My Book Notes: A Maigret Christmas and other stories by Georges Simenon (tr. David Coward)

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

Penguin, 2017. Format; Kindle Edition. File Size: 4286 KB. Print Length: 214 pages. ASIN: B073XXGDJ3. ISBN: 978-0-141-98427-8. A Maigret Christmas and other stories contains a collection of three short stories by Georges Simenon: Un Noël de Maigret (A Maigret Christmas), Sept Petites Croix dans un carnet (Seven Small Crosses in a Notebook), and Le Petit Restaurant des Ternes (The Little Restaurant near Place des Ternes). The first two stories are about eighty pages long; the last, barely twenty, and it has for subtitle: “A Christmas Story for Grown-Ups”. The three stories were first published in book form by Presses de la Cité in 1951. Simenon wrote these stories between 1947 and 1950. The latter two short stories do not involve Maigret, but all three are linked by the fact that they are set during Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, with each location being in Paris. Before this new Penguin English version, A Maigret Christmas has been twice published in English. The first translation, by Lawrence G. Blochman, was published in Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine (US edition), volume 23, N°122, in January 1954. It is slightly abridged and freer in translation compared to Simenon’s original and the same text has been reprinted a number of times by various publishers. The second translation, by Jean Stewart, was first published by Hamish Hamilton in the United Kingdom in 1976 in the hardback collection entitled Maigret’s Christmas. Jean Stewart’s translation follows Simenon’s French text closely without any abridging or additions. Seven Small Crosses in a Notebook In English, under the title Seven Little Crosses [? ], was subject to a pre-publication in The Illustrated London News, No. 5,281 A (volume 217) of November 16, 1950. And as Seven Little Crosses in a Notebook was also included in the hardback collection entitled Maigret’s Christmas, translated by Jean Stewart. To the best of my knowledge, this is the first time that The Little Restaurant near Place des Ternes has been published in English.The translator for this new Penguin edition is David Coward.

imageBook description: It is Christmas in Paris, but beneath the sparkling lights and glittering decorations lie sinister deeds and dark secrets…
This collection brings together three of Simenon’s most enjoyable Christmas tales, newly translated, featuring Inspector Maigret and other characters from the Maigret novels. In A Maigret Christmas, the Inspector receives two unexpected visitors on Christmas Day, who lead him on the trail of a mysterious intruder dressed in red and white. In Seven Small Crosses in a Notebook, the sound of alarms over Paris send the police on a cat and mouse chase across the city. And The Little Restaurant near Place des Ternes (A Christmas Story for Grown-Ups) tells of a cynical woman who is moved to an unexpected act of festive charity in a nightclub – one that surprises even her …

Opening paragraph: A Maigret Christmas: It was always the same, every time. As he settled down in bed, he had sighed, as usual:
‘Tomorrow, I shall sleep in.’

Seven Small Crosses in a Notebook: ‘Where I come from,’ said Sommer, who was making coffee on an electric ring, ‘we all used to go to midnight mass, though the village was half an hour’s walk from the farm. We were five boys. Winters were colder on those days, because I can remember going there and back on a sledge.’

The Little Restaurant near Place des Ternes: The clock in its black case, which regular customers had always known to stand in the same place, over the rack where the serviettes were kept, showed four minutes to nine. The advertising calendar behind the head of the woman sitting at the till, Madame Bouchet, showed that it was the twenty-fourth day of December.

My take: The short story that lends its name to this collection, A Maigret Christmas, was written between 17 and 20 May 1950 at Carmel by the Sea (California, U.S.A.). In my edition of Maigret’s Christmas (Harvest/Harcourt, 2003) it appears signed 30 May 1950, Carmel-by-the-Sea, California. In this sense I would like to remind that Georges Simenon used to show the date and place in which he had written that story at the end of each one. And, quite frankly, I can’t understand why Penguin, in this new translations, doesn’t show this datum. I re-read this story because I was mainly interested to compare the old translation with the new English one. You can access my blog post here). I can’t judge, due to my poor command of the French language, which version is more accurate. But I would like to show the differences in this two passages, for you to judge:

Later on, Maigret was to retrieve from the drawer in which Madame Maigret thrust any stray scraps of paper an old envelope on the back of which he had automatically summarized events during the course of that day. It was only then that something struck him about this enquiry, which was conducted almost from beginning to end from his own home, something which he was subsequently often to cite as an example.
Contrary to what so frequently happens, there was strictly speaking no element of the accidental, no really sensational surprise. That sort of chance did not come into play, but chance intervened nonetheless, indeed quite constantly, in so far as each piece of evidence turned up at the right time, obtained by the simplest and most natural means. (page 44, tr. Jean Stewart)

