Maigret entered the interview room where the person being questioned sat with Janvier. Maigret looked at the frightened young man sat opposite Janvier. ‘Why don’t you talk to me and let Janvier go to terrorise someone else?’
Sometime later, Maigret returned to the room. The young man had a bloodied nose. Janvier looked at his superior officer, apologetically. ‘He fell over and hit his face on the floor.’
Maigret glared. ‘I would prefer that he didn’t fall over again. He’s a human being.’
Maigret seems a reassuring character. Georges Simemon had a grasp of human nature, an understanding of the reality of post-war Parisian life.
Simenon’s stories come with a mood of justice. Amidst the seaminess and violence of life in Maigret’s Paris, there is a sense that the police judicaire will bring about a satisfactory resolution of cases. Villains will be apprehended and subject to due process. Maigret does not shy from telling the ruthless and the unpenitent that the guillotine awaits them.
Maigret’s justice is about people getting what they deserve. Working people can have confidence in the police. Criminals cannot hide behind expensive lawyers. There is an equality in the system which was probably far removed from the realities of the society in which Simenon lived.
I like Maigret. I like stories that are fair. I like the thought that ordinary people don’t get trodden on, I especially like the thought that thugs and bullies end up in the cage in the basement of the préfecture de police and will never again have the opportunity to cause misery.
With the passing years, I have found the Christian ideas of forgiveness increasingly difficult. Notions of ‘grace’, that you can do what you like and then say ‘sorry’ at the end and be forgiven for everything, seem fundamentally unjust.
Jewish teachings have become much more attractive. The Yimakh Shemo, the Hebrew curse, ‘May his name and his memory be erased’ seems more closely to correspond with the teachings of Jesus of Nazareth, than does the easy forgiveness proposed by Paul.
Jews have no concept of hell, instead a year after the death of a person the person is allowed into the world to come, or they are destroyed forever.
The obliteration of names from memory seems a just reward. Maigret tells one prisoner that they will not be remembered for their crimes, instead they will be executed and they will soon be forgotten forever.
Maigret understood justice.