Authors: Georges Simenon
An imprint of Penguin Random House LLC
375 Hudson Street
New York, New York 10014
First published in French as
Les Vacances de Maigret
by Presses de la CitÃ© 1948
This translation first published 2016
Copyright Â© 1948 by Georges Simenon Limited
Translation copyright Â© 2016 by Ros Schwartz
GEORGES SIMENON Â® Simenon.tm
MAIGRET Â® Georges Simenon Limited
All rights reserved.
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Cover photograph Â© Harry Gruyaert/Magnum Photos
Georges Simenon was born on 12 February
1903 in LiÃ¨ge, Belgium, and died in 1989 in Lausanne, Switzerland, where he had
lived for the latter part of his life. Between 1931 and 1972 he published seventy-five
novels and twenty-eight short stories featuring Inspector Maigret.
Simenon always resisted identifying himself
with his famous literary character, but acknowledged that they shared an important
My motto, to the extent that I have one,
has been noted often enough, and I've always conformed to it. It's the
one I've given to old Maigret, who resembles me in certain points â¦
âunderstand and judge not'.
Penguin is publishing the entire series of
âI love reading Simenon. He makes me
think of Chekhov'
â William Faulkner
âA truly wonderful writer â¦
marvellously readable â lucid, simple, absolutely in tune with the world he
â Muriel Spark
âFew writers have ever conveyed with
such a sure touch, the bleakness of human life'
â A. N. Wilson
âOne of the greatest writers of the
twentieth century â¦ Simenon was unequalled at making us look inside, though the
ability was masked by his brilliance at absorbing us obsessively in his
âA novelist who entered his fictional
world as if he were part of it'
â Peter Ackroyd
âThe greatest of all, the most
genuine novelist we have had in literature'
â AndrÃ© Gide
âSuperb â¦ The most addictive of
writers â¦ A unique teller of tales'
âThe mysteries of the human
personality are revealed in all their disconcerting complexity'
â Anita Brookner
âA writer who, more than any other
crime novelist, combined a high literary reputation with popular appeal'
â P. D. James
âA supreme writer â¦
â John Gray
âExtraordinary masterpieces of the
â John Banville
The street was narrow, like all the streets
in the old quarter of Les Sables d'Olonne, with uneven cobblestones and pavements
so narrow that you had to step off to let another person pass. The entrance to the
corner building was a magnificent double door, painted a dark, rich, pristine green,
with two highly polished brass knockers of the kind found only on the houses of
provincial lawyers or convents.
Opposite were parked two long, gleaming cars
which exuded the same aura of spotlessness and comfort. Maigret recognized them, they
both belonged to surgeons.
âI could have been a surgeon
too,' he thought to himself. And owned a car like that. Probably not a surgeon,
but it was a fact that he had almost become a doctor. He had set out to study medicine
and sometimes felt a hankering for the medical profession. If his father hadn't
died three years too soon â¦
Before mounting the step, he drew his watch
out of his pocket. It showed three o'clock. The same instant, the chapel's
slightly shrill peal rang out, and then came the deeper chimes of Notre-Dame over the
rooftops of the town's little houses.
He sighed and pressed the electric bell. He
sighed because it was absurd to take his watch out of his pocket
same time every day. He sighed because it was no less absurd to arrive on the dot of
three, as if the fate of the world depended on it. He sighed because, in the time it
took to wait for the click of the door, which opened automatically, soundlessly,
smoothly, thanks to a well-oiled mechanism, he would, as on the previous days, become a
Not even a man. His shoulders were still the
broad shoulders of Detective Chief Inspector Maigret, his burly form did not
From the minute he set foot in the wide,
bright corridor, however, he felt like a little boy, the young Maigret who, long ago, in
his village in the Allier, used to walk on tiptoe and hold his breath when, at dawn, his
hands frozen and his nose red, he entered the sacristy to don his choirboy's
The atmosphere here was reminiscent of those
days. A faint pharmaceutical smell replaced the fragrance of incense, but it was not the
sickening smell of hospitals, it was more complex, more refined, more
. Underfoot was a soft linoleum the equivalent of which he had never
seen anywhere. The walls too, covered with oil paint, were smoother, of a creamier white
than elsewhere. Even the moistness in the air and the purity of the silence had a
quality that cannot be found anywhere other than in a convent.
