SIMENON SIMENON. ECHANDENS, IN THE MIDDLE OF NOWHERE? Six years living and writing in a Vaud canton chateau

illus-57cMurielle Wenger wrote an article under this title at the blog site Simenon Simenon, here. Among other things, we learned that Georges Simenon, upon his return to Europe in 1955, spent a family holiday at Villars-sur-Ollon on the Swiss Alps, in the summer of 1956, devoted to one of his passions, golfing. And in an interview he declared he has weakness for la viande séchée des Grisons (the Grisons dry meat) and Vaud’s white wine. He’s enchanted with the markets of Laussane and Vevey and, particularly, he would like to find an 18th century house, in one of Vevey’s quiet and small streets, or a beautiful estate, not so far from the lake.

Finally, in January 1957, when he settled in Switzerland with his family, he ended up renting le château d’Echandens, a commune (city) near Lausanne, a few kilometres from the lake. Following some reconditioning works, Simenon moved to the castle in July 1957, where he will remain six years. Simenon will write there 12 Maigret, 13  “romans durs” and the first notebooks of Quand j’étais vieux. It is curious to note that the novels written there are not dated in Echandens, but in “Noland”. This detail has intrigued much Simenon’s scholars, and the answer to this question can be found here.

Briefly, Simenon had chosen Switzerland because it was a tax haven. In fact, in those first years of residence, the writer would have enjoyed a particular tax regime, obviously very favourable and this was the reason why he chose the name of “Noland” to indicate the name of the place in which he wrote those novels. In any case, as I have already mentioned before, I believe that the Maigret stories written there are among the very best in the saga. Coincidentally, this are the twelve titles published this year by Penguin UK with new translations. See my book notes clicking on the book titles: Maigret Travels (Inspector Maigret #51), Maigret`s Doubts (Inspector Maigret #52), Maigret and the Reluctant Witnesses(Inspector Maigret #53), Maigret’s Secret (Inspector Maigret #54), Maigret in Court (Inspector Maigret #55), Maigret and the Old People (Inspector Maigret #56), Maigret and the Lazy Burglar (Inspector Maigret #57), Maigret and the Good People of Montparnasse (Inspector Maigret #58), Maigret and the Saturday Caller (Inspector Maigret #59), Maigret and the Tramp (Inspector Maigret #60), Maigret’s Anger (Inspector Maigret #61), and Maigret And The Ghost (Inspector Maigret #62).

The attached picture shows Simenon in his car, leaving his new residence, the chateau at Echandens. (Source: Is Georges Simenon a writer? by M. M. Brumagne)

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OT: THE FOUNTAIN OF GRACE. A Panel from the circle of Jan Van Eyck 23 October 2018 to 27 January 2019

Screen-Shot-2018-11-11-at-3.01.54-PM-900x444The Fountain of Grace is the only work from the circle of Van Eyck to be owned by the Museo del Prado, and also one of the most intriguing. The specific artist is unknown, as are its precise iconography and origin, and these questions have given rise to a great deal of speculation since it entered the Museum nearly two hundred years ago. Recent restoration and research, the motive for this exhibition, has revealed interesting new data that enable us to progress in our study and knowledge of the piece.

Restoration sponsored by Fundación Iberdrola España.

Begoña and I had yesterday the opportunity to visit this exhibition also. Highly recommended.

Read more here.

OT: BARTOLOMÉ BERMEJO 9 October 2018 to 27 January 2019

0afe7365-eb40-34bb-4876-a5b560f22e93The Museo Nacional del Prado and the Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya –with the collaboration of the Comunidad de Madrid– have co-organised this exhibition, which for the first time gathers together all the documented paintings attributed to Bartolomé de Cárdenas, alias El Bermejo, including some that have only recently been located. Bermejo (c.1440 – c. 1501) was a surprising and very personal artist who produced some of the masterpieces of Hispano-Flemish art, with an exquisite catalogue of paintings preserved at museums and collections in Europe and the Americas. Instead of the partial adaptation of the “Flemish style” practised by most of his contemporaries, his works display a virtuoso and personal recreation of the successful pictorial model inaugurated by Jan van Eyck and Rogier van der Weyden.

