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Brassai

The Police Stations of Maigret's Paris

by Murielle Wenger

original French

In the Paris of Simenon's novels, along with the streets, there are institutions, offices and buildings... and the novelist has made a conscious selection among these places, to construct his own vision of the capital, favoring certain neighborhoods. This is particularly true in the Maigrets. We've already discussed the streets, as well as the cafes and similar places.

Today we'll examine a locale which is inevitably part of Maigret's world, the neighborhood police station. We know that even if only rarely, Maigret sometimes needs the assistance of inspectors and Chief Inspectors of a district station, and he visits or telephones for information.

Among the numerous stations in the arrondissements and those in the districts, Simenon has made his choices, and has only mentioned, or sometimes described, a few of them, those, of course, that Maigret encounters in the course of his investigations. With the assistance of Michel Lemoine's irreplaceable Paris chez Simenon, we'll consider some of these, referring to it for most of the details.

Police stations are mentioned in 29 novels and two short stories. These mentions can be anecdotal, as when the novelist simply writes, for example, that Maigret received a call from some district station or another, without providing more details on it location. Sometimes the location of a station (Simenon doesn't seem to make any distinction between a commissariat and a poste de police, the former being the more administratively important of the two designations) is specified by the name of its street. And in some cases, he presents a brief description of the premises. Michel Lemoine reports that sometimes Simenon's locations are somewhat fanciful, a product of "novelistic license"...

In two novels we find stations which are not properly within the confines of Parisian districts... Charenton in L'écluse no 1 (where Maigret has a conversation with Gassin), and Neuilly in Maigret et la Grande Perche (where Maigret has Guillaume Serre interrogated by the local commissioner). As for the others, we find, unsurprisingly, that the stations most frequently encountered in the saga are those of the IXe and XVIIIe arrondissements -- on the one hand because they're in investigations which take place around Montmartre, one of the areas most frequented by Maigret in the course of his work, and on the other, because they're within the province of Inspector Lognon, who is often encountered in these locations.

In the Ier arrondissement, the Halles station on Rue des Prouvaires, is notably present in Maigret et l'homme tout seul, and it's Chief Inspector Ascan who calls Maigret to advise him of the discovery of a clochard murdered in the cul-de-sac Vieux-Four. In the IIIe arrondissement, Simenon offers three different addresses for the station: Rue de Béarn (L'ombre chinoise), Rue Notre-Dame de Nazareth (Maigret et l'homme du banc), and Rue Perrée (Maigret se défend). In the VIIIe arrondissement, we find the Rue de Berry station (Maigret voyage), from which one of the inspectors, Justin, comes to the George-V Hotel to ask several questions after the attempted suicide of the little Countess. In the Xe arrondissement there's a station at the end of Quai de Jemmapes (Maigret et le corps sans tête), with its "faded flag" and its "blue lantern", and that's where Inspector Judel works. Maigret goes to the station in Place Léon-Blum, in the XIe arrondissement, on the ground floor of the town hall, to ask the agents if they'd seen or heard anything on the Boulevard Voltaire (Maigret et l'affaire Nahour). And that's where he called when the body of Antoine Batille was found in Rue Popincourt (Maigret et le tueur). It's in the commissariat of the XIVe arrondissement (in Montparnasse, more precisely, Rue Delambre, according to Michel Lemoine) that Maigret attempt to interrogate Radek when he was arrested at La Coupole (La tête d'un homme). In the XVIe arrondissement, two stations are mentioned, Auteuil, at the corner of Boulevard Exelmans and Rue Chardon-Lagache (Une confidence de Maigret), and the station at Rue de la Faisanderie, Fumel's home station (Maigret et le voleur paresseux). Ternes station is in the XVIIe arrondissement, on Rue de l'Etoile... that's where the policemen will call after finding Maigret knocked down on the sidewalk (La première enquête de Maigret), where Chief Inspector Dupeu works (Maigret se trompe), and the area in which the Hotel Bussière is located (La patience de Maigret). We note that Simenon moves this station to Avenue de Villiers in Maigret et le marchand de vin.

We've saved for last the stations of the IXe and XVIIIe arrondissements, the fiefs of Inspector Lognon, who works in one or the other of these stations, according to the novel. In the XVIIIe arrondissement is the Rue Damrémont station, in the Grandes-Carrières district. That's where Maigret receives a call about an assassinated fortune teller (Signé Picpus), and it was to there that Maigret's nephew called after the gunshot heard at Emergency Services (Maigret et l'inspecteur Malgracieux). And so it's in this Montmartre station that Lognon has worked for 22 years, as we learn in Maigret tend un piège. Simenon moves it to Rue de Maistre in Un échec de Maigret. And in Maigret et le fantôme, the station in the XVIIIe where Lognon works is found at the corner of Rue Ordener and Rue du Mont-Cenis. Finally, in Maigret et l'homme tout seul, the station is located in Rue Lambert.

Now for the station of the IXe arrondissement, to which Lognon is attached in other novels. But this police station in the Saint-Georges district, on the Rue La-Rochefoucauld (according to Simenon, for, according to Michel Lemoine, there's actually no station there), is above all where Maigret launched his career, as secretary to the Chief Inspector. This is the occasion to recall La première enquête de Maigret, which opens with the description of the interior of the station... We enter into a room separated in two by a black balustrade. On the public side there is a black, backless bench. On the whitewashed wall, administrative notices, and a black-rimmed clock. On the other side of the railing, black desks of the employees, and racks containing black ledgers. And most notably a cast-iron stove with its bent stovepipe, an object of Maigret's nostalgia… The Chief Inspector's office is connected to the room via an electric bell, and separated by a padded door.

Much later, when Maigret himself has become a Chief Inspector at the PJ, the Rue La-Rochefoucauld station will be Lognon's post. In Maigret au Picratt's, it's where Arlette goes to make her deposition. Outside, there's a blue lantern, and on the interior there's still a balustrade separating the agents from the public, a bench along the wall under the administrative notices, and a large electric clock. It's there that the Surly inspector works in Maigret, Lognon et les gangsters; however this time, we also find in the XVIIIe arrondissement, another station, that of the third district, which should have taken care of the victim of the victim Rue Fléchier... It's this other station that Maigret calls for reinforcements when he is followed by Cinaglia, and after his vain pursuit by the police, the Chief Inspector goes to this station, in which he finds a little stove… which he obviously sets himself to stoking… We find Lognon again at Rue La-Rochefoucauld in Maigret et la jeune morte, a novel in which a memory of Maigret's youth is evoked... "Maigret glanced at the facade of the station, whose flag was hanging in the still air. It was in this building that he had begun long ago, not as an inspector, but as secretary to the Chief Inspector." However, we may well wonder why, in Un échec de Maigret, the Chief Inspector recalls a time when he was "secretary at the Rochechouart station"…

Whatever the reality of where these police stations were situated, it is nonetheless true that Simenon was able to recreate, by the magic of his writing, a novelistic veracity as authentic as reality …
 

translation: S. Trussel
Honolulu, May 13, 2017

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