January 8, 2007


Revisiting crime classics doesn't disappoint (Patrick Anderson, The Washington Post)

Nostalgia is the sweetest of drugs, but it will cloud our minds, distort our memories and lead us into error if we let it.

It was thus with some reluctance that I turned to these newly reissued Inspector Maigret novels by Georges Simenon, who in his lifetime (1903-89) wrote 75 Maigret mysteries, won international acclaim and numbered among his admirers such diverse figures as Ernest Hemingway, T.S. Eliot, Andre Gide and Henry Miller. Could he really be that good?

Yes, he could be, and is. These two, at least -- "The Bar on the Seine" (1931) and "The Hotel Majestic" (1942) -- are solid police procedurals, but beyond that they are charming and sometimes magical evocations of a Paris now long vanished.

Simenon was interested in crime and criminals, but he was just as interested in lovers, relationship, bars, food, wine, merrymaking and all the sweet madness of life.

His Inspector Maigret, middle-age and stocky, forever puffing on his pipe, prone to drink too much and seemingly lethargic, is unlike any other detective I've encountered. If he suspects a fellow of murder, he's less likely to arrest the guy than to join him for a few shots of Pernod in some dingy bar. But he always gets his man.

The British tv adaptation is great too.

Posted by Orrin Judd at January 8, 2007 11:21 AM

We very much enjoyed the TV episodes on DVD from Netflix and felt somewhat let down when the series ended. The music helped set the scene as much as the actual scenery and actors.

Posted by: erp at January 8, 2007 1:15 PM

Ah, but wasn't Simenon Belgian?

(Simenon's Maigret novels are also useful for keeping up one's basic French reading skills, since he writes a very simple prose that seldom has one reaching for a dictionary.)

Posted by: Jim in Chicago at January 8, 2007 2:01 PM