The show includes emblematic pieces like St Michael, from the National Gallery, London; the Desplá Pietà from Barcelona Cathedral; and St Dominic of Silos from the Prado. These works are fundamental for appreciating Bermejo’s technical and compositional achievements and innovative models.

The Museo del Prado is the first venue for Bartolomé Bermejo, which subsequently travels to the Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya.

Begoña and I had the opportunity to visit this exhibition yesterday. Highly recommended. 

Read more here.

Georges Simenon’s Maigret Books (Last Updated Thursday, 10 January 2019 19:58)

This blog entry was first intended as a private note, but I thought it may be of some interest to regular or occasional readers of this blog. Most of the information has been taken from the excellent blog site Maigret forum and from Maigret’s World: A Reader’s Companion to Simenon’s Famous Detective by Murielle Wenger and Stephen Trussel. In bold I have highlighted the books that are my favourites. Some believe that Maigret’s bests can be found in The Gallimard cycle but my personal preference tend towards the Fayard cycle and, more recently, among the ones written after his return to Europe, particularly those written on Swiss soil, in Noland, Echandens (Canton of Vaud). Please bear in mind that this is a work in progress, you may read my reviews of the books I’ve read so far clicking on the books’ titles. Moreover, your comments are welcome.

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The ‘proto-Maigrets’. Although Simenon himself proclaimed that “Pietr-le-letton” was “the first Maigret”, the character Maigret had appeared before in four novels written under pseudonyms, and which are referred to as the ‘proto-Maigrtes’. ‘Train de Nuit’, ‘La figurante’ aka ‘La jeune fille aux perles’, ‘La femme rousse’ and ‘La maison de l’inquiétude’. Particularly one can wonder why La maison de l’inquiétude [The House of Anxiety], considered by Simenon scholars as the best of the ‘proto-Maigrets,’ is not included among the official novels of the saga. The answer can be found on Maigret’s World: ‘A Reader’s Companion to Simenon’s Famous Detective’ by Murielle Wenger and Stephen Trussel, ‘… above al, what makes it different from the novels of the saga, is that while Maigret is at the front of the stage, it’s still describe by a narrator –and therefore seen by the reader–“from outside.” Simenon “tells” how the Chief Inspector feels things, how he imagines them, how he tries to understand. That’s the difference in the novels which follow, where Maigret’s impressions are described “from inside”, as if the world of the story were seen through the eyes of its main character. In the official saga, the reader “sees and thinks” through Maigret, he experiences things as Maigret experiences them, and its Simenon’s talent that he succeeds at moving from a neutral and “objective” narration of a detective story, into a “subjective” view of an investigation, where the reader finds himself taking the part of the hero.’

The Early Maigrets, (The 19 novels of the Fayard cycle): Pietr the Latvian (Inspector Maigret #1), The Late Monsieur Gallet (Inspector Maigret #2), The Hanged Man of Saint-Pholien (Inspector Maigret #3), The Carter of ‘La Providence’ (Inspector Maigret #4), The Yellow Dog (Inspector Maigret #5), Night at the Crossroads (Inspector Maigret #6), A Crime in Holland (Inspector Maigret #7), The Grand Banks Café (Inspector Maigret #8), A Man’s Head (Inspector Maigret #9), The Dancer at the Gai-Moulin (Inspector Maigret #10), The Two-Penny Bar, (Inspector Maigret #11), The Shadow Puppet (Inspector Maigret #12), The Saint-Fiacre Affair (Inspector Maigret #13), The Flemish House (Inspector Maigret #14), The Madman of Bergerac (Inspector Maigret #15), The Misty Harbour (Inspector Maigret #16), Liberty Bar (Inspector Maigret #17), Lock Nº 1 (Inspector Maigret #18), and Maigret (Inspector Maigret #19)

