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Pietr, el Letón: (Los casos de Maigret)

Pietr, el Letón: (Los casos de Maigret)

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Pietr, el Letón: (Los casos de Maigret)

valoraciones:
3.5/5 (13 valoraciones)
Longitud:
169 páginas
2 horas
Editorial:
Publicado:
1 oct 2012
ISBN:
9788415689058
Formato:
Libro

Descripción

Pietr Johannson, conocido como Pietr el Letón, es un famoso delincuente perseguido por las autoridades de toda Europa. La policía parisina es informada de la llegada del estafador a la estación del Norte, donde le esperará Maigret. A su llegada, y tras sospechar que le siguen, Pietr se refugia en el hotel Majestic; pero, tras entrevistarse con un multimillonario norteamericano, cambia de alojamiento. Mientras tanto, en el tren que le ha traído se descubre un cadáver que es la viva imagen de Pietr el Letón…

El lector que abra las páginas de esta extraordinaria novela asistirá a un gran suceso: el nacimiento del comisario Maigret.

"El mito de Maigret se ha convertido en uno de los más espectaculares de toda la historia del género criminal".
Salvador Vázquez de Parga

"Simenon sigue siendo nuestra gran asignatura pendiente como lectores".
Paco Camarasa
Editorial:
Publicado:
1 oct 2012
ISBN:
9788415689058
Formato:
Libro

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Pietr, el Letón - Georges Simenon

GEORGES SIMENON

PIETR, EL LETÓN

TRADUCCIÓN DEL FRANCÉS

DE JOSE RAMÓN MONREAL

ACANTILADO

BARCELONA 2012

1

«EDAD APARENTE 32 AÑOS, TALLA 1,69…»

C.I.P.C. a la Sûreté, París;

Xvzust Cracovie vimontra m ghks triv psot uv Pietr el Letón Bremen vs tyz btolem.

El comisario Maigret, de la 1.ª Brigada Móvil, levantó la cabeza y tuvo la impresión de que el zumbido de la estufa de hierro instalada en medio de su despacho y unida al techo mediante un grueso tubo negro se iba debilitando. Dejó a un lado el telegrama, se alzó pesadamente, reguló la llave y echó tres paletadas de carbón en el hogar.

Tras lo cual, de pie, dando la espalda al fuego, cargó la pipa y se dio unos tirones del cuello de la camisa que, aunque muy bajo, le molestaba.

Se miró el reloj, que señalaba las cuatro. Su americana colgaba de un gancho detrás de la puerta.

Se dirigió lentamente hacia su mesa, releyó el telegrama y tradujo a media voz:

Comisión Internacional de Policía Criminal a Sûreté Générale, París:

«POLICÍA CRACOVIA SEÑALA PASO Y PARTIDA PARA BREMEN DE PIETR EL LETÓN».

La Comisión Internacional de Policía Criminal (C.I.P.C.) tiene su sede en Viena y dirige la lucha contra el crimen organizado europeo, encargándose más concretamente de la conexión entre las diversas policías nacionales.

Maigret acercó un segundo telegrama, redactado también en polcod, lenguaje secreto internacional utilizado en las relaciones entre todas las centrales de policía del mundo.

Tradujo mientras leía:

Polizei-praesidium de Bremen a Sûreté de París:

«PIETR EL LETÓN DETECTADO EN DIRECCIÓN A ÁMSTERDAM Y BRUSELAS».

Un tercer telegrama, procedente de la Nederlandsche Centrale in Zake Internationale Misdadigers, el cuartel general de la policía holandesa, anunciaba:

PIETR EL LETÓN EMBARCADO A LAS 11 HORAS MAÑANA COMPARTIMENTO G. 263 COCHE 5, EN EL ÉTOILE DU NORD, DESTINO PARÍS.

El último telegrama en polcod procedía de Bruselas y decía:

VERIFICADO PASO PIETR EL LETÓN POR BRUSELAS 2 HORAS ÉTOILE DU NORD COMPARTIMENTO INDICADO POR ÁMSTERDAM.

En la pared, detrás del escritorio, se desplegaba un inmenso mapa, ante el cual se plantó Maigret, imponente y macizo, con las manos en los bolsillos y la pipa en la comisura de la boca.

Su mirada se desplazó desde el punto que representaba Cracovia hasta el otro que indicaba el puerto de Bremen, y de ahí a Ámsterdam y a Bruselas.

