Georges Simenon (1903-1989)
In 1922 Simenon's father died and he and his mistress, Régine Renchon, moved to Paris. In 1923 they returned to Liege in order to be married. Despite Simenon's lack of faith, his mother insisted that Régine should convert and they should be married in a Roman Catholic Church, and all of Simenon's children were later baptised into the Catholic Church.
In 1945 Simenon chose to avoid questioning about his relationship with the German invaders and left France for Canada and the United States. Simenon, Marc and Boule all learned to speak English, but Tigy struggled with the language and longed to return to Europe. It was at this time that Simenon met Denyse Ouimet, a young woman seventeen years his junior, and they started a tempestuous love affair. In 1949 Simenon and Tigy divorced and in 1950 he married Denyse. It is interesting to note that apparently Denyse did not have a nickname bestowed on her by Simenon and to speculate whether she refused to accept this particular form of control. Denyse and Simenon had three children: Johnny, born in 1949; Marie-Jo, born in 1953; and Pierre, born in 1959. Although Simenon had not lived in Belgium since 1922, he always retained his Belgian citizenship and, in 1952 was made a member of the Academie Royale de Belgique.
Rather like Conan Doyle with Sherlock Holmes, Simenon was outraged that the novels and short stories that proved most popular were his Maigret novels, rather than his more serious works. Nevertheless the Maigret books are a significant and powerful body of work, a view confirmed by T.S. Eliot, a writer that Simenon greatly admired, when asked about the two most significant changes in his life in recent years: 'I now prefer Claret to Burgundy and I prefer Inspector Maigret to Arsene Lupin.'
Between 1931 and 1972, Simenon wrote 75 novels and 28 short stories featuring Commissaire Jules Maigret. The Maigret books have been translated into a large number of languages and have been televised in several countries. In Britain, Maigret was first played by Rupert Davies and later by Michael Gambon; a new Maigret series is due to be recorded in Britain starring Rowan Atkinson, an interesting challenge to see if he can persuade the audience to forget his previous creations, Blackadder and Mr Bean.
The Maigret books set in Paris seem to be woven out of the experiences Simenon had in the back streets of the city, the denizen of thieves, prostitutes, the destitute and violent criminals; but he also sets much of the action in his books in the homes of the outwardly respectable middle class, with a feeling of the decay and evil, twisted relationships that lurk behind their respectable doors and shuttered windows. However, Simenon also sets his Maigret books in the other countries that he visited. He was at the height of his creative powers when he was living in the United States and many of his books were set there, such as Trois chambres à Manhattan (1946) and Maigret à New York (1947.)
by Georges Simenon
Although it was written over eighty years ago, Maigret and the Burglar's Wife manages to combine the sense of a time past with a present-day observation of psychological twists. It is still an excellent read.