), Switzerland. It came out in English translation as Maigret on the Defensive first in 1966 with five subsequent reprints through 1987. The translator then was Alastair Hamilton, and the translator for this new Penguin edition is Howard Curtis.

imageOpening paragraph:  ‘Tell me something, Maigret …’
     A little phrase the detective chief inspector would remember later, but which hadn’t struck him at the time. Everything was familiar –the setting, the faces, even the movements of the people involved– so familiar that he had stopped paying attention. It had happened in Rue Popincourt, a few hundred meters  from Boulevard Richard-Lenoir, at the apartment of the Pardons, where the Maigrets had been in he habit of coming for dinner once a month for several years now.

Book description: For the first time in his career Inspector Maigret receives written summons to the Chief Commissioner’s office where he learns that he has been accused of assaulting a young woman. With his career and reputation on the line, Maigret must fight to prove his innocence.

My take: Three years away from his retirement, Maigret has to cope with one of the most difficult cases in his career. A case in which he finds himself directly involved. Toward the end of June, Maigret is summoned to the Office of the Prefect of the Police. There he is notified that a young woman, the niece of the Maître des requêtes at the Council of State, has lodged criminal charges for inappropriate behaviour against him. She claims that, the previous night Maigret, taking advantage of his popularity as chief inspector, brought her to a hotel room where he tried to take advantage of her. But, at the last moment, he lost his nerves. Obviously, Maigret has fallen into a trap. Effectively, the previous night a young woman, claiming to be newly arrived to Paris, had called him to seek his assistance. Deceived, she finds herself all alone, not knowing where to go and with no money. Regrettably for Maigret, the young woman’s version has witnesses that provides some credibility to her story. Defying his superiors, that have banned him to talk to anyone about this issue, and have expressly forbidden him from getting close to the young woman, Maigret must investigate this matter by his own account without raising suspicions. He’s received express orders that he must stand on the sidelines.

This is quite an unusual entry in the Maigret canon, and the first time in which Maigret will find himself in the position of having to render account of his own conduct. Besides, his own methods are considered outdated and inadequate for the new times in the opinion of a young Prefect of the Police who’s been barely two years in office. A Prefect of Police to whom nothing would like him more than to see how Maigret resigns from his post of Head of the Crime Squad. It is also unusual in the sense that, together with the following instalment, Maigret’s Patience, both novels have a common nexus. Effectively, part of the story of this novel will find its epilogue in the following one. (Source: Murielle Wenger). It is also worth noting that in this novel Simenon adds new elements to the biography of Maigret, although they are not exempted of some contradictions with other novels. Finally, this novel marks the beginning of the last part of the saga. It was written at Simenon’s new house at Epalinges, north of Lausanne, where he had purchased a plot of land in 1963 to build a big house per his own design. And the reason why, from a literary perspective, 1964 was perhaps his less prolific year.

In addition to the novelty of the topic, Maigret Defends Himself offers us an excellent example of Maigret’s attitude towards crime and towards criminals. Obviously he investigates the crime, that’s his job, but, in order to solve a case, he places himself in the site of the offender, he tries to see the world through the other’s eyes, and feels compassion for him. His mission is not to judge, but to understand the human being. This is perhaps what makes him so special. A superb example of a Maigret novel. Simenon continues to be at his best. Highly recommended.  

My rating: A+ (Don’t delay, get your hands on a copy of this book)

Maigret Defends Himself has been reviewed at Georges Simenon & Maigret International Dailyblog

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. Simenon also wrote a large number of “psychological novels”, as well as several autobiographical works. (Source: Goodreads).

About the Translator: Howard Curtis (born 1949) is a British translator of French, Italian and Spanish fiction. He won the 2013 Marsh Award for Children’s Literature in Translation for his translation from Italian of In the Sea there are Crocodiles by Fabio Geda. (Source: Wkipedia). In an interview he explained how did he got into translation: “Twenty-two years ago I was working as a stage director, with little success, and decided it was time to go in a new direction.  As I’d always been considered “good at languages”, I thought translation might be that direction.  I read somewhere that the way to go about getting work as a translator was to translate a sample chapter of a book you liked and submit it to publishers.  I was a big fan of Georges Simenon (still am) and it struck me that some of the English translations of his work that were coming out at the time were pretty bad.  So I took a Simenon novel I knew hadn’t been translated yet (there happened to be a copy of it in French in my local public library), translated the first chapter, and sent it to Simenon’s British publisher.  They liked it well enough to commission a complete translation, not of that Simenon novel, but another one (though I did get to do that one a year later).”

Penguin UK publicity page

Penguin US publicity page

Maigret se défend

Maigret of the Month: April, 2009

Maigret se defiende de Georges Simenon

Párrafo ínicial: “Dígame algo, Maigret …”
       Una escueta frase que el inspector jefe de detectives recordaría más tarde, pero que no lo había impactado en ese momento. Todo era familiar: el entorno, los rostros, incluso los movimientos de las personas involucradas, tan familiar que había dejado de prestar atención. Ocurrió en la Rue Popincourt, a unos cientos de metros del Boulevard Richard-Lenoir, en el apartamento de los Pardons, donde los Maigrets tenían la costumbre de acudir a cenar una vez al mes desde hace varios años.

