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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction

Maigret e il caso Simenon

Maurizio Testa

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Title: Maigret e il caso Simenon
Author: Maurizio Testa
Genre: Novel
Written: 1994
Length: 207 pages
Original in: Italian
Availability: Maigret et l'affaire Simenon - France
Maigret und der Fall Simenon - Deutschland
Maigret e il caso Simenon - Italia
  • Maigret e il caso Simenon has not yet been translated into English

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Our Assessment:

B- : entertaining approach to biography, if too simplistically realized

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
la Repubblica . 22/1/1995 Edmondo Dietrich
Der Standard D 27-28/10/2001 Martin Adel
Der Tagesspiegel D 6/7/2001 Sacha Verna
taz C 24/4/2001 Georg Seesslen

  From the Reviews:
  • "(U)na biografia originale e anche divertente che si svolge attraverso l'investigazione di Maigret, ma che si attiene strettamente a fatti reali. Una specie di inchiesta-biografia che segue pedissequamente gli schemi e i canoni che usava Simenon nei suoi romanzi." - Edmondo Dietrich, la Repubblica

  • "Weder ist er ein begnadeter Aufdeckungsjournalist, noch schlägt er andere Funken aus seinem Stoff. Ein witzloses Buch. (...) Der alterslos alte Maigret, der sich zum Ausgleich für seine Mühen mit diversen Spezialitäten den Bauch voll schlägt und die Leber belastet, schleppt sich, anders als es seine Rolle vorsehen würde, nur wenig spritzig und eher lustlos durch die Ermittlungen. Der Leser mit ihm." - Martin Adel, Der Standard

  • "Was Simenons tatsächlich streckenweise undurchsichtige Vita betrifft, ist der Erkenntniswert dieses Buches gleich Null. Maigret bemüht sich zwar redlich, aber was Testa ihm einflüstert, verrät jeder ausführlichere Lexikonartikel (.....) Einzuwenden ist lediglich etwas gegen die Tatsache, dass Testa diesen jämmerlich gescheiterten Versuch eines quasi offiziellen Simenon-Plagiats allen Ernstes als Literatur verkauft. (...) Die peinliche Anhäufung von Maigret-Versatzstücken ist das eine, der himmeltraurige Stil das andere." - Sacha Verna, Der Tagesspiegel

  • "Nein, übermäßig subtil ist das Ganze nicht geraten, eher so etwas in der Art eines unterhaltsamen Schulfunktextes. (...) Maurizio Testa führt uns einen kulturell schon bemerkenswert ahnungslosen Kommissar Maigret vor, aber er selbst scheint sich sein Wissen auch nur aus Schulenzyklopädien zusammenzustöpseln. Auch das Stilistische bekommt Maurizio Testa nicht in den Griff. (...) Worum es wirklich geht in Maigret und der Fall Simenon, das ist die sorgfältigste Vermeidung jeglicher kritischen Auseinandersetzung mit dem Werk und dem Leben von Georges Simenon, ein unbarmherziges Glattbügeln aller Brüche in der Biografie." - Georg Seesslen, taz

Please note that these ratings solely represent the complete review's biased interpretation and subjective opinion of the actual reviews and do not claim to accurately reflect or represent the views of the reviewers. Similarly the illustrative quotes chosen here are merely those the complete review subjectively believes represent the tenor and judgment of the review as a whole. We acknowledge (and remind and warn you) that they may, in fact, be entirely unrepresentative of the actual reviews by any other measure.

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The complete review's Review:

[Note: Maigret e il caso Simenon has not yet been translated into English, and this review is based on the German translation by Karin Fleischanderl, Maigret und der Fall Simenon (2001). All quotes are my translations from that translation.]