“In April 1933, Simenon wrote L’écluse nº1, with the intent that it be the last in the series. In this novel Maigret is getting ready to retire professionally, as his author was getting ready to retire him literarily. And as Simenon has decided to leave Fayard, too dedicated to “popular novels and detective stories,” in October 1934 he signs a contract with a new publisher, Gallimard. But Simenon received numerous appeals … from readers …, and from the editor of the daily Le Jour, asking him for one more Maigret. And so he agreed to revive his hero.”

The Gallimard cycle (6 novels): “At the insistence of Gallimard, contemplating the substantial revenues the Maigret texts could generate, Simenon yielded in October 1936, and wrote a first series of nine stories featuring the Chief Inspector. And he will turn him back again in 1938, writing another series of ten stories in which Maigret is the hero. Eight of these ten stories will from, along with the nine of 1936, the collection published in 1944 by Gallimard under the title Les nouvelles enquêtes de Maigret. Between 1939 and 1943 Simenon wrote first two stories with Maigret again on active duty, then six novels published in two collections by Gallimard –Maigret revient in 1942, containing the novels: Cécile is Dead (Inspector Maigret #20); The Cellars of the Majestic (Inspector Maigret #21); and  The Judge’s House (Inspector Maigret #22); and the collection Signed Picpus, published in 1944, containing the novels: Signed, Picpus (Inspector Maigret #23); Inspector Cadaver Inspector Maigret #24), and Félicie (Inspector Maigret #25).”

The Presses de la Cité cycle (50 novels). “In June 1945 Simenon wrote a short story entitled La pipe de Maigret. Then in August he wrote another short novel to appear in France-Soir, Maigret se fâche, where his hero is, once more retired. Simenon was probably thinking of relieving himself of his character, at the same time as he left “old Europe” to discover the New World. But most likely his new editor, Les Presses de la Cité, was also counting on Simenon to bring his renown, and a few novels on the investigations of Maigret. And so Simenon wrote a new Maigret in which the Chief Inspector is once more retired, Maigret à New York. But this will be the last time he portrayed him as retired. Henceforth, and until the last novel of the saga, Maigret will be on active duty at the Quai des Orfèvres. First Simenon will put his Chief Inspector back into service in the four short stories which appeared in the collection Maigret et l’inspector Malgracieux, then, in November 1947 will have him lead an investigation while the Chief Inspector is on holiday, Les vacances de Maigret. It is of interest to note that his novella, Un Noël de Maigret and his novel Les mémories de Maigret are situated exactly in the centre of his chronology (May and September 1950), as if he wanted to do an update of his hero, before launching him on a series of new investigations. In 1953, with Maigret a peur, there appears a first hint of what will become a constact in the rest of the saga, Maigret’s reflections on aging and the approach of retirement. Maigret se trompe, Maigret à l’école (both in 1953), Maigret et la jeune morte, Maigret chez le ministre (both in 1954), and Maigret et le corps sans tête (1955) are the last Maigret novels written in American soil.

Chronologically I’m going to divide this cycle in three groups:

a) The United States and Canada Period, 1945 – 1955: Maigret Gets Angry (Inspector Maigret #26), Maigret in New York (Inspector Maigret #27), Maigret’s Holiday (Inspector Maigret #28), Maigret and His Dead Man (Inspector Maigret #29), Maigret’s First Case (Inspector Maigret #30), My Friend Maigret (Inspector Maigret #31), Maigret at the Coroner’s (Inspector Maigret #32), Maigret and the Old Lady (Inspector Maigret #33), Madame Maigret’s Friend (Inspector Maigret #34), Maigret’s Memoirs (Inspector Maigret #35), Maigret at Picratt’s (Inspector Maigret #36), Maigret Takes a Room (Inspector Maigret #37), Maigret and the Tall Woman (Inspector Maigret #38), Maigret, Lognon and the Gangsters (Inspector Maigret #39), Maigret’s Revolver (Inspector Maigret #40), Maigret and the Man on the Bench (Inspector Maigret #41), Maigret is Afraid (Inspector Maigret #42), Maigret’s Mistake (Inspector Maigret #43), Maigret Goes to School (Inspector Maigret #44), Maigret and the Dead Girl (Inspector Maigret #45), Maigret and the Minister (Inspector Maigret #46), Maigret and the Headless Corpse (Inspector Maigret #47).

