Maigret’s dead man by Geroges Simenon

Maigret's Dead Man

Maigret’s Dead man by Geroges Simenon

Belgian fiction

Original title – Maigret et son Mort

Translator – David Coward

Source – review copy

I got an email from the folks that deal with all things Maigret and Simenon in the uk as if I want a copy of this one of the latest from the penguin series Maigret books , they are slowly month by month doing new translations of all the novels in the series which runs to 75 novels and a few short stories collection. This particular book was the latest to be adapted for tv in the new series starring Rowan Atkinson as the latest actor to become Jules Maigret.

“Hello ?….Who is on the line ?..”

Normally the officer on the police switchboard did not put through ay but the most urgent calls.

“I’m sorry sir…it’s a man. He won’t give his name but is very insistent.says he must absolutely talk to you … He swears it’s a matter of life and death…

“And he wants to speak to me personally ?”

“Yes.. shall I put him through?”

Maigret heard a voice saying anxiously ;

“Hello? .. is that you ?

“Detective chief inspector Maigret,yes..”

“I’m sorry about this..My name wouldn’t mean anything to you.. you don’t know me,but you used to know my wife Nina.. HELLO? .. I’ve got to tell you something might happen that…

The call that sets on the trail to find out who the Dead man of the title is and what his secret was !

I read the book before watching the adaptation . Well first point I now have Atkinson in my head as Maigret having previously had him in the form of Micheal Gambon. This book wasn’t part of the Gambon series and is actually one of the hefty novels I have read from Simenon coming in at over 220 pages long for his books , I always see him as an evening read. This also has a clever dual plotline the first plot sees Maigret getting a number of calls from a man who wants to meet him but when they arrange to meet he isn’t there Maigret traces his calls and tries to find out who this man is especially when his body turns up and no-one turns up . The man is middle-aged normal , not a typical criminal type. Then he is told to forget this to help in solving a number of crimes happening in the country that due to a lead has led the gang causing them back to Paris. Maigret is like a bulldog thou and can’t drop this first item to fetch the second but as by chance the man is discovered and his life is revealed . But as the other crime unfolds it is maybe a one in a million chance but it has happened this ordinary guy has led them into a break in the second crime and to the gang carrying out the violent crimes a gang from  outside France but lead by a man in a fur coat . Who is he a criminal mastermind or is his fur Fake ?

It wasn’t a winning slip he had found that morning but a train ticket.

If such had not been his habit ..if he hadn’t seen the man from whose pocket it had dropped.. If the name Goderville had not instantly made him think of the massacres perpetrated by the Picardy gang.. if his feelings had not been written on his face ..

“Poor Albert !” sighed Maigret

That one point the two plots touch just a mere second that leads to the capture of the gang and the death of poor albert as Maigret calls him.

 

I enjoyed this it has more twists than other Maigret books I have read and the clever use of two plot lines that like two ever decreasing orbits end up colliding an exploding. A chance find leads to a violent crime a Man with no real luck runs out of luck just as he has found the clue he wanted to give the Great Maigret a man he admired so much especially as his wife had once had a chance meeting with Jules. So a sad cafe and a couple with no child lead to a threesome of rough czech criminals and a woman with a child that maybe shouldn’t be having one. At this part I felt he was drifting more into his other novel style of the roman durs he wrote that Penguin is also republishing those psychological novels about the human spirit and mind. This is a great choice for the second Atkinson show it has taken him in a different direction to the Gambon which were lighthearted at times and also very nostalgia lead where as THe new one seems much darker and more on Maigret but also those around him his deputies like Janvier who play major part in the book seem more to the fore now.I must admit I wasn’t to pleased when rowan Atkinson got the part but he has managed to win me over with a performance that is very straight not a hint of the man who with a twitch of his nose can have you bent over in laughter.

Did you watch or read this Maigret this christmas ?