Miró de nuevo la hora. Las cuatro y veinte. El Étoile du Nord debía de viajar a ciento diez kilómetros por hora entre Saint-Quentin y Compiègne.

No para en la frontera. Ni diminuye la velocidad.

En el coche 5, compartimento G. 263, Pietr el Letón se hallaba sin duda ocupado en leer o en contemplar cómo desfilaba el paisaje.

Maigret se dirigió hacia una puerta que daba acceso a un armario empotrado, se lavó las manos en un aguamanil de esmalte, se pasó un peine por entre el pelo espeso, de un castaño oscuro, en el que apenas se distinguía alguna que otra cana en torno a las sienes, luego se ajustó más o menos una corbata que nunca había conseguido anudar correctamente.

Era noviembre. Caía la noche. Por la ventana percibió un brazo del Sena, la place Saint-Michel, un lavadero flotante, todo en medio de una sombra azulada que iban constelando las luces de los faroles de gas.

Abrió un cajón y recorrió con la mirada un telegrama de la Oficina Internacional de Identificación de Copenhague:

SÛRETÉ, PARÍS.

PIETR EL LETÓN 32 169 01512 0224 0255 02732 03116 03233 03243 03325 03415 03522 04115 04144 04147 05221… ETC.

Esta vez se tomó la molestia de traducir en voz alta e incluso repetir varias veces, como un colegial que recita una lección:

—Datos signaléticos de Pietr el Letón: edad aparente 32 años, talla 1,69, dorso de nariz rectilíneo, base horizontal, prominencia máxima, tabique sin particularidad aparente, oreja reborde original, lóbulo grande y dimensiones pequeñas, antitrago prominente, límite pliegue inferior convexo, estructura formal rectilínea, particularidad surcos separados, ortognato superior, cara larga, bicóncava, cejas poco pobladas rubio claro, labio inferior prominente, grueso, colgante, cuello largo, conjuntiva amarillenta, iris verdoso medio, cabello rubio claro.

Era el retrato hablado de Pietr el Letón, tan elocuente como una fotografía para el comisario Maigret. En él estaban trazados ante todo los rasgos esenciales: un hombre pequeño, delgado, joven, de pelo muy claro, cejas rubias y poco pobladas, ojos verdosos y cuello largo.

Maigret conocía además los menores detalles de la oreja, cosa que le permitía identificar con seguridad a Pietr el Letón en medio de una multitud, incluso maquillado.

Descolgó la americana, se la puso, se echó encima un pesado abrigo negro y se cubrió la cabeza con un bombín.

Una última mirada a la estufa, que parecía a punto de estallar.

Al fondo de un largo pasillo, en el rellano que hacía las veces de antesala, una recomendación a Jean:

—No te olvides de mi fuego, ¿eh?

En la escalera, le sorprendió el viento que se colaba y tuvo que buscar el amparo de un rincón para encender su pipa.

A pesar de la monumental vidriera, un viento huracanado barría los andenes de la Gare du Nord. Varios cristales se habían desprendido de la marquesina para estamparse entre las vías. El sistema eléctrico funcionaba mal. La gente hundía el cuello en sus prendas de abrigo.

Delante de una ventanilla, unos viajeros leían un aviso poco tranquilizador: «Tempestad sobre la Mancha».

Y una mujer, cuyo hijo partía para Folkstone, mostraba un rostro descompuesto y los ojos enrojecidos. Hasta el último momento estuvo haciéndole recomendaciones. Y él, incómodo, tuvo que prometerle que no permanecería un instante en la cubierta del barco.

Maigret estaba de pie cerca del andén 11, en el que la multitud esperaba el Étoile du Nord. Todos los grandes hoteles, además de la Agencia Cook, tenían un representante.

Él no se movía del sitio. Otros, en cambio, se impacientaban. Una joven arropada en un visón, pero con medias de seda invisible, iba y venía taconeando.

Él permanecía allí, enorme, con sus hombros impresionantes que proyectaban una gran sombra. Le zarandeaban y no oscilaba, era como darle a un muro.

La luz amarillenta del tren asomó a lo lejos. Luego ya todo fue estrépito, gritos de los mozos de equipajes, y el laborioso caminar de los viajeros hacia la salida.

Desfilaron doscientos antes de que la mirada de Maigret captara entre el gentío a un hombrecito con un abrigo de viaje verde a grandes cuadros, cuyo corte y color eran de estilo claramente nórdico.