“Maigret tend un piège (1955) is the first written by Simenon after his definitive return to Europe, and it inaugurates in a way a “turning point” in his character’s career, in the sense that the Chief Inspector’s investigations will tend more an more to approach the author’s questions with regard to Man, his responsibility and fate, and the legitimacy of the judiciary and the police machine. The titles of the upcoming novels reflect well this evolution: Un échec de Maigret (1956), Les Scrupules de Maigret (1958) and Maigret hésite (1968). After two novels with a little “lighter” (a lightness also felt in the titles Maigret s’amuse (1956) and then Maigret voyage (1958), the first written on Swiss soil, at Echandes, and in which the author “amuses himself” by leading his character from one corner of France to another, and to Switzerland, as he himself has just done) Les Scrupules de Maigret(1957) is not only a novel where the Chief Inspector ask himself questions about the responsibility of criminals, and of Man in general, but it’s also atypical in the sense that the investigation the Chief Inspector leads is made before the crime rather than after. The following novels will reflect anew all these questions: the effects of aging (Maigret et les témoins récalcitrant 1958), the position of Man in the face of the judiciary Une confidence de Maigret and Maigret aux assises, both 1959). Themes we will see taken up again, supplemented by others, in the novels of the last part of the saga, like the deepening relationship between Maigret and his wife, the refined culinary tastes of the Chief Inspector, and the reminiscence of his childhood. And sometimes Simenon, wanting to treat a theme in a “psychological novel,” doesn’t do so, and uses his Chief Inspector to accomplish his project (as is the case of Maigret et les vieillards, written in 1960).”

b) The Return to Europe, 1955 – 1963: Maigret Sets a Trap (Inspector Maigret #48), Maigret’s Failure (Inspector Maigret #49), Maigret Enjoys Himself (Inspector Maigret #50), Maigret Travels (Inspector Maigret #51), Maigret`s Doubts (Inspector Maigret #52), Maigret and the Reluctant Witnesses (Inspector Maigret #53), Maigret’s Secret (Inspector Maigret #54), Maigret in Court (Inspector Maigret #55), Maigret and the Old People (Inspector Maigret #56), Maigret and the Lazy Burglar (Inspector Maigret #57), Maigret and the Good People of Montparnasse (Inspector Maigret #58), Maigret and the Saturday Caller (Inspector Maigret #59), Maigret and the Tramp (Inspector Maigret #60), Maigret’s Anger (Inspector Maigret #61), and Maigret And The Ghost (Inspector Maigret #62).

c) The Last Part of the Saga, 1964 – 1972: Maigret Defends Himself (Inspector Maigret #63), Maigret’s Patience (Inspector Maigret #64), Maigret and the Nahour Case (Inspector Maigret #65), Maigret’s Pickpocket (Inspector Maigret #66), Maigret Hesitates (Inspector Maigret #67), Maigret in Vichy (Inspector Maigret #68), Maigret’s Childhood Friend (Inspector Maigret #69), Maigret and the Killer (Inspector Maigret #70), Maigret and the Wine Merchant (Inspector Maigret #71), Maigret’s Madwoman (Inspector Maigret #72), Maigret and the Loner (Inspector Maigret #73), Maigret and the Informer (Inspector Maigret #74) and Maigret and Monsieur Charles (Inspector Maigret #75).