 

The swordfish by Hugo Claus

 

 

Image result for the swordfish hugo claus

The swordfish by Hugo Claus

Belgian fiction

original title -De zwaardvis

Translator – Ruth levitt

Source – personnel copy

One of the things I hope with buying cheap secondhand books from Amazon was to revisit some writers from the blog whom I really enjoyed and Hugo Claus was one such writer his novel the wonder which was reviewed in the first year of the blog and has been one I have often but in my top ten favourite books since then. He was one of the best known Flemish writers in his time he wrote both Novels , poems novellas and Plays. He featured on a collection of stamps of great Flemish writers. This novella was a special for the  yearly Boekenweekgeschenk which happens every year in Flemish bookshops a writer is chosen to writer a work of 96 pages in length.Here is a list of the writers and books they wrote for this week .

Martin would have preferred to ascend the hills like Clint Eastwood, the hero of the boys at school, with large, sure strides, hands stroking the revolvers at his hips. But that would be heresy with a cross on your shoulders. The wish belonged to an earlier time, before he knew anything about Jesus and before Miss Dora has given him the book that he was reading furtively , in secrecy of his room, and almost knew by heart.

Miss dora his private tutor has twisted martins mind.

This short novella is actually one of those novellas that feel like an epic novel. It follows four characters in a fiction village a mother and son Martin and Silbylle ,their father Gerard has disappeared at the start of the book, although the book is told in a non chronological order so we find out what happened to Gerard. Then there is willy the headmaster of the school whom has concerns for the son Marttin as he isn’t in the school and is being taught by a private tutor provide by the state due to his religious belief . Into this add a vet richard an alcoholic  who has a dark past. Martin the boy is in love with american culture Clint east wood and fish especially the swordfish . All this leads senseless crime in the village of Zavelgam.A summer is full of strange comings and going .

Martin holds the splinter of wood up in front of him, leans forward, buzzes and zooms past the sheep who jump out of his way. His lance, his sword is not sharp enough,not long enough, but it doesn’t matter. He can be smaller than a real swordfish in the same way that jesus can be a fish.It is a metal flair.

Martin is still a child in many ways .

 

Now Hugo Claus was given a theme of books and film tp writer this novella about and came up with this brilliant novella of a village told from four points of view that show how lies, religion and childhood views can effect a few people. Richard a man who abuse woman and drinks. Then there is martin he is lead down the wrong path by his private tutor and is confused in the world. His other has a secret to how the father and husband disappeared. Then there is the schoolmaster maybe the most levelheaded in the village. A mad 96 pages that seem much more. I have also purchased Claus classic novel The sorrows of Belgium.

Have you read a book by Hugo Claus ?

 

Football by Jean-Philippe Toussaint euro 2016

Football by Jean-Philippe Toussaint

Belgium Non -Fiction

original title – Football

Translator – Shaun Whiteside

Source – Review copy

Jean Philippe Toussaint is a writer I had long wanted to get to his novels are well-known for a minimalist style , so when this collection of prose piece by him on football arrived from Fitzcarraldo editions I got a chance to tick off a writer I had wanted to get to for a while. He has written nine novels which have been translated into many languages and he has won a number of book prizes as well .This also ties in with my current set of Euro 2016 related books as it follows his life in recent years tracking the Belgium team.

Childhood

In Brussels, in the playgrounds of primary school no. 9 , we used to play football at break time and the criterion used ro seprate the two teams was nopt little versus big or fair versus dark or year four versus year five, it was moral versus religion . At the start of the year, in this secular school on rue Americaine in Ixelles, you effectively had to choose between Moral and religion, according to whether you parents or we ourselves wanted to take catechism classes.

I love this way they choose the teams in my day it was against a wall and I was often near the end .