       Maurizio Testa's Maigret e il caso Simenon has an inspired premise: commissaire Jules Maigret is charged with investigating author Georges Simenon a few years after his 1989 death. Maigret is assigned the case by a Judge Comeliau, who explains that the French government is considering presenting Simenon as the face of contemporary French literature, a flagship figure. Before they do so they want to make sure that he would be a worthy representative, with no embarrassing skeletons in his closet -- and it is Maigret who is to lead the investigation into the author.
       Fudging Maigret's own dates some -- he is said to have been on the job for only some thrity years, despite also having met Simenon when the author was just at the start of his writing career --, Testa otherwise aims to present a typical Simenon-like Maigret novel, albeit one without a real crime of the sort Simenon usually had Maigret involved with. [One imagines the main reason that Maigret e il caso Simenon has not been translated into English is for reasons of copyright protection, the fictional character of Maigret still the *property* of Simenon's estate, but given that there is even a French translation perhaps Testa did get permission from the copyright-holders (though there is no indication of that in the German edition).]
       When Maigret meets Joseph Vrindts, the poet wonders why reading some of the many biographies of Simenon, such as that by Pierre Assouline, wouldn't be good enough to learn what there is to know about the man, but Maigret suggests that a 'literary biography is something completely different from a police investigation'. Certainly, Testa's is an interesting approach to and variation on biography, Maigret poking around to discover the basics of Simenon's life -- though it's a shame he doesn't take advantage of this difference in approaches more and doesn't scratch beneath more of the surfaces. Still, if nothing else, Maigret e il caso Simenon provides a decent (if very basic) overview of and introduction to the author's life.
       Testa has Maigret speak with some of those who knew Simenon -- and here he is already on some suspect ground, as he has Maigret meeting up with several persons who pre-deceased Simenon ..... Sure, it's an interesting group of names: beside some of those who worked and lived with Maigret, he does manage to speak with Colette, Josephine Baker, Henry Miller, and Brendan Gill, as well as the aforementioned (and also long, long dead) Vrindts. Still, while Simenon also allowed Maigret a career that stretched mightily long, speaking with the in-real-life-dead stretches even what the master did and does shift the novel from the merely contrived to the entirely fantastical.
       Along with a lot of meals, big and small, there's rather a lot of travel -- to Belgium, Switzerland, and even the United States, beside all the trekking around Paris itself --, as Maigret does like to do things in person. If the payoff of a glimpse of, say, the FBI files on Simenon isn't all that great some of the stations, like visits to Simenon's Paris apartment and a look at his unusual Lausanne house are a nice touch.
       Maigret doesn't understand why he's been picked for this job -- he points out that he isn't a bookish person, and has no idea about literature and writers -- but the judge apparently thinks his talents and way of doing things are well-suited for the task at hand. Madame Maigret has (secretly) read Simenon's Maigret-works (which her husband refuses to allow in the house), but Maigret himself isn't much of a reader; he does give some of Simenon's works a go then, but doesn't get too far in these. He's a more hands-on kind of investigator, learning things about people through conversation.
       There are a lot of files to go through to -- but Maigret also has a helpful team that sums up some of the essentials. There are some flags that look pretty red from early on in Simenon's career -- his brother was wanted as a collaborator, and there are some early anti-Semitic pieces -- but a few conversations with those who knew Simenon put Maigret more at ease. The tragic suicide of his daughter Marie Jo points to a some complicated domestic issues, but here too Maigret is sympathetic.
       Maigret says he didn't like Simenon when he first met him, and he didn't like the appropriation of his name for Simenon's character and works, but as he investigates the author's life his attitude changes some. If at the beginning of his investigation he was inclined to think that Simenon would hardly make for a good representative of the French nation, by the end he's more concerned that Simenon wouldn't have liked to be thrust into that kind of position. That's not something he can put in his report, but he still finagles things so that he resolves the investigation to what he imagines would also be Simenon's wishes.
       It all makes for a decent if also very familiar tour of Simenon's life -- how intensely and obsessively he worked; his closeness to family, even as he remained sexually voracious, etc. There's more than enough about the author that was remarkable, so Testa has easy pickings there. Imitating Simenon's style is, of course, another matter. Testa gives writing 'a Maigret' a go, and there are times when the imitation is not too far from the original, but it is hard to sustain. Overall, Testa's imitation is mostly passable -- a dulled variation, but with enough echoes of the original. For fans, it's also fun to see some of the familiar faces and names, adding a bit of a feel of authenticity (if one can call it that).
       An amusing idea, Maigret e il caso Simenon is reasonably well done and a nice little homage to the great writer, even if it feels like quite a missed opportunity, as Testa doesn't dare take his premise beyond the basics. For those who don't want to wade through a fat biography, it's an entertaining and adequate quick substitute, at least in getting a general impression of the man and the main facts of his life. As a mystery, it's a bit flat -- with Testa not even trying too hard to come up with a good reason for the opening of the investigation in the first place, the ostensible one being rather weak (and the judge's constant harping on its urgency and secrecy don't help make it any more suspenseful).

- M.A.Orthofer, 9 March 2023

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Maigret e il caso Simenon: Reviews: Georges Simenon: Other books by Georges Simenon under review: Other books of interest under review:

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About the Author:

       Italian author Maurizio Testa was born in1954.

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© 2023 the complete review

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