giovedì 22 febbraio 2018

SIMENON SIMENON. TWO DETECTIVES: MAIGRET AND GAMACHE

Simenon’s and Penny’s protagonists in comparison and contrast 

SIMENON SIMENON. DEUX DETECTIVES: MAIGRET ET GAMACHE 
Les protagonistes de Simenon et de Penny en comparaison et en contraste 
SIMENON SIMENON. DUE DETECTIVE: MAIGRET ET GAMACHE
I protagonisti di Simenon e di Penny analogie e contrasti 

Louise Penny’s statement that my books are often described as Christie-esque, but I think a closer fit are the Maigret books” invites comparison in general. And one critic’s claim that “Armand Gamache is an homage to George Simenon's Inspector Jules Maigret begs for comparison of the men themselves. 
Both men are of French origin, but Maigret is French French, whereas Gamache is Canadian French. Growing up as Francophones, Maigret acquires some limited English capability over his lifetime, whereas Gamache becomes competently bilingual as a young student. Maigret lives and works in the large urban location of Paris, France, whereas Gamache lives and works in the small rural setting of Three Pines, QuebecAs homicide detectives, both gradually assume expanded responsibilities in their careers with Maigret becoming Chief Inspector in the city and Gamache becoming Chief Superintendent in the provinceMaigret remains relatively independent and aloof, whereas Gamache becomes quite bureaucratic and involved. The nature of their associates differs considerably. Exclusively male assistants support Maigret, whereas several women work with Gamache. What’s more, his second in command is family—his son-in-law. 
Maigret is a “massive” man, an “elephant,” whereas Gamache is merely “a large man.” As for alcohol consumption, Maigret drinks daily and heavily, whereas Gamache is considerably more restrained. Maigrets taste is mostly beer, whereas Gamache seems to favor scotch. (Note: Simenon’s excesses and Penny’s sobriety.) Maigret is an inveterate pipe smoker, whereas Gamache does not seem to smoke at all. “Gamache accepted the drink but refused the smoke.” 
Both men are well educated and intelligent. Maigret studied at a French medical school and Gamache studied at an Englishuniversity. Maigret reads narrowly: scientific, primarily medical materials, and very little fiction. Gamache reads widely: A.A. Milne, William Golding, Carlo Collodi, Shakespeare, Churchill, Ghandi….  
Despite all this, their personalities are remarkably similar. Both are calm and patientstubborn and tenacious, measured and thoughtful. Compassion and empathy characterize both (with Maigret seeming gruff and toughGamache, gentle and tender). Maigret’s credo is to not judge others, and Gamache also likes “to use his judgment, but never to judge.” Both rely on psychology to a great deal in their method (with Maigret a bit more intuitive more and Gamache a bit more calculating). 
Yet, their family lives are remarkably different. Both husbands are devoted to their wives, both of whom are warm and stable, but Louise is a housewife and a subordinate, whereas Reine-Marie works outside of the home and is an equal. The Maigrets are childless. The Gamaches not only have children (Annie and Daniel), but they also have in-laws and grandchildren to whom they are very connected. 
Given the unbalanced material bases—103 Maigrets and 13 Gamaches—it is no wonder Simenon’s protagonist is more extensive and complete. However, Penny’s protagonist is already more nuanced and may still be evolving. 

David P Simmons 

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