Pietr the Latvian, Georges Simenon

Reviewed By
Karen Chisholm

PIETR THE LATVIAN commences the latest entire series audio quest, having now finished the much loved Discworld novels. I'm also aware I've got a few other series underway in this quest - mostly they've lapsed because I'm easily distracted, or because they've failed to hold interest. This first Maigret outing definitely held interest, not always in the way I was expecting though.

Maybe it's just me, but the anti-semitism and the casual racism in this audio really jarred, so much so that there was a point when I thought I'm going to have to abandon this quest at the opening salvo. Cheating a little and looking through a lot of commentary and reviews, I was convinced me to press on, mostly because so many people find Maigret such a compelling character - which he most definitely is.

This introduction to Maigret brings to life a slightly grumpy lone wolf type detective, haunted by his decisions and dogged in his pursuit of the truth. The plot was interesting, and the detection methods, with surveillance and stakeouts playing a big part, and strikingly, the use of detailed written descriptions of suspects. Everything is played out against a dark, damp (often pouring rain) Paris, that seems as repressed and dogged as Maigret on occasions.

Discomfort aside, there are a lot of books in the Maigret series, and the quest will continue for the moment, as there is much commentary about the differences in each novel.


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The first audiobook which appeared in Georges Simenon's famous Maigret series, in a gripping new translation by David Bellos.

Inevitably Maigret was a hostile presence in the Majestic. He constituted a kind of foreign body that the hotel's atmosphere could not assimilate. Not that he looked like a cartoon policeman. He didn't have a moustache and he didn't wear heavy boots. His clothes were well cut and made of fairly light worsted. He shaved every day and looked after his hands. But his frame was proletarian. He was a big, bony man. His firm muscles filled out his jacket and quickly pulled all his trousers out of shape. He had a way of imposing himself just by standing there. His assertive presence had often irked many of his own colleagues.

In Simenon's first novel featuring Maigret, the laconic detective is taken from grimy bars to luxury hotels as he traces the true identity of Pietr the Latvian. Georges Simenon was born in Liège, Belgium, in 1903. Best known in Britain as the author of the Maigret books, his prolific output of over 400 novels and short stories have made him a household name in continental Europe. He died in 1989 in Lausanne, Switzerland, where he had lived for the latter part of his life.

David Bellos is Director of the Program in Translation and Intercultural Communication at Princeton University and has won many awards for his translations including the Man Booker International Translator's Award (2005).

Review Pietr the Latvian, Georges Simenon
Karen Chisholm
Thursday, November 25, 2021

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