martedì 19 aprile 2016


Simenon on two favorite topics: weak doctors and human psychology.

Simenon sur deux sujets favoris : des docteurs faibles et de la psychologie forte.
Simenon tratta due soggetti a lui cari: i medici deboli e una psicologia, umana
The original version of The Midwinter Marriage on Police-Roman
In The Midwinter Marriage, multiple doctors, in fact neurologists who treat the mentally disturbed, heckle our hero. This 5th story in The Little Doctor collection begins like a typical Maigret: it’s raining ice-cold drops under a black sky as Dollent forsakes his beloved Tin Lizzie for a depressing 50-mile train ride to dark, somber Boulogne in answer to a desperate plea from a troubled medical school classmate, Philippe Lourtie.
Our doctor/detective begins collecting clues in an effort to unravel the apparent enigma of the double life that Madeleine Lourtie, the brand-new wife of his troubled colleague, seems to be leading, while he downs toddies and brandies—Simenon attributes Dollent’s drinking on the job to chance rather than alcoholism at this point in developing his character. Anonymous typewritten letters and candid photos have pushed Philippe into confirming Madeleine’s presence in places completely out of character for his apparently upstanding and dutiful spouse.
As Dollent piles up details, the plot thickens during a Christmas Eve dinner party at the Lourtie’s. The scene is reminiscent of the monthly Doctor Dinners the Maigrets and Pardons enjoyed together—except the four doctors and two wives in Boulogne are edgy nervous liars unlike the relaxed and easygoing foursome we know so well in Paris. It’s a typical Simenonesque depiction, this time showing how doctors involved with crazies are often crazies as well. Ostensibly out of the blue, but clearly stimulated by his intuitions, our doctor drops a bomb into this complex society of deceit, jealousy, and guilt. His anecdote about drug-trafficking doctors abroad draws similar accusations directed at him and drives the celebrants away.
Dollent proceeds to uncover two additional compromising matters: Philippe’s secretary Odile may be in love with her boss and his colleague Kling may be in love with his wife. While asking questions in the seedy locations where Madeleine has been photographed, Dollent discovers she had been there searching for Phillipe! Like ships in the night, the newlyweds had been tracking one another in secret. After more (now known by the reader to be inevitable) deductions, Dollent confronts his various suspects openly and eventually forces a confession from the responsible culprit in private. The doctor/detective explains the mystery indirectly to all, but in another example of Maigret-like double compassion for criminals and victims as already discussed in a previous post, he ensures the innocent couple will live happily ever after without blame and the guilty party will leave town on a permanent vacation without incrimination.

David P Simmons

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