Sunday, December 15, 2013

Op-Ed: Detecting a nasty side to Maigret

Norman Lebrecht writes in the Jewish Chronicle:
Early this summer, at a colleague’s suggestion, I returned to an author I last read in my teens. Georges Simenon churned out some 200 crime novels in 40 years, of which 75 featured his imposing creation, Inspector Jules Maigret. 

Apologists have long argued that Simenon’s racism was a product of his time, no different or worse than the attitudes of such crime writers as Arthur Conan Doyle, G K Chesterton and Agatha Christie. It should, writes one analyst, “be seen as a symptom of intellectual and moral laziness rather than a deliberate expression of a social or political agenda.” Perhaps. But Simenon’s antisemitism persists longer than the rest; his last slur appears in Maigret’s Patience, as late as 1965. He is, in a word, unregenerate. 
Now no one would expect a publisher to suppress books that have sold half-a-billion copies and remain gloriously readable. Nor would a professional translator agree to modify an original text in tune with current sensibilities. What is required, however, is an expression of detachment. Penguin need to issue a cover warning of racism in all Maigret novels where Jews are mentioned. Nothing less will do.

More: Jewish Chronicle

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