“In December 1963 Simenon relocated to Epalinges, and it wasn’t until July of 1964 that the author once more took up his pen and began with Maigret se defend. In 1965, he wrote La patience de Maigret, which forms, in a way, a diptych with the preceding novel….. In February 1972 Simenon wrote Maigret et Monsieur Charles, He didn’t know it, but that was the final novel in the Maigret saga, and his last novel of all..… Chance or irony of fate –or perhaps a premonition?–in Maigret et Monsieur Charles, he tells how Maigret, in the evening of a fine career, was offered the position of Director of the PJ, and how the Chief Inspector refused, because he wanted to remain a man of the earth, to continue his infinite quest in search of the human.

The 28 Maigret short stories: The majority of Maigret short stories translated into English are available in two books: Maigret’s Pipe: Seventeen Stories by Georges Simenon and Maigret’s Christmas: Nine Stories. Three of this stories, previously untranslated into English, are now available at the excellent website Maigret Forum: The Group at the Grand Café (1938); The Unlikely Monsieur Owen (1938) and Death Threats (1942). The maths doesn’t work, there’re actually eighteen stories in the first book and in the second there’s a non-Maigret story and another listed now among Maigret novels.”

Following the order suggested at Maigret Forum, the 28 short stories are: Two Bodies on a Barge (tr. Jean Stewart) in Maigretʻs Pipe: Seventeen Stories; The Mysterious Affair in the Boulevard Beaumarchais (tr. Jean Stewart) in Maigretʻs Pipe: Seventeen Stories; The Open Window (tr. Jean Stewart) in Maigretʻs Pipe: Seventeen Stories; Mr. Monday (tr. Jean Stewart) in Maigretʻs Pipe: Seventeen Stories; Jeumont, 51 Minutes’ Stop! (tr. Jean Stewart) in Maigretʻs Pipe: Seventeen Stories; Death Penalty (tr. Jean Stewart) in Maigretʻs Pipe: Seventeen Stories; Death of a Woodlander (tr. Jean Stewart) in Maigretʻs Pipe: Seventeen Stories; In the Rue Pigalle (tr. Jean Stewart) in Maigretʻs Pipe: Seventeen Stories; Maigret’s Mistake (tr. Jean Stewart) in Maigretʻs Pipe: Seventeen Stories; Madame Maigret’s Admirer (tr. Jean Stewart) in Maigretʻs Pipe: Seventeen Stories; The Old Lady of Bayeux (tr. Jean Stewart) in Maigretʻs Pipe: Seventeen Stories; The Drowned Men’s Inn (tr. Jean Stewart) in Maigretʻs Pipe: Seventeen Stories; Stan the Killer (tr. Jean Stewart) in Maigretʻs Pipe: Seventeen Stories; At the Étoile du Nord (tr. Jean Stewart) in Maigretʻs Pipe: Seventeen Stories; Storm in the Channel (tr. Jean Stewart) in Maigretʻs Pipe: Seventeen Stories; Mademoiselle Berthe and her Lover (tr. Jean Stewart) in Maigretʻs Pipe: Seventeen Stories; The Three Daughters of the Lawyer (tr. Jean Stewart) in Maigretʻs Pipe: Seventeen Stories; The Unlikely M. Owen (tr. Stephen Trussel); The Group at the Grand Café (tr. Stephen Trussel); The Man in the Street (tr. Jean Stewart) in Maigretʻs Christmas: Nine Stories; Sale by Auction (tr. Jean Stewart) in Maigretʻs Christmas: Nine Stories; Death Threats (tr. Stephen Trussel); Maigret’s Pipe (tr. Jean Stewart) in Maigretʻs Pipe: Seventeen Stories; Death of a Nobody (tr. Jean Stewart) in Maigretʻs Christmas: Nine Stories; The Evidence of the Altar-Boy (tr. Jean Stewart) in Maigretʻs Christmas: Nine Stories; The Most Obstinate Customer in the World (tr. Jean Stewart) in Maigretʻs Christmas: Nine Stories; Maigret and the Surly Inspector (tr. Jean Stewart) in Maigretʻs Christmas: Nine Stories, and Maigret’s Christmas (tr. Jean Stewart) in Maigretʻs Christmas: Nine Stories.