Descripción del libro: Por primera vez en su carrera, el inspector Maigret recibe una citación por escrito para presentarse en la oficina del comisario jefe, donde se entera de que ha sido acusado de agredir sexualmente a una mujer joven. Con su carrera y reputación en entredicho, Maigret tiene que luchar para demostrar su inocencia.

Mi opinión: A tres años de su jubilación, Maigret tiene que hacer frente a uno de los casos más difíciles de su carrera. Un caso en el que se ve directamente involucrado. Hacia finales de junio, Maigret es convocado a la Oficina del Prefecto de la Policía. Allí se le notifica que una mujer joven, la sobrina del Maître des requêtes del Consejo de Estado, ha presentado cargos penales por comportamiento inapropiado en su contra. Ella afirma que, la noche anterior, Maigret, aprovechando su popularidad como inspector jefe, la llevó a una habitación de hotel donde intentó aprovecharse de ella. Pero, en el último momento, perdió los nervios. Obviamente, Maigret ha caído en una trampa. En efecto, la noche anterior, una joven, que decía haber llegado recientemente a París, lo había llamado para pedirle su ayuda. Engañada, se encuentra sola, sin saber a dónde ir y sin dinero. Lamentablemente para Maigret, la versión de la joven tiene testigos que le dan cierta credibilidad a su historia. Desafiando a sus superiores, que le han prohibido hablar con cualquiera sobre este tema y le han prohibido expresamente acercarse a la joven, Maigret debe investigar este asunto por su propia cuenta sin levantar sospechas. Ha recibido órdenes expresas de que debe mantenerse al margen.

Esta es una entrada bastante inusual en el canon de Maigret, y la primera vez en la que Maigret se encontrará en la posición de tener que rendir cuentas de su propia conducta. Además, sus propios métodos se consideran obsoletos e inadecuados para los nuevos tiempos, según la opinión de un joven Prefecto de la Policía que lleva apenas dos años en el cargo. Un prefecto de la policía a quien nada le gustaría más que ver cómo Maigret renuncia a su puesto de Jefe de la Brigada Criminal. También es inusual en el sentido de que, junto con la siguiente entrega, La paciencia de Maigret, ambas novelas tienen un nexo común. Efectivamente, parte de la historia de esta novela encontrará su epílogo en la siguiente. (Fuente: Murielle Wenger). También vale la pena señalar que en esta novela Simenon agrega nuevos elementos a la biografía de Maigret, aunque no están exentos de algunas contradicciones con otras novelas. Finalmente, esta novela marca el inicio de la última parte de la saga. Fue escrita en la nueva casa de Simenon en Epalinges, al norte de Lausana, donde compró un terreno en 1963 para construir una casa grande según su propio diseño. Y la razón por la cual, desde una perspectiva literaria, 1964 fue quizás su año menos prolífico.

Además de por la novedad del tema, Maigret se defiende nos ofrece un excelente ejemplo de la actitud de Maigret hacia el crimen y hacia los criminales. Obviamente, él investiga el crimen, ese es su trabajo, pero, para resolver un caso, se coloca en el lugar del delincuente, trata de ver el mundo a través de los ojos del otro y siente compasión por él. Su misión no es juzgar, sino comprender al ser humano. Esto es quizás lo que lo hace ser tan especial. Un magnífico ejemplo de una novela de Maigret. Simenon sigue estando en su mejor momento. Muy recomendable.

Mi valoración: A+ (No se demore, consiga un ejemplar de este libro)

Sobre el autor: Simenon fue uno de los escritores más prolíficos del siglo XX, capaz de escribir de 60 a 80 páginas al día. Su obra incluye cerca de 200 novelas, más de 150 novelas, varias obras autobiográficas, numerosos artículos y decenas de novelas populares escritas con más de dos docenas de seudónimos. En total, se han hecho unos 550 millones de copias de sus obras. Sin embargo, es más conocido por sus 75 novelas y 28 relatos cortos portagonizados por el comisario Maigret. La primera novela de la serie, Pietr-le-Letton, apareció en 1931; La última, Maigret et M. Charles, se publicó en 1972. Las novelas de Maigret se tradujeron a todos los idiomas principales y varias de ellas se convirtieron en películas y obras radiofónicas. Dos series de televisión (1960-63 y 1992-93) se hicieron en Gran Bretaña. Durante su período “americano”, Simenon alcanzó la cima de su creatividad, y varias novelas de esa época se inspiraron en el contexto en el que fueron escritas. Simenon también escribió una gran cantidad de “novelas psicológicas”, así como varias obras autobiográficas. (Fuente: Goodreads).

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