The recent five-day snow/holiday break afforded me an opportunity to plow through quite a few books including the first two releases from Penguin's ambitious project to publish all 75 Maigret novels by Georges Simenon at the rate of one per month over the next several years. I had previously read nothing from the prolific Belgium but had always meant to, and then the sheer gimmicky wonderfulness of this publishing enterprise was just too irresistible. And both Pietr the Latvian and The Late Monsieur Gallet proved well worth my reading time.
Penguin deserves some bookish love for this idea, for promoting the publications well, for spacing them out, for releasing through both Penguin US and UK.
“We see [Simenon] as one of the great writers of the 20th century. Every single one of these books deserves a bit of attention and is very distinct from the others . . . if we were to put out 75 altogether, we would be forcing [booksellers] in many ways to make a selection, but hopefully if we’re seeding them over a longer period of time it allows the reader and the retailer to take it one step at a time, and to really savour each book for what it is.”
I am curious to hear more about the selection of translators. Pietr the Latvian was translated by Princeton Comparative Literature professor David Bellos, and The Late Monsieur Gallet was translated by Anthea Bell whose translation work I know from her work on children's books by Cornelia Funke as well as select works of Stefan Zweig. Clearly high caliber choices. Will each work have a different translator? Will we be able to sense the differences in translation after reading a few? How constant was Simenon's authorial voice?
This may seem like a lot of attention spent on simple mysteries, but the two I read are more than just that. Deceptively simple. And not so much about the crime as the psychological makeup of the characters who populate these slim reads. Subtleties that surround a detective that is described in very solid terms, a detective that inhabits an often seedy side of Parisian life. Thoroughly enjoyable. Makes me want to pick up some of Simenon's non-Maigret works too. I believe I have a few of those in New York Review Book editions around here somewhere....