El hombre no se apresuraba. Le seguían tres mozos de equipajes. Un representante de un gran hotel de los Campos Elíseos le abría obsequiosamente paso.

«Edad aparente 32, talla 1,69…, dorso de la nariz…».

Maigret no se inmutó. Se fijó en la oreja. Eso le bastó.

El hombre de verde pasó muy cerca de él. Uno de los mozos de estación golpeó al comisario con una de las maletas.

En ese mismo instante, un empleado del tren echaba a correr, gritando a toda prisa unas palabras al colega que se encontraba al final del andén, cerca de la cadena que permitía cerrar el paso.

Se puso la cadena, y estallaron las protestas.

El hombre del abrigo de viaje estaba ya en la puerta de salida.

El comisario fumaba, con pequeñas chupadas rápidas. Se acercó al funcionario que había puesto la cadena.

—¡Policía! ¿Qué sucede?

—Un crimen… Se acaba de descubrir…

—¿En el coche 5?…

—Creo que sí…

En la estación, la vida seguía su curso. Sólo el andén 11 tenía un aspecto anormal. Quedaban cincuenta viajeros por salir. Y se les impedía el paso. Se impacientaban.

—Dejen el paso libre…—dijo Maigret.

—Pero si…

—¡Dejen el paso libre!

Miró pasar aquella última oleada. El altavoz anunciaba la partida de un tren de cercanías. La gente corría hacia alguna parte. Delante de uno de los vagones del Étoile du Nord, un grupito aguardaba algo. Tres hombres, en uniforme de la compañía.

El jefe de estación fue el primero en llegar, dándoselas de importante pero inquieto. Luego una camilla rodó por el vestíbulo y atravesó los grupos, en los que la gente, incómoda, la seguía con la vista, sobre todo los que iban a partir.

Maigret remontaba el tren, con su andar pesado, sin dejar de fumar. Coche 1. Coche 2… Llegó al coche 5.

Era allí donde había un grupo delante de la portezuela. La camilla se detenía. El jefe de estación escuchaba a los tres hombres que hablaban a la vez.

—¡Policía!… ¿Dónde está?

Le miraron con evidente alivio. Avanzaba con su mole plácida por entre el agitado grupo, y los otros pasaban a ser meros satélites.

—En el lavabo…

Maigret se alzó de puntillas y vio, a su derecha, la puerta del lavabo abierta. En el suelo, había un cuerpo encogido, doblado por la cintura, extrañamente contorsionado.

El jefe de tren, desde el andén, daba órdenes:

—Que lleven el vagón a una vía muerta… ¡Esperen! La 62… Y que avisen al comisario de la estación…

En un primer momento no vio más que la nuca del hombre. Pero, apartando la gorra, colocada de través, descubrió la oreja izquierda.

—«De lóbulo grande y de dimensiones pequeñas, antitrago…»—masculló.

Había algunas gotas de sangre en el linóleo. Miró a su alrededor. Los empleados se habían quedado en el andén y en el estribo. El jefe de estación seguía hablando.

Entonces Maigret echó hacia atrás la cabeza del hombre y apretó con más fuerza la pipa entre los dientes.

Si no hubiera visto salir al viajero del abrigo verde, si no le hubiera visto dirigirse hacia un coche en compañía de un intérprete del Majestic, habría podido dudar.

Los mismos datos signaléticos. El mismo bigotito rubio, cortado en forma de cepillo, bajo una nariz de línea pronunciada. Las mismas cejas claras y poco pobladas. Las mismas pupilas de un gris verdoso.

En otras palabras, ¡Pietr el Letón!

Maigret no podía revolverse en aquel lavabo exiguo, en el que el grifo que alguien había olvidado cerrar continuaba manando y un chorro de vapor salía por una junta no estanca.

Tenía las piernas contra el cadáver. Le enderezó el busto, y vio, en el pecho, sobre la camisa y la americana, rastros de quemadura provocados por un disparo a bocajarro.

Era una gran mancha negruzca, con la que se mezclaba el púrpura violáceo de la sangre.

Un detalle sorprendió al comisario. Por casualidad, reparó en uno de los pies. Estaba colocado de través, torcido, como todo ese cuerpo que debieron comprimir para cerrar la puerta.

Ahora bien, el zapato, negro, era muy vulgar, barato. Saltaba a la vista que le habían puesto medias suelas. El tacón estaba gastado de un lado y, en medio de la suela se veía un agujero redondo, que el desgaste había ido haciendo lentamente.

