The classic Inspector Maigret mystery set in a claustraphobic provincial town
“Cars drove past along with the trucks and trams, but by now Maigret had realized that they were not important. Whatever roared by like this along the road was not part of the landscape. . . . What really counted was the lock, the hooting of the tugs, the stone crusher, the barges and the cranes, the two pilots’ bars and especially the tall house where he could make out Ducrau’s red chair framed by a window.”
About the Author
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Translated by David Coward Georges Simenon
LOCK NO. 1
An imprint of Penguin Random House LLC
375 Hudson Street
New York, New York 10014
First published in French as L’ecluse no. 1 in Paris-Soir, in instalments from 23 May to 16 June 1933
First published in book form by Fayard 1933
This translation first published in Penguin Books 2015
Copyright © 1933 by Georges Simenon Limited
Translation copyright © 2015 by David Coward
GEORGES SIMENON ® Simenon.tm
MAIGRET ® Georges Simenon Limited
All rights reserved.
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Cover photograph (detail) © Harry Gruyaert/Magnum Photos
Cover design by Alceu Chiesorin Nunes
About the Author
EXTRA: Chapter 1 from Maigret
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.
PENGUIN CLASSICSLOCK NO. 1
‘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
When you watch fish through a layer of water which prevents all contact between them and you, you see that they remain absolutely still for a long time, for no reason, and then, with a twitch of their fins, they dart away so that they can do nothing again somewhere else, except more waiting.
It was in the same state of stillness, and as if for no reason too, that the last number 13 Bastille-Créteil tram, lit up by its yellow lights, rumbled along the side of Carrières Wharf.
It looked as if it was going to stop at a side-road, just by a streetlight, but the conductor yanked the bell pull, and the vehicle clanked off towards Charenton.
In its wake, the wharf was left empty and stagnant, like a drowned landscape. To the right, barges rocked on the canal under the moon. A trickle of water escaped through a badly closed sluice. It was the only sound under a sky which was more tranquil and deeper than a lake.
Two bars were still lit up. They faced each other, each one on a street corner.
In one, five men were playing cards, slowly, not speaking. Three were wearing sailors’ or river pilots’ caps, and the landlord, who was sitting with them, was in shirt-sleeves.
In the other bar, no one was playing cards. There were just three men inside. They were sitting around a table, staring dreamily at small glasses of cheap brandy. The light was grey and smelled of sleep. From time to time, the black-moustached landlord, who was wearing a blue pullover, yawned before reaching for his glass with one hand.
Sitting opposite him was a short man overrun by thick, flaxen hair, like dry hay. He was either brooding or befuddled, or perhaps drunk? His rheumy eyes looked as though they were swimming through troubled waters and at intervals he would nod his head as if agreeing with his inner monologue while the man next to him, also a canal man, set his gaze free to wander outside, in the dark.
Time fled soundlessly. There was not even the tick of a clock. Next to the bar was a row of small, poky houses each with a garden round it, but all their lights were out. Then at number 8, came a detached house on six floors, already old and smoke-blackened, too narrow for its height. On the first floor, a few gleams filtered through venetian blinds. On the second, where there were no shutters, a crude blind made a rectangle of light.
Finally, directly opposite, on the canal bank, a heap of stones, sand, a crane, a number of empty carts.
Yet music pulsated through the air. It was coming from somewhere. It had to be found. Its source was further along than number 8, set back from the road, a wooden shed with a sign saying: Dance Hall.
No one was dancing. In fact the only person there was the fat woman who owned it. She was reading a newspaper and got up at intervals to feed a five-sou coin into the mechanical piano.
Sooner or later, somebody or something was bound to make a stir. It turned out to be the very hairy bargee from the bar on the right-hand side. He got to his feet unsteadily, stared at his empty glasses and did the calculation in his head while he searched through his pockets. When he had counted out the right money, he laid it on the smooth top of the wooden table, touched the peak of his cap and set a wavering course for the door.
The other two men looked at each other. The landlord winked. The fingers of the old man dithered uncertainly in thin air before settling on the door handle, and he swayed as he turned to shut the door behind him.
His footsteps were as audible as if the pavement had been hollow. The sound was irregular. He took three or four paces then stopped: he was either hesitating or concentrating on staying upright.
When he reached the canal, he collided with the metal railing which clanged, started down the stone steps and found himself on the unloading wharf.
