The Misty Harbour

Paperback | August 25, 2015

bySimenon, GeorgesTranslated byLinda Coverdale

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A new translation of Georges Simenon's gripping tale of lost identity. Book sixteen in the new Penguin Maigret series.

A man picked up for wandering in obvious distress among the cars and buses on the Grands Boulevards. Questioned in French, he remains mute . . . A madman? In Maigret's office, he is searched. His suit is new, his underwear is new, his shoes are new. All identifying labels have been removed. No identification papers. No wallet. Five crisp thousand-franc bills have been slipped into one of his pockets.

A distressed man is found wandering the streets of Paris, with no memory of who he is or how he got there. The answers lead Maigret to a small harbour town, whose quiet citizens conceal a poisonous malice.

Penguin is publishing the entire series of Maigret novels in new translations. This novel has been published in a previous translation as Death of a Harbour Master.

'Compelling, remorseless, brilliant.' - John Gray

'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.' - The Guardian

'A supreme writer . . . unforgettable vividness.' - The Independent

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From the Publisher

A new translation of Georges Simenon's gripping tale of lost identity. Book sixteen in the new Penguin Maigret series.A man picked up for wandering in obvious distress among the cars and buses on the Grands Boulevards. Questioned in French, he remains mute . . . A madman? In Maigret's office, he is searched. His suit is new, his und...

GEORGES SIMENON (1903–1989) was born in Liège, Belgium. Best known in the English-speaking world as the author of the Inspector Maigret books, his prolific output of more than four hundred novels and short stories have made him a household name in continental Europe.

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Format:PaperbackDimensions:192 pages, 7.75 × 5.07 × 0.45 inPublished:August 25, 2015Publisher:Penguin Publishing GroupLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:014139479X

