lunedì 6 giugno 2016

SIMENON SIMENON. “MAIGRET AT THE CORONER’S”

How this book stands out as an exception in the Maigret series.

SIMENON SIMENON. “MAIGRET CHEZ LE CORONER”
Comment ce livre constitue comme une exception dans la série des Maigret. 
SIMENON SIMENON. "MAIGRET CHEZ LE CORONER"
Come questo titolo costituisca un'eccezione tra la serie delle inchieste di Maigret


 This book is atypical of the 103 works, but to my view it is one of the best. Unfortunately, it’s a poor choice for readers who are not relatively familiar with Maigret. No less than seven features make it striking:
1) Maigret leaves France. He rarely ever leaves his home country, but for this adventure, he goes to the USA, specifically to Tuscon, Arizona. Moreover, this is the first (and maybe) the only time he travels anywhere for an official study, which in this case is to “get up to date on American methods.” If you like these ‘American’ elements, consider reading Maigret in New York as well. That book came out earlier although it deals with an investigation he pursued after his retirement.
2) Maigret only observes. He attends a coroner’s inquest in front of a jury regarding a dead woman and five implicated men. The question is whether her death was an accident, a suicide, or a homicide, and the testimony includes multiple conflicting stories. Maigret develops his own opinions, but he leaves before the inquest is finished, and Simenon tells us “he never did know the verdict.”
3) Maigret understands English. Both books with Maigret in the USA make reference to some schoolboy education in English. Yet, to understand legal courtroom parlance and colloquial witness testimony as well as he seems to, he would need more than that. I submit that Maigret honed his Anglophone understanding through his study of medicine—he subscribed to The Lancet, a weekly British medical journal, throughout his career as a policeman.
4) Maigret is all alone. None of his customary associates accompany or support him. No Lucas, Janvier, Lapointe, etc. Madame Maigret is not involved, either. In fact, he doesn’t even send her the postcards he promised her and he only writes one letter—in the airplane while is flying him out of Arizona.
5) Maigret is a veteran. We read this twice. First, while wondering why something is provoking Maigret, Simenon asks, “Was it because he was remembering his military service…?” Second, repeated interrogating about the timing of events during the testimony “reminded him of his military service…” The idea of Maigret in the military was brand new to me when I came across it in this book. My 2015 inquiry in the Trussel forum uncovered a similar reference in Maigret and the Hotel Majestic. What, if anything at all, have others run into regarding Maigret in the military?
6) American-French comparisons abound. Simenon comments extensively on the country “where they had everything” using the thoughts and words of Maigret. He reports on the people, houses, stores, bars, and “movie theaters on every street corner,” to cite just a few. One can readily envision Maigret the way he described himself: “like a little boy during his first recess at a new school” assessing all this novel and dissimilar material in “astonishment.”
7) There are actual maps. Four reproductions of blackboard drawings employed during the course of the inquest appear on separate whole pages. If Simenon uses such graphic techniques in other Maigret stories, it will be news to me. I understand these maps do not appear in every English edition, so I hope Penguin includes them, for they are very helpful. 
David P Simmons

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