Later, in the drawer where Madame Maigret regularly tidies away any stray pieces of paper, Maigret would come across an old envelope on the back of which, at various times that day, he had automatically jotted down events as they happened. It was only then that he was struck by something about this case, which he had conducted almost from beginning to end from his own apartment and which he would subsequently quote as an example. Contrary to what so often happens, no unequivocal intervention of chance, no dramatic turning point was involved. That kind of chance had no parts in events, and yet chance was nevertheless a factor, a constant presence, in the sense that every piece of information, came at the right time and in the most straightforward, natural way. (page 94, tr. David Coward)

With regard to the second short story, Seven Small Crosses in a Notebook (aka Seven Little Crosses in a Notebook), it was written between 1 and 4 April 1950 at Carmel by the Sea (California, U.S.A.). In my edition of Maigret’s Christmas (Harvest/Harcourt, 2003) it appears signed September, 1950 at Shadow Rock Farm, Lakeville, Connecticut. Simenon wrote seemingly at the request of a London newspaper for its Christmas issue. The short story was published in the collection Un Noël de Maigret (Maigret’s Christmas). Maigret doesn’t appear in the story, however all its components, plot, setting and characters, could easily be transposed in the Chief Inspector’s universe, and encourage to an adaptation in which Maigret could be present. In fact Inspector Janvier appears in the story, and the portrait of Chief Inspector Saillard is reminiscent of Maigret’s. So you “simply” would have to replace Saillard by Maigret and, with some additional details, you might consider this short story as belonging to the saga. What the scriptwriters did not fail to do for the series with Bruno Crémer, and they made a very successful episode featuring Maigret. The story takes place in the central office of the Paris Prefecture and, perhaps the most noteworthy aspect of this story, is Simenon’s talent to describe the atmosphere in which the story takes place, more than the plot itself. But I quite enjoyed it.  

The last of the short stories, and the shorter one of the three tales, is titled The Little Restaurant near Place des Ternes and subtitled ‘Christmas tale for grown-ups’. It was written in Bradenton Beach (Florida), in January 1947. Other sources indicate it was written in Tucson (Arizona) 22 November 1947. The date that appears in the original edition is December 1948. This story was commissioned from Simenon by Pierre Lazareff for its publication in ‘Elle’ in 1947. It arrived too late and was published the following year, in the weekly “France-Dimanche”, No. 172-173 of December 11 and 18, 1948 (2 episodes). Its final version was published in book form by Presses de la Cité, in the collection Un Noël de Maigret, 1951. This short story is the one that better reflects the Christmas spirit of the three tales. Inspector Lognon has a short appearance in this story.

My rating: A (I loved it)

A Maigret Christmas and other stories has been reviewed at Euro Crime, Booksplease, Georges Simenon & Maigret International Dailyblog, The Budapest Times, and Crime Review among others

About the Author: Georges 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 published between 1931 and 1972.

About the Translator: David Coward is a professor of French literature at the University of Leeds and veteran translator of French literature. His translation of Arthur Cohen’s Belle du Seigneur won a Scott Moncreif Prize. He is currently translating Georges Simenon’s popular Inspector Maigret series for Penguin Classics.

Penguin UK publicity page

Penguin US publicity page

Un Noël de Maigret

Maigret of the Month: December, 2006

La agitada Navidad de Maigret y otros cuentos de Georges Simenon

Descripción del libro: Estamos en Navidad en París, pero tras las luces chispeantes y de las decoraciones resplandecientes yacen hechos siniestros y oscuros secretos …
Esta colección reúne tres de los cuentos de Navidad más entretenidos de Simenon, recientemente traducidos, con el inspector Maigret y otros personajes de las novelas de Maigret como protagonistas. En La agitada Navidad de Maigret, el inspector recibe a dos visitantes inesperadas el día de Navidad, que lo conducen tras el rastro de un intruso misterioso vestido de rojo y blanco. En Siete pequeñas cruces en un cuaderno, el sonido de las alarmas sobre París envía a la policía en una persecución, como la de un gato tras un ratón, por toda la ciudad. Y en El pequeño restaurante cerca de la plaza de Ternes (Una historia navideña para adultos), trata de una escéptica mujer que se ve motivada por un acto inesperado de caridad festiva en un club nocturno, algo que incluso a ella misma le sorprende …

Primeros párrafos: La agitada Navidad de Maigret: Siempre era igual, cada vez. Cuando se acomodó en la cama, suspiró, como de costumbre:
“Mañana dormiré”.

