Maigret Meets a Milord by Georges Simenon

This one is set on the canals of France, where Maigret investigates a double murder. The ‘Milord’ in the title is odd but presumably there was no English equivalent, since it depends for its meaning on being a French word for an English thing. A bit like translating ‘rosbif’, which the French slang word for someone from Britain.

The ‘Milord’ in question is not a peer, as in a ‘Lord’ but a knight, as in a ‘Sir’ But this esoteric piece of hair splitting would only make sense to people from Britain who know, even if it is not easy to understand, our strange system of honours and titles. ‘Milord’ in French, coming as it obviously does from ‘My Lord’, just means posh English person.

I notice two things about the Maigret novels. The first is the regular appearance of prostitutes and other women who, while they may not be prostitutes, are presented as cyphers for sexual activity. There is something very worldly and non-judgmental about this. Their activities are treated as unexceptional and part of every day life. Whether this was truly how it was in 1950s France, I don’t know. I suppose it could also be seen as betraying a male-centric view of the world on the part of the author or, perhaps less likely, a clever trick by him to convey that meaning about Maigret. Anyway, it is an interesting feature of the books.

He also uses descriptions of the weather to colour in the mood and background of the scene. In this book, there are lots of overcast skies and grey drizzle, appropriate to the story. In others, there are sunny days when Maigret is bustling after a case and standing pensively by windows.

I did not fulfil my promise to match Maigret drink for drink while reading this book and I am glad, as he drank too much whisky, of which I am not all that fond. But I will do so next time.


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