Why Simenon and Maigret are pipe smokers
SIMENON SIMENON. IL ROMANZIERE IL COMMISSARIO: UNA STORIA DI PIPE
Perche Simenon e Maigret sono fumatori di pipa
SIMENON SIMENON. LE ROMANCIER ET LE COMMISSAIRE : UNE HISTOIRE DE PIPES
Pourquoi Simenon et Maigret sont des fumeurs de pipe
Simenon and his famous Chief Inspector Maigret are two avid pipe smokers, but they smoke different pipes and different tobaccos. Simenon began to smoke pipe when he was very young, even before he worked for the Gazette de Liége, and he smoked all his life long. In one of his Dictées, De la cave au grenier (1975), he explained his attraction for the pipe: “the pipe is a true object, a personal object, which ends up being part of you. I just dare say owning about three hundred pipes, even if I have only about twenty of them in my little pink house. Well, despite the number, I know all of them, as they were friends.”
And in another Dictée, Vacances obligatoires (1976), he remembered “the day when I bought my first pipe. I was then about 13. It was at the beginning of autumn. The month before, during holydays, I had had my first sexual experience. I don’t know whether there is a relationship between the two events but I wouldn’t be surprised about that. Suddenly I felt or I believed I was a man and didn’t the pipe take its place in my life so to assert it?”
Then he explained the choice of a pipe, which is a very delicate moment for a smoker: “I don’t buy a pipe by chance. Each of them marks an event, always, moreover a happy or at least joyful event. For example when I had finished a novel, a bit like, at some periods in the year, a child is given a toy.”
Preference for a certain type of pipe is the hallmark of every smoker and Simenon claimed that “some people collect pipes of various models, various materials. Mine alike as brothers. They are all made of briar. Most of them are straight and I am perhaps the only one to recognize them from each other at first sight.”
The pipes were also part of the kit that Simenon scrupulously prepared, when he was engaged in writing a novel for days. It is difficult to find a picture of the novelist without a pipe between his teeth or in the frame near him. It is rather obvious, since, as we said above, Simenon claimed he had bought his first pipe very early in his life, and had never stopped smoking since then. As he liked to say, the pipe had become a part of him. He didn’t like cigarettes, which he considered as an object to burn quickly and then to throw away.
As for tobacco, he claimed having always smoked Dunhill, an English tobacco of great quality, but rather expensive. Yet we can think that, when he left Liège for Paris, at the times he was hungry in a poor little room of the Hotel de la Bertha, maybe it was not that kind of tobacco he could afford. Later on, when he became wealthy, he chose the Royal Yacht Club tobacco, a classic of Dunhill's finest blends. And when Simenon became famous, the English house made a mixture cut specifically for him, which was called "Maigret Cut's".
Finally we can say that in some way it was unavoidable that his most famous character, who would accompany him for forty years of writing, could not but smoke the pipe. Moreover, this is one of the distinguishing features of the Chief Inspector; a feature which, in our opinion, was chosen by Simenon because he perfectly knew the habits, the foibles and even the tics of a pipe smoker, and that would be a connotation that gave a true and concrete depth to Maigret.
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