I have finally started on my first Inspector Maigret novel, after hearing and reading all the good things about this famous creation of Georges Simenon’s. So far (at the halfway point, that is), I am happy to report that it is living up to expectations. 🙂
Simenon has been described as the most economical of writers, following closely the advice given by Colette to “Be simple. Never try for literary effect. Leave out every word or syllable you can.” Although the writing is often economical and taut, it is however, not without its literary flair. The wonderful feel for places and people that Simenon has is one of the reasons for the Maigret novels’ appeal. It is said that Simenon’s empathy, and his insight into how people behave when they approach the breaking point, is what lifts his work high above the common run of crime fiction.
I think I am rather inclined to agree with that, after coming across the excerpts below in the first half of Pietr the Latvian:
Inside every wrong-doer and crook there lives a human being. In addition, of course, there is an opponent in the game, and it’s the player that the police are inclined to see. [….] Some crime or offense is committed. The match starts on the basis of more or less objective facts. It’s a problem of one or more unknowns that a rational mind tries to solve.
Maigret works like any other policeman. […] But what he sought, what he waited and watched out for, was the crack in the wall. In other words, the instant when the human being comes out from behind the opponent.
It’s a long way from Gare Saint-Lazare to Hotel de Ville, there’s a whole city centre to get through. Between six and seven in the evening, pedestrians flood the pavements in ocean waves, and traffic pulses along the streets like blood pumping down an artery. [….] He reached the ghetto of Paris, that’s to say, the area around Rue de Rosiers, in the Marais. He sidled past shop fronts with signs in Yiddish, kosher butchers and window displays of matzot. At one corner, giving on to a passageway so dark and deep it looked like a tunnel, a woman tried to take him by the arm, but let go without his saying a word. Presumably he had made a strong impression on her.
Seeing that this is just the first of all his 75 Maigret novels, one can certainly look forward to taking one’s time in getting better acquainted with the Inspector, I guess.
I don’t think I could have made a better choice than to have started off with this, for this year’s Paris in July.
Oh, and if you are interested to go on a trail of Maigret’s Paris one of these days, do check this out. 🙂