lunedì 10 giugno 2019


look at a strong, sober Maigret 

Un aperçu sur un Maigret fort et sobre 
Uno sguardo su un Maigret e forti e sobrio 

Having recently provided a three-part review of Risto Ranki’s detailed work examining Maigret’s patterns of alcohol consumption, it seems timely to examine the three-week period when Simenon actually puts his protagonist on the wagon. Indeed, a new English translation of Maigret in Vichy, the Maigret novel in the series that describes such a situation, is in the offing from Penguin. For this exceptional event, Simenon has Dr. Pardon discover Maigret’s liver is “a little enlarged, an important medical sign that heavy drinking is doing a number on the 53-year-old’s physical health. The treatment advised is an in-house regimen at a health sanatorium in Vichy, a location renowned for its therapeutic water in particularMaigret will drink great quantities of this cleansing potion while he—ironically—dries out by abstaining from alcohol. As Maigret laments existing without beer and without wine, the reader wonders if he will be successful or not. In fact, at the same time Simenon describes the Maigret couple commencing “a certain number of rituals they took with the greatest seriousness,” he asks if Maigret was really serious? 
So, here is what “21 days” of good cleansing of the body at Vichy entailsMaigret’s honest tally of his typical alcohol consumption—“more” than a liter of wine a day, “only 2 to 3 glasses of wine at meals, glass of beer sometimes” in the office, “an aperitif rather often—triggers the following prescription: drink a glass of special water and repeat this every half an hour while alternating between salty and sulfury types and also taking it as hot as possible. Of course, he is not to drink alcohol. Curiously at meals, he is allowed water “at the most tinted with a little wine,” but it turns out his commitment is such that he “barely wet his lips” on any glass of wine-tinted water.  In sum, it becomes the water, always the water,” and the reader hears him exhorting his wife: Lets go take our glass of water…” RemarkablyMaigret does not seem tempted to drink. Although he notices all the tables in the Vichy dining room have wine bottles on them except his, he does not request a bottle. Even when he goes into a bar to make a telephone call, a situation for him in which buying a pay phone token and an alcoholic beverage together was a routinehe does not have a drink. 
Multiple factors come together to help Maigret tolerate the absence of drink: most importantly during the stay, the Maigrets “are practically together 24 of 24 hours” as a couple, a supportive togetherness that does not occur in Paris. He gets to smoke his pipe freelySimenon has him smoking it 15 (yes!) times, the action helping him psychologically and the nicotine helping him physiologically. He gets to eat rich “prepared meals liberally. He gets completely wrapped up in solving a murder mystery. Notably, the only real challenge to abstinence occurs while taking a break from interrogating the killer and his police confrere suggests a tension-relieving beer in a nearby bar. Still, the word beer brought [only] a smile of resignation to his lips.” Maigret does not cave in and he goes right back to the grilling. 
At the end of the novel, when Maigret has just arrested the killer, Madame Maigret innocently (?) plants the notion of having a beer in his head, but he simply takes a few puffs on his pipe and goes to bed. This final act of acquiescence typifies the way he has behaved during the full period of abstinence. However, having commented that Maigret “astonished himself” when he “decided” to let them “ship me off to drink water,” Simenon does wonder if this “docile” and “calm” teetotaler “will be someone “the cure enables to not self-monitor too much during the rest of the year.” Thus, it remains to be seen how long it will be before Simenon has him fall off the wagon. 

David P Simmons 

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