Authors: Georges Simenon
Published by the Penguin Group
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First published in French as
La Guinguette Ã deux sous
by Fayard 1932
This translation first published as
The Bar on the Seine
in Penguin Books 2003, and revised 2014
Copyright 1932 by Georges Simenon Limited
Translation copyright Â© Georges Simenon Limited, 2003, 2014
GEORGES SIMENON Â® Simenon.tm
MAIGRET Â® Georges Simenon Limited
Cover photograph (detail) Â© Burt Glinn/Magnum Photos
Front cover design by Alceu Chiesorin Nunes
Cover credit: Â© Harry Gruyaert/Magnum Photos
All rights reserved
The moral rights of the author and translator have been asserted
Typeset by Palimpsest Book Production Ltd, Falkirk, Stirlingshire
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 creates'
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 stories'
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¦ Unforgettable vividness'
âCompelling, remorseless, brilliant'
â John Gray
âExtraordinary masterpieces of the twentieth century'
â John Banville
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 characteristic:
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 Maigret novels.
A radiant late afternoon. The sunshine almost as thick as syrup in the quiet streets of the Left Bank. And everything â the people's faces, the countless familiar sounds of the street â exuded a joy to be alive.
There are days like this, when ordinary life seems heightened, when the people walking down the street, the trams and cars all seem to exist in a fairy tale.
It was 27 June. When Maigret arrived at the gate of the SantÃ© prison he found the guard gazing soppily at a little white cat that was playing with the dog from the dairy.
Some days the pavement must be more resonant underfoot: Maigret's footsteps echoed in the vast courtyard. He walked to the end of a corridor, where he asked a warder:
âDoes he know? â¦'
A key turned in the lock. The bolt was pulled back. A high-ceilinged cell, very clean. A man stood up, looking unsure as to which expression to adopt.
âAll right, Lenoir?' the inspector asked.
The man nearly smiled. But a thought came into his mind and his face hardened. He frowned suspiciously, and his mouth twisted into a sneer for a moment or two. Then he shrugged his shoulders and held out his hand.
âI see,' he said.
âWhat do you see?'
A resigned smile.
âGive it a rest, eh? You must be here because â¦'
âI'm here because I'm off on holiday tomorrow and â¦'
The prisoner gave a hollow laugh. He was a tall young man. His dark hair was brushed back. He had regular features, fine brown eyes. His thin dark moustache set off the whiteness of his teeth, which were as sharp as a rodent's.
âThat's very kind of you, inspector â¦'
He stretched, yawned, put down the lid of the toilet in the corner of the cell which had been left up.
âExcuse the mess â¦'
Then suddenly, looking Maigret in the eye, he said:
âThey've turned down the appeal, haven't they?'
There was no point in lying. He knew already. He started pacing up and down.
âI knew they would â¦ so when is it? â¦ Tomorrow?'
Even so, his voice faltered and his eyes drank in the glimmer of light from the narrow window high up the cell wall.
At that moment, the evening papers being sold on the cafÃ© terraces announced:
The President of the Republic has rejected the appeal of Jean Lenoir, the young leader of the Belleville gang. The execution will take place tomorrow at dawn.
It was Maigret himself who had arrested Lenoir three months previously, in a hotel in Rue Saint-Antoine. A
split second later and the bullet the gangster fired at him would have caught him full in the chest rather than ending up
lodged in the ceiling.
In spite of this, the inspector bore him no grudge; indeed, he had taken something of a shine to him. Firstly, perhaps, because Lenoir was so young â a twenty-two-year-old who had been in and out of prison since the age of fifteen. But also
because he had a self-confidence about him.
He had had accomplices. Two of them were arrested at the same time as him. They were both guilty and on this occasion â an armed robbery â they probably played a bigger part than the boss himself. However, Lenoir got them off the hook. He took
the whole blame on himself and refused to âspill the beans'.
He never put on an act, wasn't too full of himself. He didn't blame society for his actions.
âLooks like I've lost,' was all he said.
It was all over. More precisely, it would be all over when the sun, which was casting a golden strip of light on the cell wall, next rose.
Almost unconsciously, Lenoir felt the back of his neck. He shivered, turned pale, gave a derisive laugh:
âIt feels weird â¦'
Then suddenly, in an outburst of bitterness:
âThere are others who deserve this, and I wish they were going down with me!'
He looked at Maigret, hesitated, walked round the narrow cell once more, muttering:
âDon't get excited, I'm not going to put anyone in the frame now â¦ but all the same â¦'
The inspector avoided looking at him. He could feel a confession coming. And he knew the man was so prickly that the slightest reaction or sign of interest on his part would make him clam up.
âThere's a little place known as the “Two-Penny Bar” â¦ I don't suppose you're familiar with it, but if you happen to find yourself in the neighbourhood you might be interested to know that one of the regulars
there has more reason than me to be putting his head on the block tomorrow â¦'
He was still pacing up and down. He couldn't stay still. It was hypnotic. It was the only sign of his inner turmoil.
âBut you won't get him â¦ Look, without giving anything away, I can tell you this much â¦ I don't know why this is coming back to me now. Maybe because I was just a kid. I couldn't have been more than sixteen â¦ Me and my
friend used to do a bit of filching around the dance halls. He must be in a sanatorium by now â he already had a cough back then â¦'
Was all this talk just to give himself the illusion of being alive, to prove to himself that he was still a man?