The book is a collection of short essays about his early life and football , things like playing with friends , getting a bad injury whilst a kid. what jersey he loves.I like the insight into shirts and teams we always think of certain teams and colours his examples are France in Blue, Brazil in Yellow and Germany in White.But what happens when they don’t where that shirt of course here in the England this was the case on our biggest game ever the 66 final where the team wore red shirts! Then he finally watches matches as an adult first in France 98 which strangely serves as a mid-point in the book and a tying to the end of the book as of course both involve the french player Zidane.Toussaints memories are tied to his team Belgium and their course through the cup which in this case was three draws . Then what follows is how he sees the team at the following world cups the next saw them make the 2nd round only to lose to Brazil.then the missing belgium team means a short piece on 2006. Then South Africa also a year without Belgium . The work is rounded off with an earlier piece he wrote on Zidane about the mad night 2006 when Zidane end his career getting sent off for the first time for headbutting an italian player in an act out-of-place for the great player and hero of the first year Toussaint talks about .

Night has fallen over Berlin now, the intensity if the light has faded and Zidane has suddenly felt the sky darkening over his shoulders, leaving nothing in the firmament but the flayed trails of blck and pink clouds. Water mixed with night is an old remorse that will not sleep

No one in the stadium has understood what just happened.

That moment in 2006 from the piece Zidane’s melancholy

Now I find hard not to like this book as Toussaint is a true football fan , the real shame for me is the book ends just as the story of his team and country is about to turn the book ends in 2010 , when in 2014 the belgium team makes it quarter-final and even this time have been maybe the best team or second best team at euro 2016 so far with their team of stars. So lets hope we get a football 2 with these years at some point Toussaints take on Hazzard, Fellani and so on. The Belgium team is packed with talent not seen since the days of Enzo Scifo the great Belgium player with the Italian name that caught the eye in the 80s world cups where they finished 4th in 86 and Scifo was one of the stars of that year.This is one of the best football books I have read. But for further reading on the Benelux football I would point you in the way of Brilliant Orange a book on the mad genius of Dutch football .

 

The man I became by Peter Verhelst

 

The Man I became by Peter Verhelst

Belgian  fiction

Original title – Geschiedenis van een Berg

Translator – David Colmer

Source – review copy

It’s translation Thursday so I choose the latest book from one of my favourite publishers and the first in this years series. As you may or may not know every year Peirene collects their books around a theme, this years theme is Fairy tale. Peter Verhelst has written more than twenty books and has won a number of major prizes such as the Flemish state prize. This is his 11th novel . He is considered a post modernist writer, he also writes poetry and plays.

I don’t know exactly when – I still couldn’t think in terms of days and years, that’s how long ago it was – but the heat made us so drowsy that we nodded off and slept whole afternoon away in a heap, spread eagled on top of each other. We caught termites by pushing long twigs, as flexible as blade of grass, into their mounds and then licking the twigs clean.

Opening as the gorilla remembers where he was before he was captured

The man I became is the story of a gorilla told from his point of view, from being captured to arriving in europe where they start to turn the Ape to human to get him to fit in. The first way of trying to fit in first is at a cocktail party then he ends up at an over the top theme park. In this novel we meet the gorilla he learns to talk  and starts to think like a human even in the sense of times and starts on a path to become human in a way even thou he isn’t  but the more he sees of the human world the more he finds it against his own nature and then the theme park burns down.

Dreamland was a success. After every performance the applause was tumultuous. It attracted newspapers, magazines, camera crews. People came from all over the new world. The organizers decided to go from two shows a day to three. After a week the first accident happened. One of the Giraffes broke a leg. As a result the other giraffes had to work even more.

At the morning meeting the next day, the human ordered me to take over several off his duties. He would be concentrating on the supply of new animals and trainers. I worked day and night to ensure that both the training and organization of the shows ran smoothly. the giraffe with the broken leg was nowhere to be seen

I liked this as I imagined removing the animal names and adding refugees being overworked !