Llegaba el comisario especial de la estación, con sus galones, seguro de sí, preguntando desde el andén:

—¿Qué ha sido esta vez?… ¿Un crimen?… ¿Un suicidio?… No toquen nada antes de que llegue la Comisión Judicial, ¿eh?… ¡Cuidado! ¡El responsable aquí soy yo!…

A Maigret le costó Dios y

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  • (3/5)
    No one can claim to be a true fan of crime fiction without at least having heard of Georges Simenon and his iconic Inspector Maigret. With my rather poor track record in reading classic crime, it's taken me awhile to sample this series. Pietr the Latvian is listed as the very first Maigret mystery, originally published in 1930, and it has all the earmarks of an author trying out new ideas.From the very beginning, I felt as though I'd been dropped on my head in the midst of the story. Although the feeling of disorientation gradually wore off, it did return from time to time. From the first, there is something grand about Maigret, and it's not just that he's "a mountain of a man." There are some wonderful descriptive passages throughout the book, but there are also places where Simenon drops the plot and wanders a bit-- and I never did quite understand why Pietr the Latvian was such a major criminal.This new translation reads exceptionally well-- no dated feel to it at all-- but the original was written almost ninety years ago. Simenon was a writer of his time, so if his occasional unflattering references to Jews and Eastern European men are offensive, consider it as a period piece. Even though I could see Simenon experimenting throughout this book, I could also see many instances of brilliant writing and strong storytelling-- proof of what this series would become. I'm not going to be in a huge hurry to continue with Maigret, but this is certainly a series to which I will return.
  • (3/5)
    Listened to the audiobook so often fell asleep and had to rewind. OK but I often lost a sense of what was going on and there were times where it's reflection of 1930s attitudes were uncomfortable.
  • (4/5)
    Oooh, looks like I found a new mystery series to read. Odd that I am not familiar with the character of Maigret before now. Saw that there was a BBC series done with Mr. Bean as Maigret. See quotes of famous authors of the 20th century likening him to Chekov and others. Wow. Read this in one Saturday afternoon when my wife and son were away in NC visiting her sister.
  • (4/5)
    The first Maigret novel is a little weird - part of it is the time, part of it is the setting, part of it is the detective himself. But it has enough good moments to actually be worth reading.A known criminal, Pietr the Latvian, is on his way to Paris. Maigret is the one that get the notes and heads to the station to see the man arriving. And he does - together with stumbling at a dead body. And the chase is on. If Maigret was written today, he would sounded like just one of the eccentric detectives that had dominated the field. But considering when he was created, he is one of the ones that actually created the cliche. His obsession with his stove and his beer (did Stout read some of these novels before creating Nero Wolfe or the two of them just came up with that in the same decade?) make him different from some of the other detective in the classic series; his methods are unorthodox (but successful). That first murder ends up just the start of a much more serious case which will lead to more deaths (including a policeman), a few women that seem to be in love with men that could not exist and an internal conspiracy. Add a wealthy American who is beloved by the government, an old family story and a few bullets hitting where they should not, a few lost ribs and more misdirection than you would expect in such a slim book and you will have the novel. Part of the issues of the book is exactly that complexity. It feels more like a puzzle and an attempt to add more and more misdirection just for the sake of misdirection. But it does have its great moments - from introducing the police network in Europe and the instructions on recognizing people by their ears (I did not realize that theory was that old) to Paris - the Paris of the 30s with its great places and dives. A good start of the series - even if it is not a great novel, I ma happy I read it.
  • (4/5)
