PARIS – Commissioner Maigret resumes service … 90 years after his first appearance in a novel by the Belgian writer Georges Simenon, who disappeared almost 30 years ago.
On the occasion of this double anniversary, the editions Omnibus (Editis group) took the initiative to reissue (30,000 copies) Tout Maigret, that is to say, 103 novels and news gathered in 10 volumes with covers illustrated by Loustal.
In the cinema, the director Patrice Leconte will direct this autumn Daniel Auteuil who will play the role of the curator in a film inspired by the novel Maigret and the young girl. New audiobooks of Maigret are announced.
“At Simenon, everything is good,” says academician Goncourt Pierre Assouline. “We should gird our work with a banner entitled” The human condition “and so what if it’s already taken.
His colleague from the Goncourt academy Philippe Claudel adds: “There are no little novels of Simenon, just as there are no small thoughts of Pascal.”
Pierre Assouline, author of a biography of Georges Simenon (Simenon, Folio) and Philippe Claudel each write a preface to one of the volumes of Omnibus’s anthology alongside other writers, including the French Academician Dominique Fernandez, the director Bertrand Tavernier and the actor Bruno Solo.
The name of Maigret first appeared in 1929 under the pen of Simenon (who then signed under the pseudonym of Georges-Martin Georges) in the romantic novel A shadow in the night, but it was under the guise of … of a doctor.
Doctor or commissioner? In his biography of Simenon, Pierre Assouline notes that Commissioner Maigret will later recognize a failed doctor.
In fact, Jules Maigret, the policeman that millions of readers know, appeared for the first time in his qualities in 1930 in Night Train (signed Christian Brulls, another pseudonym Simenon). But he still has only a minor place in the novel.
The first “real” Maigret could have been the one investigating The House of Concern, but Simenon felt the novel was a failure and refused to include it in his series.
The first “official” Maigret is Pietr-le-Letton , the first book that Simenon signs with his name. It was published in 1931, but Simenon later recounted it in September 1929 when he was drafted during a stay in Delfzijl in the Netherlands.
This first Maigret is already familiar. Simenon describes it as “enormous and bony” of a “plebeian frame”, “the pipe riveted in the jaw” …
The first publisher of Simenon, Artheme Fayard, is hardly convinced by this gruff and cerebral commissioner. It is “unpublishable,” he says to Simenon before affirming, Assouline recalls, that the Maigret will have “no success”.
Faced with his young author (Simenon is 27 years old) the editor sighs: “We will lose a lot of money, but I want to try the experiment”.
We know the rest. Since 1931, 600 million books of Simenon have passed in the world, because Maigret goes far beyond the space of the French-speaking world. The Belgian author is the third most translated French-language author in the world.
The pace of publication is frenetic. Between 1931 and 1934, 19 Maigret are published (the last will be in 1972). The curator Maigret becomes a familiar figure, especially as the cinema gets involved.
As early as 1932, Julien Duvivier directed The Head of a Man, with Harry Baur in the role of Commissioner. Jean Renoir directs his brother Pierre in La nuit du carrefour. Jean Tarride, his father Abel in The yellow dog.
In total, some 70 films and more than 400 TV movies were taken from the 75 novels and 28 new ones with Maigret besides the movies (like Mr. Hire or The widow Couderc ) or TV movies adapted from the Simenon novels without the curator, which the writer named his “hard novels”.
Maigret’s performers include Michel Simon, Jean Gabin, the American Charles Laughton, the Italian Gino Cervi, the German Heinz Ruhmann. On TV, there was Jean Richard, Bruno Cremer, the Japanese Kinya Aikawa or the British Rowan Atkinson.