“One of the greatest writers of the twentieth century . . . Simenon was unequaled at making us look inside, though the ability was masked by his brilliance at absorbing us obsessively in his stories.” —The Guardian
The city of Simenon's youth comes to life in this disturbing Inspector Maigret mystery set in Liège
“In the darkness, the main room is as vast as a cathedral. A great empty space. Some warmth is still seeps from the radiators. Delfosse strikes a match. They stop a moment to catch their breath, and work out how far they have still to go. And suddenly the match falls to the ground, as Delfosse gives a sharp cry and rushes back towards the washroom door. In the dark, he loses his way, returns and bumps into Chabot.”
Inspector Maigret observes from a distance as two boys are accused of killing a rich foreigner in Liège. Their loyalty, which binds them together through their adventures, is put to the test, and seemingly irrelevant social differences threaten their friendship and their freedom.
About the Author
GEORGES SIMENON (1903–1989) was born in Liège, Belgium. Best known in Britain as the author of the Maigret books, he is a household name in continental Europe with a prolific output of more than four hundred novels and short stories.
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THE DANCER AT THE GAI-MOULINTranslated by Siân ReynoldsPENGUIN BOOKS
Published by the Penguin Group Penguin Books Ltd, 80 Strand, London WC2R 0RL, England Penguin Group (USA) Inc., 375 Hudson Street, New York, New York 10014, USA Penguin Group (Canada), 90 Eglinton Avenue East, Suite 700, Toronto, Ontario, Canada M4P 2Y3 (a division of Pearson Penguin Canada Inc.)
Penguin Books Ltd, Registered Offices: 80 Strand, London WC2R 0RL, England
First published in French as La Danseuse duGai-Moulin by Fayard 1931
Copyright 1931 by Georges Simenon Limited Translation copyright © Siân Reynolds, 2014
Cover photograph (detail) © Harry Gruyaert /Magnum Photos Front cover design by Alceu Chiesorin Nunes
All rights reserved
The moral rights of the author and translator have been asserted
About the Author
1. Adèle and Her Friends
2. Petty Cash
3. The Man with Broad Shoulders
4. The Pipe-Smokers
5. The Confrontation
6. The Fugitive
7. The Unusual Journey
8. Chez Jeanne
9. The Informer
10. Two Men in the Dark
11. The New Recruit
EXTRA: Chapter 1 from The Two-Penny BarABOUT 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.
PENGUIN CLASSICSTHE DANCER AT THE GAI-MOULIN
‘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. Adèle and Her Friends
‘No idea! It’s the first time he’s been in here,’ said Adèle, exhaling the smoke from her cigarette.
And she lazily uncrossed her legs, patted down a lock of hair on her temple, and looked carefully into one of the mirrors round the room, to check her makeup.
She was sitting on a banquette upholstered in crimson plush, in front of a table holding three glasses of port. One young man sat on her left, another on her right.
‘Do you mind, boys?’
She gave them a kindly, confidential smile, stood up, and swinging her hips, walked across the room towards the newcomer’s table.
At a nod from the club owner, the four musicians hired for the evening started crooning along to their instruments. Only one couple was dancing: a woman in pink and the professional dance-partner.
And as almost every night, it felt empty. The room was too large. The mirrors round the walls magnified even further its receding perspectives, punctuated only by the crimson seats and ghostly marble tabletops.
The two young men, now that Adèle no longer sat between them, moved closer together.
‘Charming, isn’t she!’ sighed Jean Chabot, the younger of the two, gazing affectedly towards the dance-floor with half-closed eyes.
‘Plenty of zip, as well,’ said his friend Delfosse enthusiastically, leaning on a cane with a gold top.
Chabot was perhaps sixteen and a half, and Delfosse, thinner, more sickly looking, with irregular features, no more than eighteen. But they would have protested indignantly if anyone had suggested that they were not blasé connoisseurs of all the pleasures of life.
‘I say, Victor!’
Chabot spoke familiarly to the waiter who was passing nearby.
‘Do you know the man who just came in?’
‘No, but he’s ordered champagne.’
And Victor winked.
‘Adèle’s looking after him.’
He moved off with his tray. The music stopped for a moment, then started up an American-style boston. The owner, standing at the table of the promising customer, was opening the champagne bottle himself, tucking a napkin round its neck.