As a footnote, I would like to add that “the length of the novels varies between 78 and 121 pages, while the short stories size is much more varied. It ranges from the 47 pages of Maigret’s Christmas to the 8 pages of stories such as Mr. Monday, Death Penalty, Death of a Woodlander, In the Rue Pigalle and Maigret’s Mistake. In fact, very few novels may be considered novels strictly speaking, that is to say with an extension of more than 40.000 words. The majority are novellas in size (between 17.000 and 40.000 words). Sixteen of the so-called short stories are novelettes (between 7.500 and 17.000 words) and the rest are short stories (between 3.500 and 7.500 words).”

Please let me know of any error and/or omission you may find on this page. Thanks beforehand.

My Book Notes: Maigret and the Minister, 1955 (Inspector Maigret #46) by Georges Simenon (Translated by Ros Schwartz)

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

Penguin, 2017. Format; Kindle Edition. File Size: 4934 KB. Print Length: 189 pages. ASIN: B0727YWPBW. ISBN: 978-0-141-98416-2. First published in the magazine Le Cercle du roman policier (Canada) in 1954 originally titled Maigret chez le ministre. Published in book form by Presses of the City in January 1955. The book was written at Shadow Rock Farm, Lakeville, Connecticut, USA, between 16 and 23 August, 1954. It first came out in English translation in 1969 as Maigret and the Calame Report, with eight subsequent re-editions. In the UK it was published under its current title, Maigret and the Minister. Its translator was Moura Budberg then, and the translator for this new Penguin edition in 2017 is Ros Schwartz.

image (5)Opening paragraph: As always when he returned home at night, Maigret paused at the same place, just past the gas lamp, and looked up at the lit windows of his apartment. He was no longer even aware of doing so. Had he been asked point-blank if there was a light or not, he might have been uncertain. Also out of habit, on the stairs between the second and the third floor, he would start unbuttoning his overcoat take the key from his trouser pocket, even though the door invariably opened the moment he step on the mat. These rituals established over the years mattered to him more than he cared to admit. For instance, his wife had a particular way of taking his wet umbrella from his hands at the same time as inclining her head to kiss him on the cheek, although she didn’t this evening because it wasn’t raining.

Book description: Maigret has no taste for politics, or politicians, but when he is summoned to a clandestine meeting by a desperate government minister one evening, he finds himself drawn into an unsavoury world of corruption, scandal and cover ups.

My take: Taking every possible precaution, August Point, the Minister of Public Works, called Maigret’s home from a telephone booth and left the message that he needed talk to him right away. Maigret should not go to the ministry, but to his private apartment, without needing to disturb the concierge. Upon his arrival, Maigret finds out that the urgency of the matter has to do with the Clairfond disaster. The Clairfond sanatorium in Haute-Savoie, one of the most spectacular constructions of the post-war, was located at over 1,400 metres altitude. A month ago, the building collapsed and one hundred and twenty-eight children died. Point wasn’t a cabinet member when it was built, neither was he a member of the parliamentary commission that voted its funding. Until a few days ago, all he knew about this affair was what newspapers had published. But six days after the tragedy, Hector Tabard, a corrupt journalist, published an enigmatic note in the weekly La Rumeur, wondering when the content of the Calame Report was going to be make public. Julien Calame was a well-known professor at the École Nationale des Ponts et Chaussées who died two years ago and he was the one appointed to write a report evaluating the suitability of the project. The École by the way is an institution attached to the ministry of public works. So far nobody had ever seen that report, though many knew of its existence. Until yesterday, when coincidentally, an obscure civil servant called Piquemal, placed on the Minister’s desk a copy of the said report signed by Julien Calame, he claimed had just found in the attic of the École. To his knowledge, there wasn’t any other copies. In his report, Calame was vehemently against its construction informing about the possibility of a catastrophe. Then is when the Minister acknowledges having committed an imprudence. He left the Report in his apartment thinking it was a safe place and now the Report has disappeared from his study, presumably stolen. In consequence, he finds himself in a difficult position. He can be blackmailed by anyone who has the Report in his possession or can be accused for the attempt to dispose of it deliberately. Moreover, who has been able to filter the information of the existence of the Report to the press, precisely at that moment?