    Who is the enigmatic Latvian of the title? In this first Inspecteur Maigret mystery, the famous detective gets a detailed portrayal of the man in code from the international police service, describing the criminal down to every detail of the construction of his ears (because impossible to alter with a disguise). A train arrives in Paris in which the Latvian is supposedly travelling, but his compartment contains the body of a dead man, who, but for his clothes, seems to resemble exactly the description Maigret had gotten. Only... moments before the inspector saw another man richly dressed, who also had the right earlobe shape. Hard to describe the atmosphere of this book, gritty, hardboiled noir, redolent with street lights reflected in rain puddles and cigarette smoke, or more accurately pipe smoke, one of our hero's vices, and unique in style, quite different from the American literature of this genre I've read before, this story about the hunt for what might be a ghost grabbed me right from the beginning and is a perfect introduction to the inspector.
  • (4/5)
    The recent decision by Penguin to republish fresh translations of all of Simenon's Maigret novels, in the original order of publication, provides a real opportunity for readers to catch up on titles that have been out of print for some time. Apparently the 75 novels will be published at the rate of one a month. There is even an accompanying 24 page brochure available giving biographical details about Simenon and the characters he created.I've been a Simenon reader for decades and could not pass up the opportunity to read, on my Kindle, the very first of the Maigret titles.Maigret comes over as a mountain of a man, with enormous energy, and the ability to push himself to the limits of human endurance. Inevitably Maigret was a hostile presence in the Majestic. He constituted a kind of foreign body that the hotel's atmosphere could not assimilate. Not that he looked like a cartoon policeman. He didn't have a moustache and he didn't wear heavy boots. His clothes were well cut and made of fairly light worsted. He shaved every day and looked after his hands. But his frame was proletarian. He was a big, bony man. His firm muscles filled out his jacket and quickly pulled all his trousers out of shape. He had a way of imposing himself just by standing there. His assertive presence had often irked many of his own colleagues.In many ways PIETR THE LATVIAN gave a good idea of the style that readers could expect in future novels, as well a structure that makes the reader work hard to follow the plot lines.It introduces both Maigret and the long suffering Madame Maigret who at one stage cooks meals for three days without knowing whether her husband will be home to eat them, indeed not knowing what he is up to.In his exploration of international crime rings that manipulate world-wide economies Simenon shared similar concerns to his contemporary Agatha Christie who was also convinced of the control of world economies and politics by evil forces.
  • (2/5)
    Penguin Books has undertaken to publish each of Georges Simenon's Maigret novels in a new translation, with a new one coming out each month. Published in 1931 this was the first novel in the series, and, sadly it shows. If i had read this when it first came out i don't think that i would have bothered to read any subsequent instalments.Unfortunately this novel was just too disjointed,and the character of Maigret was just too frenetic, and I found myself rather disappointed. Fortunately I know how good the series became later on, so I will persevere with the next few volumes at least.
  • (3/5)
    Pathetisch, dramatisch und chaotisch, ein Maigret in Action, Simenon sprachlich und inhaltlich noch auf der Suche.
  • (3/5)
    This was ok in a gritty noirish way, but it lost a few points for me in the ambiBaltic/Slavic/Scandinavian mashup of the (mild spoiler) brother duo of Pietr and Hans Johannson. Born in Pskov (Estonian: Pihkva), Russia with a surname that seems Swedish, they attend Tartu University in Estonia where brother Pietr became the "Master" of the "Ugala Club" (presumably Korp! Ugala) student organization before he eventually turns to a life of crime. Latvia didn't seem to enter into it, except for being part of his criminal legend/cover. It probably seemed like an interesting assortment of exotic sounding place names that Simenon bunched together regardless of whether they made sense.This 1931 novel was book no. 1 of 76 in the Inspector Maigret series that the very prolific Georges Simenon wrote and which are currently being published in new English translations by Penguin since 2013. p.s. I read that Rowan Atkinson is due to play Inspector Maigret in a future series of TV films, which certainly sounds like casting against type, so we'll see what comes of that.
