One of the joys of reading a book during a particular reading challenge like Paris in July is that it encourages me to adjust the lens through which I experience the story. Usually when I read books set in other countries, I have nothing more than a vague sense of the geography or the streets the characters might be walking down. But thanks to Paris in July I googled the address where the main action occurs in Maigret’s First Case – 17A Rue Chaptal.
It was seven o’clock when Maigret took possession, as it were, of Rue Chaptal….There are bustling streets full of shops and cafes where it is easy to blend in, but Rue Chaptal is not one of them. Short and wide, it has no shops and very few people use it.
All the curtains of the Gendreau-Balthazar mansion were tightly drawn, as in most of the houses in the street. Maigret loitered on one corner and then another, feeling rather conspicuous.
Luckily the Vieux Calvados on the corner of Rue Henner, almost opposite the Gendreaus’, had just opened. It was the only place in the street that offered Maigret a refuge….The place itself was rather extraordinary. In this street of private mansions and expensive apartment buildings, the Vieux Calvados looked like a country inn that had been forgotten when Paris spread. The building was low and narrow with a little step down into a rather dark, very cool room with a dull pewter counter. The bottles looked as if they had been standing there for ever.
Google street view allows you to move around the street to see that, yes, it is indeed short and wide with no shops, just a couple of cafes on the corners. I could hear the cry for help from the second floor windows, I could see Minard banging on the door to try to help, and later, Maigret lurking around trying to be inconspicuous as he works his first surveillance.
I also learnt about sausages, andouille from Brittany in particular. Poor Maigret was forced to eat plates of the stuff as well as down glass after glass of calvodos while he staked out the house above. Andouille is,
a coarse-grained sausage made with pork, intestines or chitterlings, pepper, wine, onions, and seasonings. Tripe, which is the stomach lining of a cow, is sometimes an ingredient in the filler of an andouillette, but it is not the casing or the key to its manufacture. True andouillette will be an oblong tube. If made with the small intestine, it is a plump sausage generally about 25 mm in diameter but often it is much larger, possibly 7–10 cm in diameter, and stronger in scent when the colon is used (andouille). True andouillette is rarely seen outside France and has a strong, distinctive odour related to its intestinal origins and components. Although sometimes repellent to the uninitiated, this aspect of andouillette is prized by its devotees. (wikipedia)
Calvodos is an apple brandy from the Normandy region:
Calvados can be served as an apéritif, blended in drinks, between meals, as a digestif, or with coffee. Well-made calvados should naturally be reminiscent of apples and pears, balanced with flavours of aging. The less-aged calvados distinguishes itself with its fresh apple and pear aromas. The longer the calvados is aged, the more the taste resembles that of any other aged brandy. (wikipedia)
I enjoyed this trip through 1913 Paris with a young, newly married Maigret. I’m not sure if I will ever read all 75 books, but I’ll be very happy to read whichever ones happen to cross my path. This particular one was translated by Ros Schwartz for Penguin in 2016.
I’ll finish with another of Simenon’s descriptions of Paris. This time Maigret had been staking out a suspect around the Arc de Triomphe.
It wasn’t until eight o’clock that evening, when it was dark and the avenue radiating from the Arc de Triomphe were outlined by the pearly glow from the gas lamps, that Maigret, who was beginning to lose hope, finally found what he was looking for.
He had a golden memory of that afternoon, Paris at its most beautiful, the spring air so mild and fragrant that people stopped to inhale it.
|Arc de Triomphe de l’Étoile, watercolor by John Salminen|
I hope this post makes sense as Mr Books & I have been suffering under heavy colds all weekend. Like Maigret at the end of this story with his major concussion, we feel befuddled and confused and probably should be keeping to our beds, but like Maigret we’re soldiering on. For now.
Book 8 of #20booksofsummer (winter)
19℃ in Sydney
18℃ in Northern Ireland 😃
- 23. Signe Picpus (1944)
- 30. Maigret’s First Case (1948)
- A Maigret Christmas (1951) | short stories
- 43. Maigret’s Mistake (1953)
- 44. Maigret Goes to School (1953)
- 46. Maigret and the Minister (1955)
- 60. Maigret and the Tramp (1962)
- 61. Maigret’s Anger (1962)
- 62. Maigret and the Ghost (1963)
- 70. Maigret and the Killer (1969)
Title: Maigret's First Case Author: Georges Simenon Translator: Ros Schwartz ISBN: 9780241206386 Imprint: Penguin Classics Published: 13 June 2016 (originally published 1948) Format: Paperback Pages: 192