venerdì 16 febbraio 2018

SIMENON SIMENON. TWO AUTHORS IN FRONT OF THE BAR

On how Georges Simenon and Louise Penny depict the court 

SIMENON SIMENON. DEUX ECRIVAINS A LA BARRE 
Comment Georges Simenon et Louise Penny dépeignent le tribunal 
SIMENON SIMENON. DUE SCRITTORI ALLA SBARRA
Come Georges Simenon e
Louise Penny descrivono il tribunale

Rereading Georges Simenon’s Maigret in Court became a no-brainer after reading Louise Penny’s new best selling novel Glass Houses. Both protagonists, Jules Maigret and Armand Gamache, become immersed as prosecution witnesses against accused murderers in remarkable courtroom scenes. 
First of all, both novelists uniquely liken the courtroom proceedings to church servicesThus, for Maigret: Waiting to “track the ritualistic ceremony of the court was like being in kind of in a sacristy,” and he “was feeling the same trouble” he felt “at mass in the village church.” It is the same for Gamache“Trials, like masses, were theatrics. He could almost smell the incense and hear a tinny, tiny bell.” 
Both witnesses are physically uncomfortable in court. Their creators single out the role of heat in particular, making the courtroomoppressively hot, forcing the participants to squirm, sweat, and thirst. Maigret: “The radiators were burning hot. An invisible steam, smelling more and more human, rose up from hundreds of bodies, elbow to elbow, from wet clothes, from breaths.” Gamache: “It was hot. Sweltering. […] He could taste perspiration from his upper lip.” In the stifling heat, “it would be superhuman not to perspire. Gamache was sweating freely and willing himself not to take out his handkerchief and wipe his face.” 
Even more so, both witnesses are psychologically uncomfortable in courtMaigret: “The most painful part of his job was testifying in court because “wasn’t everything counterfeit there?” The man, the one who doesn’t like to judge others, suffers “because human beings saw themselves all of a sudden summed up, so to speak, in a few phrases, in just a few sentences.” Gamache: “The witness box was not his favorite place in the world. And far from his favorite thing to do. To testify against another human being.” Yet, there he was, under fire, “in what had become, almost literally, a grilling.” 
And, suddenly, there is a surprise dichotomy: one witness is honest and the other is not. Maigret: “Everything he had just said was true and “his sentences adhered to the truth.” Gamache: “Oui. And there it was. The Chief Superintendent had perjured himself. Indeed, “It was a most serious crime. Perjury. The perversion of justice.”  
And stillthe courtroom drama escalates in both cases. A higher system of justice, one based upon personal conscience, overrules what typically plays out in court. Thus, for Maigret: “Wasn’t he on both sides of the fence at the same time?” Facing the choice of following the “complicated apparatus of Justice” or having a “completely clear conscience, the Chief Inspector is like “the jurors who had to decide in good conscience if….” And for Gamache: “There is a higher court than courts of justice and that is the court of conscience. It supersedes all other courts.” Again and again, his “conscience rose up” to direct his behavior. The Chief Superintendent admitted to himself that while he believed in the law, had spent his career working within the justice system, what he really had to answer to was his conscience. And that was proving to be a pretty harsh judge.” 

David P Simmons 

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