The outlines of boats were clearly picked out by the moon. Their names were as easy to read as in broad daylight. The nearest barge, which was separated from the quayside by a plank which served as a gangway, was called the Golden Fleece. There were other boats behind it, both to the left and right, and they were at least five rows deep, some with holds open near a crane, waiting to be unloaded, others with their prows nudging the gates of the lock through which they would pass at first light, and lastly those hulks which are always to be seen, God knows why, loitering in and around canal ports, apparently having outlived their usefulness.
The old man, all alone in this motionless universe, hiccupped and stepped on to the plank, which bent under him. When he got to the middle, it occurred to him to turn round, perhaps for a sight of the windows of the bar. He managed the first part of the action, swayed, straightened his back and found himself in the water, hanging on to the plank with one hand.
He had not cried out. He hadn’t even gasped. There had been only a faint splash, which was already fading, for the man was barely moving. His forehead was furrowed as if something was forcing him to think. He braced his arms to haul himself up on to the plank. He failed, tried again, eyes staring, breathing heavily.
On the quayside, pressed close against the stone wall, two lovers listened, motionless, holding their breath. A car horn sounded in Charenton.
All of a sudden there was a howl, an extraordinary wail, which tore through the all-enveloping calm.
It was the old man in the water who was straining his throat in panic. He was no longer making any attempt to think. He was struggling like a madman, kicking out with his legs, making the water boil.
Then other sounds were heard round about. There was a stir on board a barge. Elsewhere the voice of a still half-sleeping woman spoke:
‘Aren’t you going to see what that is?’
Doors opened higher up, on the quayside, the doors of both bars. The couple under the wall moved apart, and the man said under his breath:
‘Quick! Go home!’
He took a few steps, hesitated and then called out:
He heard the cry. It came again. Other voices came nearer, and people leaned over the railing.
The young man broke into a run and answered:
‘I don’t know yet. It’s that way … In the water …’
His girlfriend remained where she was, her hands clasped together, not daring to advance or retreat.
‘I can see him! … Come quick!’
As the shouts grew feebler, they turned into desperate gurgles. The young man could make out hands clinging to the plank and a head sticking out of the water, but he had no idea what to do. He waited, with his face turned towards the steps that led down to the wharf, and kept repeating:
A voice said tonelessly:
Seven men now arrived, the five drinkers from one bar and two from the other.
‘Come nearer … You take one arm and I’ll get the other.’
‘Go careful on the plank.’
It sagged beneath their weight. From a hatch on the barge a female figure all in white, with fair hair, started to emerge.
‘Have you got him?’
The old man was no longer shouting. He hadn’t passed out. He was staring straight in front of him, uncomprehendingly, making no attempt to help his rescuers.
They hauled him up out of the water by stages. He was so limp that he had to be dragged on to the wharf.
The figure in white walked across the gangplank. She was young, wearing a long nightdress, with nothing on her feet, and the moonlight which lit her from behind picked out the lines of her naked body under the cotton. Only she still stared down at the water, which was becoming calm again, and then it was her turn to scream as she pointed at something as hazy and pallid as a jellyfish.
Two of the men who were tending the boatman turned to look, and when they too saw the milky patch on the black water they felt the same chill run up and down their spine.
‘Over there! … There’s a …’
They all looked, forgetting the boatman, who lay flat out on the stones of the wharf, which was criss-crossed by water runaways.
‘Bring us a boat-hook!’
It was the girl who fetched one from the deck of the barge and handed it to them.
It was no longer the same. Neither the atmosphere. Nor even the temperature of the night air! It felt suddenly colder, with pulses of warm air.
‘Have you got him?’
Excerpted from "Lock No. 1"
Copyright © 2015 Georges Simenon.
Excerpted by permission of Penguin Publishing Group.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
What People are Saying About This
“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.”
“I love reading Simenon. He makes me think of Chekhov.”
“The greatest of all, the most genuine novelist we have had in literature.”
“A supreme writer . . . unforgettable vividness.”
“Superb . . . The most addictive of writers . . . A unique teller of tales.”
“Compelling, remorseless, brilliant.”
“A truly wonderful writer . . . marvellously readable—lucid, simple, absolutely in tune with the workd he creates.”
“A novelist who entered his fictional world as it he were a part of it.”
“Extraordinary masterpieces of the twentieth century.”