Sunday, 19 February 2017

Maigret and the Tall Woman by Simenon

In linear measure a perch aka pole aka rod is 5 1/2 yards, so Long Tall Ernestine is known as La Grand Perche, the beanpole. Maigret met her before, 17 years ago:
Looking for information on the girl, he had gone into two or three of the local bars and might have drunk the odd Pernod or two.
He could almost smell them again, along with the whiff of armpits and feet that pervaded the tiny hotel.
As it happens he arrested her for the theft of a client’s wallet which she claimed she was holding for Lulu another girl. A likely story which happened to be true but that’s all water under the Pont Michel. What she has to tell Maigret is the bizarre event of her burglar husband finding a dead body in the dentists house whose safe he has just rifled. Panicking he leaves his tools and the loot behind and flees fearing that he would be blamed. Alors!
All this detail is related in the laconic expert storytelling manner of Simenon. He is a master in the show don’t tell school of narratology. For instance the pungent world of the cop is contrasted with the fragrant world of Madame Maigret but the information is so separated that it’s planted in you without you being strictly made aware of it.]
Madame Maigret had said this morning that she would be going to the flower market and asked him, if he was free around midday, to meet her there. It was midday. He hesitated, leaned out of the window, from where he saw the splashes of vivid colours behind the parapet of the embankment.
Maigret’s nose leads him elsewhere towards an excuse to visit the dentist who lives alone with his mother. His wife it seems has but recently left for Amsterdam curiously around the time of Sad Freddy’s burglary. It stinks, this story, but there is no body.
There are plenty of other bodies and bistros and the Pernod gets caned. In deft lines a life is demonstrated: Sad Freddy’s mug shot:
The face of an ascetic, really, rather than a thug. There was hardly any flesh on his bones, his nostrils were long and pinched, and there was something almost mystical in his gaze. Even in these stark mug shots, without a false collar and with his Adam’s apple protruding, you could sense the deep loneliness of the man, and a sadness that was in no way aggressive.
Jussiaume had been born to be hunted, and he found it completely normal.

Superb. Not a word wasted. A classic of the ‘I know you did it, so you might as well confess’ to which the answer comes back – ‘so prove it or let me go.


john doyle said...

We've gone on a Maigret spree around here thanks to your post.

ombhurbhuva said...

Hi John,
Like a balon rouge and a bagette grande, satisfying . The BBC did two series on the stories and they're on youtube.