Some images you record unconsciously, with the precision of a camera, and when you find them later in your memory, sometimes you rack your brains to recall where you saw them.
Maigret Goes to School is my ninth Maigret. I’m well and truly hooked!
This story sees Maigret leave Paris to help out with a crime committed in the small village, Charente, near La Rochelle, in the countryside. I couldn’t find a village just called Charente but there is an administrative department within the region of Nouvelle-Aquitaine, in south western France called Charente. The surrounding countryingside around La Rochelle also has a department called Charente-Maritime which is still very rural. They are famous to this day for their oysters, pineau and cognac, which makes it sound like the most promising option for Simenon’s setting.
One of the curiosities I noted when looking at the various movie & TV versions of this story (1971, 1992 & 2002) was that one of them changed the reason for Maigret’s appearance in Charente, from the accused teacher appearing at the Police Judiciaire asking for Maigret’s help, to a letter written by a young boy whose father had been accused of murder. This altered arrangement does not allow for my ‘favourite quote’ (below) at all and changes the nature of the relationship between this particular father and son. I wonder if this version of the story chooses to focus on the testimonies of the children and Maigret’s childhood flashbacks even more than the book, which also relies heavily on Maigret’s observations of the various adults involved, including a number of father/son relationships, to solve the case?
To further clafiy the quote below, Purgatory at the Police Judiciaire is the waiting area – a glassed-in cage – for visitors, that some of Maigret’s colleagues also call the aquarium.
Even on mornings like this one, when clear, bright sunlighth as cheerful as lilies-of-the-valley shone on Paris and made the pink chimney pots gleam, a lamp glowed all day in the windowless Purgatory.
One of the delights of this book are the few mentions of Maigret’s own childhood. Character development isn’t always a strong point in this series, but the glimpses of Maigret’s somewhat lonely childhood build up a sympathetic understanding for the man who has made a life of observing others from the outside.
And because I read these books at this time of the year, every year, for Paris in July, I’m on the lookout for signs of Parisian life.
Maigret Goes to School is set on the cusp of spring (I have now noticed after nine books that Simenon likes to clearly establish early on the time of year in which each book is set). There is a romantic, almost nostalgic tone to these weather reports.
The window was wide open, and a light mist, of a blue tinted with gold, was rising from the Seine. He had put on his between-season overcoat for the first time that year, but the air was still crisp, air you felt like drinking as if it were a light white wine, air that made your face feel taut.
- First translated into English by Daphne Woodward in 1957, who was commissioned to translate eight of the Maigret stories by Hamish Hamilton.
After all what was he doing there? A hundred times, in the middle of an investigation, he’d had the same feeling of helplessness or, rather, futility. He would find himself abruptly plunged into the lives of people he had never met before, and his job was to discover their most intimate secrets. This time, as it happened, it wasn’t even his job. He was the one who had chosen to come, because a teacher had waited for him for hours in Purgatory at the Police Judiciaire.
- It has to be Maigret, of course. His fixation on eating oysters and drinking white wine by the sea throughout this story was very endearing. Spoiler – he didn’t.
Favourite or Forget:
- I suspect as I read more and more Maigret’s it may become easy for them to blur together into one warm, hazy feel-good ensemble. Maigret Goes to School, however, is quite memorable for it’s excursion out of Paris into the French countryside and for it’s little peek into Maigret’s childhood memories of growing up in a similar provincial village. This is certainly one of the better Maigret’s in my opinion.
- 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 Goes to School | Maigret à l'école Author: Georges Simenon Trnaslator: Linda Coverdale ISBN: 9780241297575 Imprint: Penguin Classics Published: 14 August 2017 (originally published January 1954) Format: paperback Pages: 170 Dates Read: 13 July 2022 - 15 July 2022
- This post was written on the traditional land of the Wangal clan, one of the 29 clans of the Eora Nation within the Sydney basin. This Reading Life acknowledges that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples are this land’s first storytellers.