Maigret’s Little Joke
Or in the original French, Maigret s’amuse, and, yes, I am reading it in the original French – on my Kindle with the aid of an electronic French dictionary. It’s wonderful: all I have to do is touch a word for a definition to appear. Mind you, it’s not perfect. It sometimes doesn’t have a definition and it translates into American English. When ‘boondoggle’came up I was none the wiser and had to look it up in my Concise Oxford Dictionary to discover that it means a useless undertaking or fraud. Still, it’s good enough for me to be grasp the gist of the novel fairly easily most of the time. I’ve been meaning for a while to brush up my French – years and years ago I did ‘A’ Level French – and the Maigret novels are perfect for this. They are quite short and fairly straightforward in their syntax, not too many past historic tenses or present subjectives. And they are good stories too. I think Simenon too must have amused himself with this one. Maigret has had quite a serious illness and has been told by his doctor that this year he must have a holiday. When their plans fall through he and Madame Maigret decide to spend the time having days out in Paris, and he promises not to go into the office. But of course his interest is piqued when he see in the newspaper that a woman’s body has been found stuffed into a closet in a doctor’s surgery. He sets himself the task of solving the crime without taking part or interfering in any way with the police investigation. How this will work out, I don’t yet know as I am only a fifth of the way through. Reading it in French has revealed some interesting aspects that you really wouldn’t be aware of reading it in translation. I am fascinated to see that Maigret addresses his old friend Dr Pardon as ‘vous’ even though they have dinner at each other’s houses every month. The novel dates from 1957, more formal days. Of course it makes ‘tu’ that goes back and forth between Maigret and his wife seem all the more intimate. I am confident that I can get to the end of Maigret s’amuse, but I am not sure that I am up for reading Camus’s La Peste in French. That is our book group choice for July. We’ll see.