Maigret finds himself on unchartered terrain, as the following quotes shows:

In other words, all three of them, Maigret as well as his two colleagues, were on unfamiliar territory. They all felt equally awkward, and had no difficulty imagining the jibes of their counterparts in the Sûreté.

‘I always remain helpful, right until the last minute,’ said Maigret, ‘otherwise I would never embark on an investigation. Because I’m not familiar with the world of politics, I lost time in procedures that might seem futile. But I’m not sure they’re as futile as all that.’

It’s suffice to recall that Maigret had always try to keep himself apart from political disputes, ever since the times when he was forced to leave Paris, on account of the internal struggles between two different police forces.

It should be noted that the story doesn’t revolves around the investigation of a murder, but of a different kind of crime which Maigret voluntarily investigates as a result of the affinity he feels with the Minister, a man whom he had never seen before. In a sense, all this humanises our Inspector, and it brings him near to us all. Likewise the small detail that Simenon, offers us in the first paragraph of this novel, also helps to turn him credible. His daily routine, developed over time. Those reflex acts, of which we are hardly aware of, as, looking at the lights on the window, taking off the coat at a precise moment, or search for the keys on our pockets when returning home from work. Consequently, I don’t hesitate to recommend its reading.

Maigret and the Minister has been reviewed at Crime Review

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

About the Translator: Ros Schwartz is the award-winning translator from French of some seventy-five works of fiction and nonfiction, including the 2010 edition of Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s Le Petit Prince. Her translations include works by Ousmane Sembène, Sébastien Japrisot, Jacqueline Harpman, Yasmina Khadra, Aziz Chouaki, and Dominique Eddé. In 2009 she was made a Chevalier dans l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres. She is cofounder of the Translate in the City summer school in London and she regularly publishes articles on literary translation, including a chapter in The Translator as Writer, (Eds. Susan Bassnett and Peter Bush), published by Continuum. She speaks French, Italian and Spanish. (Source: Words without Borders).

Penguin UK publicity page

Penguin US publicity page

Maigret chez le ministre 

Maigret of the Month: November, 2007

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Maigret y el caso del ministro, de Georges Simenon

Párrafo inicial: Como siempre que regresaba a casa de noche, Maigret se detuvo en el mismo lugar, justo pasada la lámpara de gas, y miró a las ventanas iluminadas de su apartamento. Ni siquiera era consciente de hacerlo. Si le hubieran preguntado directamente si había una luz o no, podría haber estado indeciso. También por costumbre, en las escaleras entre el segundo y el tercer piso, comenzaría a desabotonarse el abrigo, sacar la llave del bolsillo del pantalón, aunque la puerta se abría invariablemente en el momento en que pisara el felpudo. Estos rituales establecidos a lo largo de los años le importaban más de lo que habría querido reconocer. Por ejemplo, su mujer tenía una manera particular de quitarle de las manos su paraguas mojado al mismo tiempo que inclinaba la cabeza para besarlo en la mejilla, aunque no lo hizo esta noche porque no estaba lloviendo.

Descripción del libro: A Maigret no le importa la política, o los políticos, pero una noche, cuando un desesperado ministro del gobierno le cita a un encuentro secreto, se ve envuelto en un mundo desagradable de corrupción, escándalo y encubrimientos.

