Having read through the complete Penguin re-translation of the 75 Maigret novels it was inevitable that I would buy this book at some time. The following is what I took from it:
- The very first point considered by the book is what is Maigret’s first name? Jules is the answer – except it isn’t. In “Lock No. 1” it is given as Joseph and the subject never comes up again until “Maigret’s First Case” when he becomes Jules. I assumed that in the new Penguin editions this would have been corrected but I was wrong. If publishers are going to change historic texts to remove potentially offensive language, then surely they should also be correcting errors like this?
- Is a French sergeant senior to an inspector? Or is the translation of the ranks unclear? I’d vaguely thought about this before but Sergeant Lucas is definitely Maigret’s righthand man and, more importantly, he has his own room, whereas Janvier, Lapointe et al all sit in the inspector’s room. I’ve tried to look this up but with no success.
- There is a whole section on which of his subordinates Maigret uses “tu” and “vous” with. The first puzzle of French lessons was the professeur beginning “Right so you will call me “vous” but I’ll call you “tu” unless there are two of you and then you’re “vous” too”. This is followed by discovering gendered nouns: le chien, le chat, le lapin, but la souris. This gives a misplaced confidence when starting German lessons: Ah, I know this, der Hund, der Katze, der Kaninchen – no, no, Katze is feminine – but in French it’s masculine, you mean gender is not consistent across languages? – yes, and by the way it’s das Kaninchen, German adds in a third gender, neuter – well if that isn’t the daftest thing I’ve ever heard!
- We discover that Mme. Maigret’s often mentioned sister must actually be four separate women all with different husbands and offspring.
There is so much more than my personal highlights above: detailed analysis of the inspector’s habits (the pipes he smokes, what he wears, what he eats, and of course, what he drinks), his relationships, where he travels to, what the weather’s like, and even that a character’s first name can predict whether they are likely to be a killer.
A must for fans of the series.