giovedì 21 marzo 2019


Which are the reasons for Maigret's continued success? 

Quali sono le cause del continuo successo di Maigret? 
Quelles sont les causes du succès pérenne de Maigret ? 

Poe's Auguste Dupin, Hammet's Sam Spade, Chandler's Philip Marlowe in the USA. Doyle's Sherlock Holmes, Christie's Hercule Poirot and Miss Marple in Great Britain. All these had a common denominator: they were private investigators. Then Simenon arrived with his Maigret, somewhat shuffling cards in the genre. First his character was a civil servant. As Chief Inspector of the Homicide Brigade, he was an employee of the French public administration, with all regulations, paperwork and hierarchies he had to deal with, whether he liked it or not, whereas the Anglo-American "private-eyes" depended only from themselves and they hatheir hands free. In the novels where these detectives appeared, the police characters never made a good impression… The private investigator was always a step ahead, had insights, knowledge, ability to observe and find evidence that escaped the various official policemen. 
Maigret would also take some shortcuts with law, but the main point is that he's a "normal" character, much closer to the reader than Sherlock Holmes or Philip Marlowe. Maigret goes home for dinner and he has a wife who takes care of him. Sometimes he falls ill, argues with his superiors, goes to cinema with his wife on Sunday afternoon. In short he lives a life much closer to ordinary people, these people who would buy the books that tell the story of his investigations, and those who could be protagonists in these investigations.  
Simenon created a unique character in the detective novel; Maigret is indeed "un homme comme les autres", a man like others, to whom the reader can identify. Yet Maigret is also a character very different from the characters the readers used to know in the '30s. It's fascinating to see the success Maigret had since his beginnings, and not only in France. How can we explain that this "banal", very Frenchy policeman had immediately found an echo across borders? Why did the first translations of the Maigret novels appear so soon? What was the reason why this character was immediately evocative to the readers, whether Italian, Anglophone or Scandinavian?  
When you read a novel with Hercule Poirot or Sherlock Holmes, you can find these characters amusing, even brilliant in their logical deductions, yet you don't really feel sympathy for them, or at least you would not come to the idea of identifying with them… With Maigret, on the contrary, we would think and feel with him or even like he does. If we feel so close to Maigret, it's because his author approaches him from another point of view: we feel sympathy for Maigret, because of the infinite number of small notations about his feelings, his way of sniffling odours, of undergoing rain or welcoming sunshine, and his way of living a life which, by its very banality, makes him very human 
What made Maigret's success since his beginnings was not only that he was very different from the literary "super-heroes" of that time, but also because, in his banal appearance, the Chief Inspector had a way of agreeing with his feelings, of "breathing life through every pore", and of giving the impression to every reader that all life, as ordinary as it seems, contains its own poetry and its own value…  

by Simenon-Simenon 

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