The Myth of Simenon

December 16, 2014 | By Charlotte Groult

      

                        Drawing by the illustrator Loustal

Like his most famous character, the inspector Jules Maigret, the Belgian crime author Georges Simenon is immediately recognizable: always a pipe in his mouth and a felt hat on his head, he is today almost as legendary as Maigret.

Simenon did seemingly everything in great quantities: His work was published under countless noms de plume, he wrote endless words per day without stopping, started his morning with several glasses of alcohol, and had various mistresses. "Everything in moderation" wasn't exactly Simenon's mantra.

Christian Brulls, Jean du Perry, Georges Sim, Jacques Dersonne, Luc Dorsan, Georges-Martin Georges, Gom Gut, Gaston Vialis… these were all pen names under which Simenon published his books. He was incredibly prolific: It is said he could type for 11 hours straight and produce 80 pages a day, or around 70 words per minute nonstop. Two of Simenon's biographers, Claude Menguy and Pierre Deligny, added up the author's works and found he wrote a total of 431 titles. Of those 431 titles, 75 were Maigret novels, which Penguin Books, Simenon’s British paperback publishers since 1952, have decided to have re-translated and re-printed in their entirety.
 

                        
 

This printing signifies that the entire Maigret series will available in the same unabridged edition, in English, for the very first time. Beginning in the fall of 2013 with Pietr the Latvian, the first book in the series of the inspector Jules Maigret, Penguin has decided to publish one newly translated Maigret novel per month, plus several of his romans durs, or “hard” novels. 15 novels have been released so far.

Despite his easy-to-read style, which made some critics claim that “he was writing as Mr. Everyman”, Simenon succeeded in gathering millions of fans from all over the world through his books, as well as through film adaptations. More than 60 movies and TV shows have been created from Simenon titles, including some by internationally acclaimed filmmakers such as Jean Renoir, Jean-Pierre Melville and Bertrand Tavernier. Most recently filmmaker and actor Mathieu Amalric adapted Simenon's novel The Blue Room, which came out in the US last fall. For the author Julian Barnes, it is “because [his books] offer a continuous, reliable, easily re-enterable world” that they work so well. Indeed, Simenon is the third most translated francophone author in the world, after Jules Verne and Alexandre Dumas, with more than 550 millions of copies of his work in print. Not too bad for Mr. Everyman.
 

                       
 

Already published by Penguins:

-Pietr the Latvian, November 2013

-The Late Monsieur Gallet, December 2013

-The Hanged Man of Saint-Pholien, January 2014
  Note: This title was translated by French Voices committee member Linda Coverdale

-The Carter of 'La Providence', February 2014

-The Yellow Dog, March 2014

-The Night at the Crossroads, April 2014

-A Crime in Holland, May 2014

-The Grand Banks Café, June 2014

-The Mahé Circle, June 2014

-A Man's Head, July 2014

-The Dancer at the Gai-Moulin, August 2014

-The Two-Penny Bar, September 2014

-The Shadow Puppet, October 2014

-The Saint-Fiacre Affair,  November 2014

-The Flemish House, December 2014

To be published in 2015:

-The Madman of Bergerac, January 2015

-The Misty Harbour, February 2015

-Liberty Bar, March 2015

-Lock No. 1, April 2015

-Inspector Maigret Omnibus, June 2015

-Monsieur Hire's Engagement, October 2015
 

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