giovedì 3 ottobre 2019


About Maigret’s cleverness

Sull’ intelligenza di Maigret
A propos de l’intelligence de Maigret

“Maigret is no a clever man. He’s intuitive.” It was Simenon himself who asserted that. An attitude in which the novelist most often captured his character was to show him sniffing around. It’s a gesture, using one of the five senses, at the same time very material and also very impalpable, and we could even say metaphorical and extra-sensorial.
Even if Maigret is not clever, the conjugation between intuition and flair presupposes a kind of sensibility for understanding situations, mentalities, the way of reasoning of the people he encounters in his investigations; perhaps it even allows him to see further than others.
Of course Maigret’s “elephantine” aspect, his eyes that Simenon himself defined as bovine, do not bring him closer to the other literary investigators in vogue in the 30’s. He does not have Sam Spade’s noir charm, neither Philip Marlowe’s seducing fatalism, Sherlock Holmes’ steadfast and somewhat unpleasant insurance or Miss Marple’s charming investigation methods.
No sex, but much food, no action, but slowness and event often inaction. In fact it’s an apparent inaction because in this kind of idleness Maigret is absorbing, as his creator points out, the surrounding ambiance. Maigret does not seem doing it, yet he puts his sensibility in action, raises invisible antennas.
All that would not seem to delineate a character able to involve readers. His starting up is slow, he is loitering between a bar counter and a concierge’s kitchen where something is simmering, sometimes he may seem exasperating. A homicide has occurred and what is he doing? He is sniffing in the pots, drinking calvados, standing there listening to the talk of the local time wasters.
And yet people read and get caught. Is it about a kind of identification? Of course the Chief Inspector is about as close as you can get to common people. A petty bourgeois, with a caring housewife; he takes the tram (better on the outdoor platform, so that he can smoke there) to go to his office.
Is he one of us? Yes and no. He resembles us, but when he has picked up the right wavelength, he seems everything clearer, he deciphers the codes of conduct, he discovers the links between events and characters and he takes the right path. And when he succeeds in catching the culprit, he has already understood the antecedents, the reasons that pushed him, and this cynical and cheating destiny that guided his hand. Then Maigret decides. Often he decides that law could not have understood, that law would not have been up to justice and thus he decides to take things in charge and to adjust destinies.
But by which right, in whose name? Well… Maigret is not clever, but he has guessed, he has felt and usually he has understood the situation before anyone else; he knows better how the story would have come to an end and often he has the courage to change people's future. Well done, monsieur Maigret!

by Simenon-Simenon

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