lunedì 28 maggio 2018

SIMENON SIMENON. G-7 CAME BEFORE MAIGRET

On how this character compares to the one who follows him. 

SIMENON SIMENON. G-7 VINT AVANT MAIGRET 
Comment ce personnage peut se comparer à celui qui le suit. 
SIMENON SIMENON. G-7ARRIVA PRIMA DI MAIGRET
Come questo personaggio può essere confrontato con quello che lo seguirà

G-7 was created a few months before Maigret. “G-7” is a nickname for “Inspecteur B.” Different ‘versions’ of this investigator, including the preceding filiations by Simenon of “Sancette” and “Joseph Boulines” “L53” and “L52,” preceded him. The discussion focuses only on the later G-7 as he appeared in the 14 Enigma stories. 

13 short stories, written about him in the winter of 1928-1929, came out in Détective magazine serially from September to December 1929 under the pseudonym Georges Sim. Maigret came out in Ric et Rac magazine serially from July to October 1930. Maigret resurfaced in the 1931 novel Pietr-le-Letton, and G-7 resurfaced in the 1932 collection Les 13 énigmes. 
So, how much did this earlier G-7 contribute, if anything, to the later Maigret? The limited details about G-7 that his creator provides make comparison easier: there is no physical description of the man whatsoever in 6 of 13 stories and, where presented, the images are restricted to a few repeated features. Curiously, a 14th short story, one also written in 1929 that told more about the man than the other 13, was not published until 1991. It became an appropriate lead-in to the series of Enigma stories published in the 2014 Nouvelles secrètes et policières, Volume 1. A short novel in 1931 and three short stories in 1933 added to the grand total of 18 G-7 tales. 
Unfortunately for pure Anglophones, I could locate only three English translations of the 18 stories. All by Anthony Boucher, they were published in Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine: “The Secret of Fort Bayard” (November 1943), “The Tracy Enigma” (May 1947) [“Le corps disparu” being the French title], and “The Chateau of Missing Men” (August 1948). Some copies are available online. Back issues likely exist in some libraries. 
One can compare G-7 to Maigret through this necessarily partial portrait: G-7 is so named because “he is about as redheaded and red-faced as the Parisian taxicabs bearing this graphic.” As a “big red boy,” he is more than just “big and broad” since he is “well-built though not excessively so” with an “athletic build” and a “powerful stature.” His “expressive face” is “sprinkled with freckles” around “clear eyes.” G-7 is “always smiling” with his “fleshy lips,” flashing many communicative looks, ranging from “a happy smile” to “a strange smile” to “a terribly human bitter smile” to “a certain nonchalance.” But he is also serious; in fact, he is “serious like a fortuneteller.” More than just “a boy sure of himself,” he is “a man concerned enough about serious things to not worry about the way he dressed.” And, like Maigret, G-7 usually remains “calm.” With “no nervousness in the way he puffs on his pipe,” he “declares calmly” or “responds calmly.” Yet, when “grumpy” or “gruff,” he “crushes with his look” and “reprimands” or “groans crabbily” and “hammers home.” 
The detective’s method is distinctive for its direct blunt questioning: Although “stingy with his words,” he does not lack “the audacity to ask questions” usually “demanded in a cutting tone.” Since “his first concern is to impose silence on his targets,” he orders, “You will respond to my questions […] in as few words as possible.” And thus, with “not a minute wasted, four witnesses march through in less than an hour.” Evidence goes into a notebook to which G-7 “devotes a good ten minutes making legible notes,” whereas Maigret tends to dabble in drawing sketches. 
Maigret-like trances are another investigative feature: G-7 “remained immobile without breathing a word for a good half-hour.” The narrator, his ever-present friend, explains, “In a word, he seemed empty of thoughts, but I learned from then on to discount that look.” 
G-7 drinks wine, smokes a pipe, and rides a bicycle, all Maigret-like activities. Maigret plays a little chess, but G-7 has “just one passion: the game of chess.” And most unlike Maigret, G-7 knows how to and does drive a car. 


David P Simmons

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