THE MADMAN OF BERGERAC
Translated by Ros Schwartz
An imprint of Penguin Random House LLC
375 Hudson Street
New York, New York 10014
First published in French as Les trois morts de Bergerac by Fayard 1932
This translation first published in Penguin Books 2015
Copyright © 1932 by Georges Simenon Limited
Translation copyright © 2015 by Ros Schwartz
GEORGES SIMENON ® Simenon.tm
MAIGRET ® Georges Simenon Limited
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Cover photograph (detail) © Harry Gruyaert/Magnum Photos
Cover design by Alceu Chiesorin Nunes
About the Author
1. The Restless Passenger
2. Five Disappointed Men
3. The Second-class Ticket
4. A Gathering of Madmen
5. The Patent-leather Shoes
6. The Seal
8. A Book Collector
9. The Kidnapping of the Cabaret Singer
10. The Note
11. The Father
EXTRA: Chapter 1 from The Misty Harbour
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Georges Simenon was born on 12 February 1903 in Liège, 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 … ‘understand and judge not’.
Penguin is publishing the entire series of Maigret novels.
THE MADMAN OF BERGERAC
‘I love reading Simenon. He makes me think of Chekhov’
— William Faulkner
‘A truly wonderful writer … marvellously readable – lucid, simple, absolutely in tune with the world he creates’
— Muriel Spark
‘Few writers have ever conveyed with such a sure touch, the bleakness of human life’
— A. N. Wilson
‘One of the greatest writers of the twentieth century … Simenon was unequalled at making us look inside, though the ability was masked by his brilliance at absorbing us obsessively in his stories’
‘A novelist who entered his fictional world as if he were part of it’
— Peter Ackroyd
‘The greatest of all, the most genuine novelist we have had in literature’
— André Gide
‘Superb … The most addictive of writers … A unique teller of tales’
‘The mysteries of the human personality are revealed in all their disconcerting complexity’
— Anita Brookner
‘A writer who, more than any other crime novelist, combined a high literary reputation with popular appeal’
— P. D. James
‘A supreme writer … Unforgettable vividness’
‘Compelling, remorseless, brilliant’
— John Gray
‘Extraordinary masterpieces of the twentieth century’
— John Banville
1. The Restless Passenger
It all came about by pure chance! The previous day, Maigret had not known that he was about to go on a journey, even though it was the time of year when he usually began to find Paris oppressive. It was a March spiced up with a foretaste of spring and a clear, sharp sun that was already warm.
Madame Maigret was away in Alsace for a couple of weeks, staying with her sister, who was having a baby.
On the Wednesday morning, the inspector received a letter from a former colleague who had retired from the Police Judiciaire two years earlier and moved to the Dordogne.
… And of course, if you happen to be in the area, do come and stay with me for a few days. I have an elderly housekeeper who is only too happy when there are guests to fuss over. And it’s the start of the salmon season—
Maigret’s imagination was particularly fired by the letterhead with its drawing of a manor house flanked by two circular towers above the address:
At midday, Madame Maigret telephoned from Alsace to say that her sister would probably give birth that night, adding, ‘You’d think it was summer … The fruit trees are in blossom!’
Chance … Pure chance … A little later, Maigret was in the chief’s office, chatting, when his superior said, ‘By the way … Did you ever go to Bordeaux to follow up that matter we talked about?’
It was a minor case of no urgency. At some point, Maigret had to go to Bordeaux to trawl through the municipal records.
One idea led to another: Bordeaux … the Dordogne.
At that exact moment, a ray of sunlight struck the crystal globe paperweight on the chief’s desk.
‘That’s a thought! I’m not working on anything at the moment.’
Later that afternoon, having purchased a first-class ticket to Villefranche, Maigret boarded the train at the Gare d’Orsay. The guard reminded him to change trains at Libourne.
‘Unless you’re in the sleeper compartment which gets hitched to the connecting train.’
Maigret thought no more about it, read a few newspapers and made his way to the dining car where he sat until ten o’clock.
When he returned to his compartment, he found the curtains drawn and the light dimmed. An elderly couple had commandeered both seats.
An attendant walked past.
‘Is there a free bunk by any chance?’
‘Not in first-class … but I think there’s one in second … If you don’t mind—’
‘Of course not!’
And Maigret lugged his carpet-bag along the corridors. The attendant opened several doors and finally found the compartment in which only the upper bunk was taken.
Here too, the light was dimmed and the curtains drawn.
‘Would you like me to switch on the light?’
‘No thank you.’
The air was warm and stuffy. There was a faint hissing sound, as if there was a leak in the radiator pipes. Maigret could hear the person in the top bunk tossing and turning and breathing heavily.
The inspector silently removed his shoes, jacket and waistcoat. He stretched out on the lower bunk and felt a slight draught coming from somewhere. He picked up his bowler hat and put it over his face for protection.
Did he fall asleep? He dozed off, in any case. Perhaps for an hour, perhaps two. Perhaps longer. But he remained half conscious.
And, in that semi-conscious state, he was aware of a feeling of discomfort. Was it because of the heat battling with the draught?
Or was it because of the man in the top bunk, who couldn’t keep still for a second? He tossed and turned continually, just above Maigret’s head. Every movement made a rustling sound.
His breathing was irregular, as if he had a fever.
After a time, Maigret got up, exasperated, went into the corridor and paced up and down. But there it was too cold.
So it was back into the compartment, and another attempt to sleep, his thoughts and sensations befuddled by drowsiness.
Cut off from the rest of the world, the atmosphere was that of a nightmare.
Had the man above him just raised himself up on his elbows and leaned over to try and get a look at his companion?
Maigret, meanwhile, didn’t dare move. The half-bottle of Bordeaux and the two brandies he had drunk in the dining car lay heavy in his stomach.
The night was long. Whenever the train stopped at a station, there was a babble of voices, footsteps in the corridors, doors slamming. It felt as if the train would never get going again.
It sounded as if the man was crying. There were moments when he held his breath. Then suddenly, there’d be a snivel and he would turn over and blow his nose.
Maigret regretted leaving his first-class compartment occupied by the elderly couple.
He dozed off, woke up and drifted off again. Finally, unable to stand it any longer, he coughed to steady his voice and said, ‘Monsieur, would you kindly try to keep still!’
He felt embarrassed, because his voice sounded much sterner than he had intended. Supposing the man was ill?
There was no answer. The tossing and turning stopped. The man must have been making a huge effort to avoid making the slightest sound. And it suddenly occurred to Maigret that it might not be a man after all, but a woman! He hadn’t seen the person who was wedged between the bunk and the ceiling.
And the heat must be suffocating up there. Now Maigret tried to turn down the radiator, but the control knob was jammed.
It was three o’clock in the morning.
‘I really must get some sleep!’
Now he was wide awake. He had become almost as jumpy as his fellow passenger. He listened out.