  • (4/5)
    Dripping with atmosphere from the interwar years in Paris, complete with people coming in on trains, surveillance in elegant hotels, murder and intrigue. All of which is even better than the plot and the mystery, which themselves are pretty good. This is the first Maigret novella and part of a new translation of the full oeuvre by Penguin. I did a combination of reading and Audible and both were very good.
  • (4/5)
    This is the first Maigret I have read and I enjoyed it. I will get more. I thought it might be dated, written in 1931, but was glad to see it isn't. The character Maigret is a must read if you like detective stories, not as whimsical and quirky as Sherlock Holmes, or as endearing as Peter Whimsey and Harriet Vane, but forthright and tenacious, patient and oh so astute in his calculations, while remaining very much a human being.
  • (4/5)
    Maegrete is a man's man. He doesn't express emotions, but he understands them and knows what he sees. This is the first volume I've read...there are more --many more!-- to help flesh out the skin and bones that make up this hero.
  • (5/5)
    First time reading Maigret, actually starting with the first book in a series for a change. Great detective novel, the main character Maigret is practically portrayed as a force of nature, a solid slab of determination whose simple task of tracking down a well-known confidence man becomes complicated when the bodies start piling up. The mood is dark and gritty, which suits me just fine. It's the kind of book that makes you want to read more. Luckily for me, there are a lot more.
  • (2/5)
    The story is choppy and difficult to follow. Its possible this is due partly to the translation, but I think most of it is the story itself.
  • (2/5)
    Knappe toonzetting, alle ingredi?nten van de klassieke Maigrets zijn al aanwezig. Ook lichte filosofische diepgang
  • (2/5)
    Knappe toonzetting, alle ingrediënten van de klassieke Maigrets zijn al aanwezig. Ook lichte filosofische diepgang
  • (3/5)
    Pietr the Latvian - Georges Simenon ***I have always enjoyed the odd detective story, from Holmes and Poirot to the noir brilliance of Phillip Marlowe, but somehow I never really came across Maigret. It was only after watching the TV series with Rowan Atkinson that I did a little research and thought it was worth giving the books a try. A quick look on the internet and I found that Penguin had started rereleasing the novels once again, albeit with a new translation. The first book is well under 200 pages long so I felt it was worth a punt.The storyline is fairly simple; Maigret receives notification that an international conman name Pietr the Latvian could be moving into his area. He goes to the train station to try and locate the felon and just as he spots someone resembling his description is called to a cabin where a body has been found. Unfortunately for Maigret the body also matches the depiction .... he must now try and track down the identity of both men. What follows is pretty much a tale of stakeouts and early forensic investigations as we tag along with Maigret from the height of opulence in expensive hotels to seedy back street dwellings. There are a few twists in the plot towards the end, but to be honest I kind of guessed them before they were apparent.I just couldn’t seem to get into this story. I know that Simenon likes to keep his writing sparse and direct, but quite often I lost my way and found that I had to reread a chapter or two to find out what was going on. The plot seemed to flit back and forth and at times was just disjointed. The characters were ok, but I still didn’t really care what happened next to them, which was a shame because I really wanted to enjoy this series and hoped I had found a new author to follow. The other reviews seem to vary, from people who have been a long time fan and loved the book, to others who just didn’t really manage to get into the plot like myself. This is one of those strange books, where I am unsure whether it is the original author that I couldn’t get along with or the translation. There seems to be a large number of reviewers that are commenting on the latest edition and marking them down because of this. Either way, I didn’t enjoy any aspect of the book enough to read another edition and find out.
  • (4/5)
    My first Maigret and the first Maigret.

