On a short story with two different endings
SIMENON SIMENON. “BENIS SOIENT LES HUMBLES”
A propos d'une nouvelle avec deux fins différentes
SIMENON SIMENON. "BENEDETTI SIANO GLI UMILI"
A proposito di un racconto con due fini differenti
Ellery Queen was a writer of popular American detective fiction during the 1900s. Actually, ‘he’ was a two-cousin team that developed a heroic fictional detective character named, yes, Ellery Queen in 1928. One of their many products was Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine, initiated in 1941 and advancing from a quarterly to a monthly in 1946. The magazine, replete with offshoots in the crime and mystery story world including a modern website, is still up and running. Over the years, EQMM has published numerous Simenon short stories (I counted 31originals plus 11 reissues), making it a potential source of Simenon works translated and published in English. One of those stories stands out, in particular, because it won first prize in one of the magazine’s notable annual short story contests. Blessed are the Meek appeared first in the April 1949 edition of EQMM and was re-released in 1969 and 1991 editions. It also appeared elsewhere in special compilations of mystery stories by various editors in 1970, 1976, and 1978. Thus, eager Anglophone ought to be able to track down a translation to read (as I did).
The prize winning Blessed are the Meek puts a humble unlikely amateur on the trail of a brazen serial killer. The pursuer is, at the same time, excited about collecting the posted reward and terrified about confronting his brutal prey. This clever, gripping drama provides strong characters, interclass tension, and suspense into terror, culminating in a surprise denouement plus unique bonding between the protagonist and antagonist at the end, all this in roughly 25 pages.
Besides the prize won, what caught my eye about this story was the discovery that Simenon had written an earlier version with an entirely different ending. He wrote the first story in French while living in the USA sometime during 1947. Its title was Le petit tailleur et le chapelier (= The Little Tailor and the Hatter). The reasons why the author substituted a different ending and why this second version was eventually published before the first are unclear. Confusing things even more, the English translation of the second story appeared in EQMM before the French original story appeared in France’s Mystère Magazine as Bénis soient les humbles. And the beat went on, for the second version with its different ending appeared, side by side, with the first version and its original ending in a 1950 French collection of short stories, Maigret et les petits cochons sans queue. This is a nice bonus, for the juxtaposition allows readers to directly compare both versions with their different endings.
To avoid spoiling the reading of either, suffice it for me to say that, first of all, the two versions are identical right up to the final two and three pages respectively. At which point the plots evolve completely differently, but both endings are plausible and consistent in terms of the preceding context. This ultimate divergence hinges on Simenon’s clever and careful, almost split-second timing in inserting a character armed with a suspicion and some proof regarding the killer. Without indicating which story is which, the result is a protagonist who becomes a big loser with a small consolation prize in one and a big winner with a small added-on bonus in the other.
David P Simmons
da queste due novelle uguali ma con l utlimo dei quattro capitoli differente simenon ricaverà la trama per il romanzo i fantasmi del cappellaioRispondiElimina