Siete pequeñas cruces en un cuaderno: “De donde vengo,” dijo Sommer, que estaba haciendo café en un hornillo eléctrico, “todos solíamos ir a la misa de gallo, aunque el pueblo estaba a media hora a pie de la granja. Éramos cinco chicos. Los inviernos eran más fríos en aquel tiempo, porque recuerdo haber ido allí en trineo.”

El pequeño restaurante cerca de la Plaza de Ternes: El reloj en su caja negra, que los clientes habituales siempre habían sabido que estaba en el mismo sitio, sobre el estante donde se guardaban las servilletas, indicaba que faltaban cuatro minutos para las nueve. El calendario publicitario detrás de la cabeza de la mujer sentada en la caja, Madame Bouchet, mostraba que ese día era veinticuatro de diciembre.

Mi opinión: El cuento que da nombre a esta colección, La agitada Navidad de Maigret, fue redactado entre el 17 y el 20 de mayo de 1950 en Carmel by the Sea (California, EE. UU. EE. UU.). En mi edición de Maigret’s Christmas (Harvest/Harcourt, 2003) aparece firmado el 30 de mayo de 1950, Carmel-by-the-Sea, California. En este sentido, me gustaría recordar que Georges Simenon solía mostrar la fecha y el lugar en donde había escrito ese relato al final de cada uno. Y, francamente, no puedo entender por qué Penguin, en estas nuevas traducciones, no muestra este dato. Volví a leer esta historia porque me interesaba sobre todo comparar la traducción anterior con la nueva versión en inglés (pueden acceder a mi blog aquí). No puedo juzgar, debido a mi pobre dominio del idioma francés, qué versión es más precisa.

Con respecto al segundo relato, Siete pequeñas cruces en un cuaderno, fue redactado entre el 1 y el 4 de abril de 1950 en Carmel by the Sea (California, EE. UU. EE. UU.). En mi edición de Maigret’s Christmas (Harvest/Harcourt, 2003) aparece firmado en septiembre de 1950 en Shadow Rock Farm, Lakeville, Connecticut. Simenon lo escribió aparentemente a petición de un periódico de Londres para su edición de Navidad. El cuento fue publicado en la colección Un Noël de Maigret (La agitada Navidad de Maigret). Maigret no aparece en la historia, sin embargo, todos sus componentes, la trama, el escenario y los personajes, podrían transponerse fácilmente al universo del Inspector Jefe, y propiciar una adaptación en la que Maigret podría estar presente. De hecho, el inspector Janvier aparece en la historia, y el retrato del inspector jefe Saillard recuerda al de Maigret. Así que “simplemente” se tendría que reemplazar a Saillard por Maigret y, con algunos detalles adicionales, se podrías considerar que esta historia corta pertenece a la saga. Lo que los guionistas no dejaron de hacer en la serie protagonizada por Bruno Crémer, y consiguieron un episodio muy acertado protagonizado por Maigret. La historia tiene lugar en la oficina central de la Prefectura de París y, quizás el aspecto más notable de esta historia, es el talento de Simenon para describir el ambiente en el que transcurre la historia, más que la propia trama. Pero lo disfruté bastante.

El último de los cuentos, y el más breve de los tres, se titula El pequeño restaurante cerca de la Plaza de Ternes, y está subtitulado “Cuento de Navidad para adultos”. Fue escrito en Bradenton Beach (Florida), en enero de 1947. Otras fuentes indican que fue escrito en Tucson (Arizona) el 22 de noviembre de 1947. La fecha que aparece en la edición original es diciembre de 1948. Esta historia fue encargada a Simenon por Pierre Lazareff. para su publicación en ‘Elle’ en 1947. Llegó demasiado tarde y se publicó al año siguiente, en el semanario “France-Dimanche”, No. 172-173 del 11 y 18 de diciembre de 1948 (2 episodios). Su versión final fue publicada en forma de libro por Presses de la Cité, en la colección Un Noël de Maigret, 1951. Este cuento es el que mejor refleja el espíritu navideño de los tres. El inspector Lognon tiene una breve aparición en la historia.

Mi valoración: A (Me encantó)

Sobre el autor: Georges Simenon fue uno de los escritores más prolíficos del siglo XX, capaz de escribir de 60 a 80 páginas diarias. Su obra incluye casi 200 novelas, más de 150 historias cortas, varias obras autobiográficas, numerosos artículos y decenas de novelas populares escritas con más de dos docenas de seudónimos. En total, unos 550 millones de copias de sus obras han sido impresas. Sin embargo, es más conocido por sus 75 novelas y 28 relatos cortos protagonizados por el comisario Maigret publicados entre 1931 y 1972.

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