    

It was interesting to see many of the existentialist themes with which Simenon grapples in his other work here in a procedural format. While the noir genre does deal with anxieties about identity and gender, in Simenon’s hands noir is a cultural critique of all of these anxieties brought to a head between the two World Wars.

    In Maigret and the Enigmatic Lett, Maigret faces the brick wall most detective face: circumstantial evidence. While he tries to amass concrete evidence against Pietr Lett, a known criminal on paper but whose life is too clean to place him under arrest, Simenon personalizes Maigret: we see his penchant for cigar smoking and standing too close to stoves for warmth; we see him using his physical body as part of the questioning process; we see him caring for his colleagues and yet also worried that this somehow shows a crack in the veneer of his masculinity. I imagine these are all traits Simenon uses to further make Maigret a real personage to readers in the rest of the Maigret books.

    While trying to collect information, Maigret faces a case of mixed, doubled, and uncertain identities; this is something Simenon spends a lot of time on—and he even does this in his non-Maigret books, at least from those that I’ve read—for the way identity is shattered and destabilized in this specific time period in France. Simenon’s strength as a writer of detective fiction/police procedurals speaks to his talent evident elsewhere with regard to pacing, an insistence on alienating the reader to underscore the characters’ states of alienation, and a deft manipulation of a fictional personal crisis into an metacommentary of a very real national one.
  • (5/5)
    The novel Pietr the Latvian (1929) is Georges Simenon’s introduction of Maigret, the stoical French detective and inspector leader of the Paris police “Flying Squad.” The popularity of the character spanned many decades, and the writer published seventy-five novels and twenty-eight short stories about Maigret between 1931 and 1972. In this volume, there is a Simenon quote that gives the reader an idea of how the character was first developed. Simenon was sitting in a café one morning enjoying a glass of schnapps when he decided to write a mystery series focused on the activities of a unique character, a large powerfully built gentleman accessorized with a pipe, a bowler, a thick overcoat with a velvet collar, and a fondness for standing in front of a cast iron stove in his office. Like Simenon himself, Maigret loved smoking and drinking, the latter without overt drunkenness. Maigret was conceived to be a dogged procedural investigator with frequent actions determined by his intuitions regarding the motivations of criminals. Maigret is married, and his wife expects and endures frequent unannounced absences as the detective chases down criminals with the help of his squad.There was a time when I read many mysteries because I thought writers in this genre focus more directly on the psychology of the characters than writers in other fiction categories. Simenon is a good example of this concentration since he deliberately selected a character dedicated to his career and to life’s small but daily personal pleasures tobacco, alcohol, physical warmth, and in particular active interaction with criminals from a position of power. The reader does not so much identify with the inspector but rather follows him around in a somewhat subservient fashion. Like the subordinates and criminals Maigret runs across in the stories, the reader does not want to get in the man’s way. In this novel and others, Maigret likes to use his large body to invade the space of others, intimidating them with his bulk and imperative language.In Pietr the Latvian, it is apparent how Simenon hooked readers into following the somewhat overbearing detective, a hard man to like on the surface. In this case, Maigret investigates a murder on a train that occurs on a journey from northern Europe to Paris. The detective puffs on his pipe, stands in front of his cast iron stove, and follows the trail of suspects who after the murder are staying at a first class hotel in Paris. Maigret shows grit in his endurance as he travels and works for days without sleep in pursuit of evidence that will solve the perpetrator’s identity diversions. Considered a threat, the detective is targeted for elimination and suffers injury but plods on in his investigation, weakened but determined. In the course of exhausting events, Maigret takes time to enjoy his tobacco, alcohol, and comfort of heat in various locations during the cold and rainy conditions in France.I will be following the detective in his many cases for many years to come, continuing by reading novel number 2 when the mood strikes me. If you like contemporary mysteries, the Maigret series will provide a good foundation for understanding the genre.
  • (4/5)
    It is hard to remember when reading this first of many Maigret novels and stories that it was published the year after Van Dine’s The Scarab Murder Case, the year before Queen’s The Dutch Shoe Murder and the same year as Christie’s The Sittaford Mystery. In some ways the closest equivalent to the world Simenon introduces us to is the San Francisco we get glimpses of Hammett’s novel The Maltese Falcon. Maigret is both like and unlike Sam Spade. Like Spade he is aware of, and not discomfited by, the underside of life yet unlike Spade one never wonders about his fundamental honesty and respect for other human beings. As Simenon describes them, Maigret and the other members of the Parisian police force are ordinary people who have to fill out forms to justify the money they spend, who get colds when they stand around for hours in the rain and who are neither corrupt, nor stupid nor brilliant. And instead of lauding his detective as a special master of ratiocination or incomparably skilled at analyzing the psychology of people just met Simenon describes Maigret’s method as follows:“Maigret used the same procedure as anyone else. And like everyone else he employed the wonderful techniques devised by Bertillon, Reiss, Locard, and others, which have turned police work into a science. But above all he sought for, waited for, and pounced on the chink. In other words, the moment when the human being showed through the gambler.”In other words Maigret, in addition to using the scientific tools available to the police patiently waits for the moment when he can see the human being behind criminal. And in order to do this Maigret must to some degree get inside the skin of the people he is observing rather than standing outside of them judging, measuring and categorizing.It is this quality of Maigret that allows the reader to read past the prejudices and stereotypes of the time (and Maigret and Simenon) because they are leavened by Maigret’s embrace of the humanity of the many outcasts, low-lifes, and criminals he meets. Indeed the people that Maigret is contemptuous of is the rich, the greedy, and the politically powerful. In short, Simenon’s awareness of the realities of class, education and power keeps him, or the reader, from seeing the rest of humanity only through the eyes of the privileged.
  • (4/5)
    The first appearance of one of the great fictional characters of the twentieth century. And remarkably enough, it's essentially the same Maigret who was still going strong forty years later. The pipe, the overcoat, the constant bad weather, and his - almost - imperturbable authority. And Mme Maigret cooking in the background. There's a wonderful scene, quite early in the book, where Maigret is standing patiently in the middle of a turbulent crowd at the Gare du Nord, waiting for his man to get off a train: "Lui restait là, énorme, avec ses épaules impressionantes qui dessinaient une grande ombre. On le bousculait et il n'oscillait pas plus qu'un mur." Maigret in two sentences. As a mystery it's a bit feeble, with a plot as old as Shakespeare, but you don't read Maigrets for the plots, do you?