giovedì 7 febbraio 2019


For the Chief Inspector, it's more than an ordinary drink 

Per il commissario, è più di una bevanda ordinaria 
Pour le commissaire, c'est davantage qu'une boisson ordinaire 

Beer is one of the beverages most frequently consumed by Maigret. We could say it is his usual drink. Of course, he also drinks other alcohols, such as calvados, cognac or white wine. Yet beer belongs in some way, like his pipe, to his "trademark", and the Chief Inspector is known to be a pipe smoker as well as a beer lover.  
Beer is generally the first drink he thinks about when he enters a bistro, and he happens to order it "mechanically", like a habit. We can even say that it is a "ritual" to which Maigret bends to conform to his character. Thus in A Man's Head, when he settles in the hotel in front of the Citanguette, he asks the operator to get him some beer and some grey tobacco, two ingredients without which he isn't able to work efficiently…  
Compared with other alcohols, beer has a special virtue: it is refreshing, and can quench the Chief Inspector's thirst better than other drinks. Beer is also a drink that fits well with some meals, especially choucroute, and, in particular, it is the beverage which forms an inseparable pair with sandwiches. When Maigret has no appetite for a restaurant menu, he orders beer and sandwiches. He also favours this duo when he has to work in his office and has no time to go out for lunch or dinner.  
Beer is also an essential ingredient inherent in the interrogation that is taking place behind closed doors in his office. Thus when Maigret has to lead an interrogation outside of his office, he reproduces the same gestures to provide a similar frame to the scene. For example, in Maigret in New York, before he phones to Daumale in France, he begins by drinking a glass of beer, "not because he was thirsty, but by a kind of superstition, because he had always drunk beer before beginning a difficult interrogation, and even during interrogations." 
All this is part, we could say, of a common use of beer. Yet Maigret uses beer consumption for other purposes, which are out of the ordinary. Thus ordering a beer can be a sign of "contestation" from the part of the Chief Inspector, a way to stand out, to impose his "plebeian look" when facing to upper class peopleThat's also why Maigret likes beer, which is consumed in little popular bars: "he wanted a glass of beer in a place where he was neck and neck with ordinary people who care for their small businesses" (Maigret and the Minister). It's also a way to impose his stature, his point of view, to stand up for himself; for example, in The Yellow Dogwhen the mayor comes to express his grievances to Maigret, and tells the Chief Inspector that he will be responsible for anything that could happen, Maigret doesn't answer to him and simply orders a beer to Emma. 
"Filling up on beer" is also "imbibing", just as Maigret imbibes in his surroundings, merging in daydreaming, almost going into trance, which allows him to find out the keys of the enigma. Thus in Signed, Picpus: "Is it the fifth, sixth glass of beer? Little by little Maigret becomes another man. It looks like […] all his faculties become more acute".  
Swallowing a beer (or more than one…) is also the gesture that punctuates the end of an investigation, when all is over and you can "return to everyday life"… waiting until the next investigation… In the saga, Maigret goes and drinks a beer in the final page of many novels: "Five minutes later, at the counter of the little familiar restaurant […] he ordered: - A beer… In the biggest glass you can find…" (Maigret's Boyhood Friend) 

by Simenon-Simenon 

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