This is not the first book told by an ape , I loved will self’s great apes years ago and this is on a similar vein the use of the gorilla is a symbol for showing the flaws in human nature . This is a clever way at looking at human nature , why would we want an ape to be a human ? , then be in a show on civilization with a whole load of other animals trying to be human. I loved the way dreamland is put together its like a nightmare version of disneyland put together by Werner Herzog. He also shows the way we can all break replace an Ape with say a Syrian man or a child from sub Saharan Africa and at the core of this is an allegory to being an outsider in a different place we don’t always fit and sometimes we need to break out.A powerful modern take on a fairy tale it does what Orwell did in animal farm and communism with a theme park and refugees or people forced into europe .

Have you read a book narrated by animal ?

The woman who fed the dogs by Kristien Hemmerechts

The Woman Who Fed The Dogs

The woman who fed the dogs by Kristien Hemmerechts

Belgium Fiction

Original title – De vrouw die de honden eten gaf

Translator – Paul Vincent

A woman said: “I know my son is dead
I’ll never rest my hands on his sacred head”

Hindley wakes and Hindley says:
Hindley wakes, Hindley wakes, Hindley wakes, and says:
“Oh, wherever he has gone, I have gone”

But fresh lilaced moorland fields
Cannot hide the stolid stench of death
Fresh lilaced moorland fields
Cannot hide the stolid stench of death

I choose Smiths song Suffer little children a song about the moord Murders a similar case to this one .

I am back with another of the books from the first year of World editions which is the English arm of the big Dutch publisher De Geus .Kristien Hemmerechts has written over twenty novels in her time and numerous short story collections .She has won the Flemish state prize and Frans Kellendonk prize .Given that wonderful writing life this appears to be her first translation into English

“Odette , show us how well you can clean ” He kicked the waste bin over . “Sorry .Acident “. Or he would pour milk on the ground , step into the puddle and leave a trail of milk all over the house , .

” Thank you , M “. And then I mustn’t forget to pull my mouth into a smile .

“Odette wasn’t made to sit on her arse ” , he said

He made he do thing like this to gain his control of her , where many folk would said no at some point she didn’t !

This book is a fiction account of The story of Michelle Martin she was the ex-wife and accomplice of the Marc Dutroux ,He killed and sexually assault six girls in the mid 90’s .The case is one of the most notorious in Belgium history that lead to a change in the French justice system as what was seen as a bungled investigation .Also a third of people who shared the surname changed their name after he was caught . As you see this book is about  a powerful true story . For the book Marc becomes M and Michelle Martin is Odette , the story that unfolds shows the way she was drawn into this violent man’s world from his early petty crimes to the end of kidnapping , assaulting and killing of the young girls . We see all the events unfold through her eyes as she tells us of her and M’s lives .There is a lot about M’s past and how he was abused and this lead him to this path .We also see why she followed as the past they have unfolds bit by bit .

M wanted m because he wanted a daughter ,That was one of the first things he said to me in that caravan  of his that he had stationed in the car park by the skating rink .And asked me if I wanted to know how many women he had fucked in that caravan .And how many girls .”I didn’t need to know that ” I said calmly .That was lucky , he said , because he didn’t know approximately .

Sex played a big part in their relationship , as power games between them .

This is a book I wouldn’t picked up to read myself , I don’t drift towards books of this nature , but I felt I had to read it after being sent so many books from World edition .I ‘m pleased I did what is written is an even hand untainted view of this womans life . We see how she is drawn into M’s life and the crimes he and then they did together .You are left to decide whether she was an innocent that felt unable to speak or a willing partner in the crime for me this is one of those case that is a bit of both , Female killers are so rare they tend to be more well-known than male killer Myra Hindley for example is maybe the nearest comparison to this case I could think of in the UK were both Husband and Wife took part in the killing .I felt for Odette , but I at my core have a very strong moral heart and the things she did you have to know on a level are wrong .But that aside a journey into a world of killers and what drives people or gets people caught up with a psychopath on his killing .

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