He instinctively turned to the right and
bowed, like the choirboy walking past the altar, murmuring:
âGood afternoon, Sister
In a neat, light-filled glazed office with a
window on to
the corridor, a nun wearing a cornette sat in front of a
register. She smiled at him and said:
âGood afternoon, Monsieur 6 â¦ I
telephoned to ask if you may go up â¦ Our dear patient is improving every
This one was Sister AurÃ©lie. In
ordinary life, she would probably have been a woman in her fifties, but beneath her
white headdress, her caramel-smooth face was ageless.
âHello!' she said in a hushed
voice. âIs that you, Sister Marie des Anges? â¦ Monsieur 6 is downstairs
Maigret did not take offence, did not even
grow impatient. Goodness, how futile this daily ritual was. They were expecting him
upstairs. They knew he arrived on the dot of three. He was capable of going up to the
first floor all by himself.
But no! They were sticklers for routine.
Sister AurÃ©lie smiled at him, and he looked at the red-carpeted stairs where Sister
Marie des Anges would appear.
She too smiled, her hands lost in the
voluminous sleeves of her grey habit.
âWould you like to come up, Monsieur
He knew very well that she would whisper, as
if it were a secret or a sensational piece of news:
âOur dear patient is improving every
He walked on tiptoe. He might have blushed
if, by chance, his weight had caused a stair to creak. He even turned away slightly when
he spoke, to disguise the smell of Calvados which he drank every day after his
The sunlight streamed into the corridor in
slanting rays, as in paintings of saints. He occasionally passed a trolley
on which lay a patient being wheeled to the operating theatre and whose
fixed stare was the only thing he remembered.
Sister Aldegonde invariably came to the
doorway of the vast, twenty-bed ward, as if by chance, as if she had some business
there, purely to say to him in passing, with a pious smile:
âGood afternoon, Monsieur 6
Then, a little further on, Sister Marie des
Anges pushed open door number 6, and stood aside.
Sitting up in bed with a strange expression
on her pallid face, a woman watched him come in. It was Madame Maigret, with a look that
seemed to be saying to him:
âMy poor Maigret, how you have changed
Why was he still walking on tiptoe, talking
in a quiet voice that wasn't his, moving cautiously as if in a china shop? He
kissed her on the forehead, spotted the oranges and biscuits on the bedside table and,
on the blanket, a piece of knitting that infuriated him.
âSister Marie des Anges allowed me to
do a little bit.'
There were other rituals, like greeting the
old lady in the other bed. For they had not been able to get a single room.
âGood afternoon, Mademoiselle Rinquet
She looked at him with her darting, beady
little eyes. His visits enraged her. All the time he was there, her worn-looking face
maintained a surly expression.
âSit down, my poor Maigret
She was the one who was ill. She was the one
who had needed emergency surgery three days after their arrival in
Sables d'Olonne, where they had come to spend their holiday. But she was calling
him âmy poor Maigret'.
It was much too hot, but nothing on earth
would make him take off his jacket. Sister Marie des Anges popped in from time to time,
goodness knows why, to move a glass of water, bring in a thermometer or some other item.
Each time she would mutter, glancing at Maigret:
âExcuse me â¦'
As for Madame Maigret, every day she
âWhat have you had to eat?'
But actually, she wasn't so far off
the mark. What else was there for him to do, other than eat and drink? The fact was that
he had never drunk so much in his life.
The day after the operation, the surgeon had
âDon't stay longer than half an
Now it had become a routine, a ritual. He
stayed for half an hour. He had nothing to say. The presence of the bad-tempered
spinster inhibited him. In any case, in normal times, what did he talk about to his wife
when he was with her? He was beginning to ask himself this question. Nothing, in short,
was the answer. So why was he missing her so much all the time?