Mi opinión: Tomando todas las precauciones posibles, August Point, el ministro de Obras Públicas, llamó a la casa de Maigret desde una cabina telefónica y le dejó el mensaje de que necesitaba hablar con él de inmediato. Maigret no debería ir al ministerio, sino a su apartamento privado, sin necesidad de molestar al conserje. A su llegada, Maigret descubre que la urgencia del asunto tiene que ver con el desastre de Clairfond. El sanatorio Clairfond en la Alta Saboya, una de las construcciones más espectaculares de la posguerra, se encontraba a más de 1.400 metros de altitud. Hace un mes, el edificio se derrumbó y ciento veintiocho niños murieron. Point no era miembro del gabinete cuando se construyó, ni tampoco era miembro de la comisión parlamentaria que votó su financiación. Hasta hace unos días, todo lo que sabía sobre este asunto era lo que los periódicos habían publicado. Pero seis días después de la tragedia, Hector Tabard, un periodista corrupto, publicó una nota enigmática en el semanario La Rumeur, preguntándose cuándo se haría público el contenido del Informe Calame. Julien Calame fue un conocido profesor en la Escuela Nacional de Puentes y Carreteras, quien falleció hace dos años y fue el designado para escribir un informe que evaluara la idoneidad del proyecto. Por cierto, la Escuela es una institución adscrita al ministerio de obras públicas. Hasta ahora nadie había visto ese informe, aunque muchos conocían de su existencia. Hasta ayer, cuando por casualidad, un oscuro funcionario llamado Piquemal, colocó en el escritorio del Ministro una copia del citado informe firmado por Julien Calame, que según él acababa de encontrar en el ático de la École. Que él sepa, no había otras copias. En su informe, Calame estaba vehementemente en contra de su construcción, informando sobre la posibilidad de una catástrofe. Entonces es cuando el ministro reconoce haber cometido una imprudencia. Dejó el Informe en su apartamento pensando que era un lugar seguro y ahora el Informe ha desaparecido de su estudio, probablemente robado. En consecuencia, se encuentra en una posición difícil. Puede ser chantajeado por cualquier persona que tenga el Informe en su poder, o puede ser acusado por el intento de deshacerse de él deliberadamente. Además, ¿quién ha podido filtrar la información de la existencia del Informe a la prensa, precisamente en ese momento?

Maigret se encuentra en un terreno desconocido, como muestran las siguientes citas:

En otras palabras, los tres, Maigret y sus dos colegas, estaban en territorio desconocido. Todos se sentían igual de incómodos, y no tenían dificultad alguna en imaginar las burlas de sus homólogos en el Sûreté.

“Siempre me considero útil, hasta el último minuto”, dijo Maigret, “de lo contrario nunca me embarcaría en una investigación. Como no estoy familiarizado con el mundo de la política, perdí tiempo en procedimientos que podrían parecer inútiles. Pero no estoy seguro de que sean tan inútiles como parece”.

Basta recordar que Maigret siempre trató de mantenerse alejado de las disputas políticas, desde los tiempos en que se vio obligado a abandonar París, a causa de las luchas internas entre dos fuerzas policiales diferentes.

Cabe señalar que la historia no gira en torno a la investigación de un asesinato, sino de un tipo de crimen diferente que Maigret investiga voluntariamente como resultado de la afinidad que siente con el Ministro, un hombre al que nunca antes había visto. En cierto sentido, todo esto humaniza a nuestro inspector, y lo acerca a todos nosotros. Asimismo, el pequeño detalle que Simenon, nos ofrece en el primer párrafo de esta novela, también ayuda a que sea creíble. Su rutina diaria, desarrollada con el tiempo. Esos actos reflejos, de los cuales apenas nos damos cuenta, como mirar las luces de la ventana, quitarnos el abrigo en un momento preciso o buscar las llaves en nuestros bolsillos cuando regresamos a casa del trabajo. En consecuencia, no dudo en recomendar su lectura.

Mi valoración: A (Me encantó)

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).