‘Do you think they’ll stay open late?’ whispered Chabot.
‘Two, half past … as usual.’
‘Shall we have another drink?’
They were on edge. The younger one particularly, who was looking at each person in turn with a fixed stare.
‘How much do you think there is?’
But Delfosse simply shrugged and said impatiently:
‘Shut up, can’t you!’
They could see Adèle, almost opposite them, sitting beside the unknown customer, who had ordered champagne. He was a man of about forty, with jet-black hair and a dark complexion, Romanian, or Turkish perhaps, in appearance. He wore a pink silk shirt and a jewelled tie-pin.
He seemed untroubled by the dancer, who was laughing and chatting to him while leaning against his shoulder. When she asked for a smoke, he held out a gold cigarette-case, still looking straight ahead.
Delfosse and Chabot had stopped talking. They pretended to be looking with scorn at the newcomer. But they really admired him intensely! They missed not a detail, studying the way his tie was knotted, the cut of his suit, and even his casual way with a glass of champagne.
Chabot wore a cheap off-the-peg suit and shoes that had been mended more than once. His friend’s clothes, although of better fabric, were ill-matched. Delfosse had the narrow shoulders, hollow chest and fragile silhouette of an adolescent who had clearly shot up too fast.
‘Here comes someone else!’
The velvet curtain inside the door had been moved aside. A man was handing his bowler hat to the doorman, then standing still for a moment, surveying the room. He was tall, broad-shouldered and heavily built. He wore a placid expression, and did not even listen to the waiter who wanted to escort him to a table. He sat down at random.
‘Got any beer?’
‘We only have English beer – stout, pale ale?’
The man shrugged, indicating that he had no preference. The place was no busier than any other night. One couple on the dance-floor. The jazz music carried on, becoming a background noise one hardly noticed. At the bar, a well-dressed customer was playing poker dice with the owner. Adèle sat alongside her companion, who was still taking no notice of her. A typical scene in a small-town nightclub. At one point, three men, all slightly drunk, pushed aside the curtain over the door. The owner hurried across. The musicians played frantically. But the men left, and sounds of laughter came from outside.
As time passed, Chabot and Delfosse began to look more serious. It was as if fatigue had sharpened their features, darkened their skin to a sallow complexion, and drawn circles under their eyes.
‘OK now?’ asked Chabot, in such a low voice that his companion guessed rather than heard what he said.
No answer. Fingers drumming on the marble tabletop.
Leaning on the stranger’s shoulder, Adèle winked from time to time at her two young friends, while maintaining the flirtatious, smiling look she had adopted.
‘Going already? You’ve got a date?’
In the same way that Adèle was putting on a come-hither expression, he was pretending to look knowing and interested.
‘We’ll settle up tomorrow, Victor. Got no change tonight.’
‘Of course, gentlemen. Goodnight! You’re going out that way?’
The two young men were not drunk. But they made their way out as if in a nightmare, without seeing anything.
The Gai-Moulin has two doors. The main entrance is on the street, Rue du Pot-d’Or. That is the way customers normally arrive and leave. But after two a.m., when according to police regulations the club should be closed, a small service entrance leads to an ill-lit and deserted alleyway.
Chabot and Delfosse crossed the dance-floor, passed in front of the stranger’s table, replied to the owner’s goodnight, and pushed open the door of the washroom. They stopped there a few seconds, without looking at each other.
‘I’m scared,’ Chabot stammered.
He could see his reflection in the oval mirror. The muffled sounds of the jazz music had followed them in.
‘Quick!’ said Delfosse, opening another door on to a dark staircase, where the air was damp and cold.
It led to the cellar. The steps were made of brick. From below arose a sickening smell of beer and wine.
‘What if someone comes!’
Chabot almost stumbled, as the door swung to behind them, cutting out all the light. His hands moved along the walls covered with saltpetre crystals. He felt someone touch him and gave a start, but it was only his friend.
‘Don’t move!’ the other said.
They could not exactly hear the music. They could guess at it. What could be sensed above all was the beat from the drummer. A rhythm throbbing through the air and bringing back the image of the club’s interior with its red velvet seats, the tinkle of glasses and the woman in pink dancing with a man in a tuxedo.
Excerpted from "The Dancer at the Gai-Moulin"
Copyright © 2015 Georges Simenon.
Excerpted by permission of Penguin Publishing Group.
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