ISBN - 13:9780141394794

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Georges Simenon ------------------------------ THE MISTY HARBOUR Translated by Linda Coverdale PENGUIN BOOKS An imprint of Penguin Random House LLC 375 Hudson Street New York, New York 10014 First published in French as Le port des brumes by Fayard 1932 This translation first published in Penguin Books 2015 Copyright © 1932 by Georges Simenon Limited Translation copyright © 2015 by Linda Coverdale GEORGES SIMENON ® MAIGRET ® Georges Simenon Limited Penguin supports copyright. Copyright fuels creativity, encourages diverse voices, promotes free speech, and creates a vibrant culture. Thank you for buying an authorized edition of this book and for complying with copyright laws by not reproducing, scanning, or distributing any part of it in any form without permission. You are supporting writers and allowing Penguin to continue to publish books for every reader. The moral rights of the author and translator have been asserted. ISBN 978-0-698-19417-5 Cover photograph (detail) © Harry Gruyaert/Magnum Photos Cover design by Alceu Chiesorin Nunes Title Page Copyright About the Author 1. The Cat in the House 2. The Inheritance 3. The Kitchen Cupboard 4. The Saint-Michel 5. Notre-Dame-des-Dunes 6. The Fall Down the Stairs 7. Orchestrating Events 8. The Mayor’s Inquiry 9. The Conspiracy of Silence 10. The Three Men of the Saint-Michel 11. The Black Cow Shoal 12. The Unfinished Letter 13. The House Across the Street EXTRA: Chapter 1 from Liberty Bar 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. PENGUIN CLASSICS THE MISTY HARBOUR ‘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’ — Guardian ‘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’ — Observer ‘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’ — Independent ‘Compelling, remorseless, brilliant’ — John Gray ‘Extraordinary masterpieces of the twentieth century’ — John Banville 1. The Cat in the House When they had left Paris at around three o’clock, the streets were still bustling in the chilly late-autumn sunshine. Shortly afterwards, near Mantes, the lights had come on in the train compartment. Darkness had fallen outside by the time they reached Évreux, and now, through windows streaming with droplets, they saw a thick mist gleaming in soft haloes around the track lights. Snug in his corner, resting his head against the back of the banquette, Detective Chief Inspector Maigret had not taken his half-closed eyes from the unlikely couple across from him. Captain Joris was asleep. His clothes were wrinkled, his wig askew on his gleaming pate. And Julie, clutching her imitation crocodile handbag, stared off into space while endeavouring, despite her fatigue, to look thoughtful. Joris! Julie! Inspector Maigret of the Police Judiciaire was used to having people suddenly take over his life like this, monopolize him for days, weeks, months, and then sink back into the anonymous crowd. The rhythmic sound of the wheels carried his thoughts along, and they were always the same at the beginning of each case: would this investigation be challenging or dull? Thankless and demoralizing, or painfully tragic? As Maigret considered Joris, a faint smile touched his lips. A strange fellow! And for five days back at Quai des Orfèvres, everyone had called him That Man, because they couldn’t find out who he was. A man picked up for wandering in obvious distress among the cars and buses on the Grands Boulevards. Questioned in French, he remains mute. They try seven or eight languages. Nothing. Sign language proves fruitless as well. A madman? In Maigret’s office, he is searched. His suit is new, his underwear is new, his shoes are new. All identifying labels have been removed. No identification papers. No wallet. Five crisp thousand-franc bills have been slipped into one of his pockets. The inquiry could not be more aggravating! Criminal records and case files are searched. Telegrams are sent at home and abroad. And although subjected to exhausting interrogation, That Man smiles affably all day long! A stocky fellow of about fifty, broad-shouldered, who neither protests nor gets upset, who smiles and sometimes seems to try to remember, but gives up almost immediately … Amnesia? When the wig slides off his head they discover that a bullet has pierced his skull not more than two months earlier. The doctors marvel: whoever operated on him displayed superb surgical skill. Fresh telegrams go out to hospitals and nursing homes in France, Belgium, Germany, Holland … Five whole days of these painstaking investigations. The absurd results obtained by analysing some stains on his clothing and fine debris from his pockets: traces of salted cod’s roe, dried and pulverized on the far shores of Norway for sardine bait. Does That Man come from up there? Is he Scandinavian? There are indications that he has travelled a long way by train. But how can he have done this on his own, without speaking, with the befuddled appearance that makes him so conspicuous? His picture appears in the newspapers. A telegram arrives from Ouistreham: Unknown man identified! The telegram is followed by a woman – more of a girl, really – who shows up in Maigret’s office, her haggard face inexpertly rouged and powdered: Julie Legrand, the mystery man’s maid. He is no longer That Man: he has a name and a profession. He is Yves Joris, formerly a captain in the merchant navy, now the harbourmaster at Ouistreham, a small port between Trouville and Cherbourg in Lower Normandy. Julie bursts into tears! Julie cannot understand! Julie begs him to speak to her! And he looks at her calmly, pleasantly, the way he looks at everyone. Captain Joris had disappeared from Ouistreham on 16 September. It is now the end of October. What has happened to him while he was missing for six weeks? ‘He went out to the lock to work the tide, as usual. An evening tide. I went off to bed. The next morning, he wasn’t in his room …’ On account of the fog that night, everyone thinks Joris had slipped and fallen into the water. They hunted for him with grappling hooks. Then they assumed he had simply gone off for some peculiar reason of his own. ‘Lisieux! … Departure in three minutes!’ Maigret goes to stretch his legs on the platform and refill his pipe. He has smoked so much since Paris that the air in the compartment has turned grey. ‘All aboard!’ In the meantime Julie has powdered her nose; her eyes are still a bit red from weeping. It’s strange … There are moments when she is pretty, with a certain polish. At other times, though it would be hard to say why, she seems like a gauche little peasant. She straightens the wig on the captain’s head, for her monsieur, as she puts it, and looks at Maigret as if to say: ‘Haven’t I every right to take care of him?’ For Joris has no family. He has lived alone, for years, with Julie, whom he calls his housekeeper. ‘He treated me like his daughter …’ As far as anyone knows, he has no enemies! Has had no adventures, no love affairs, no grand passions! A man who, after sailing the seven seas for thirty years, could not resign himself to idleness and, despite his retirement, applied for the position of harbourmaster at Ouistreham. He had a small house built there … And one fine evening, on 16 September, he vanished – then reappeared in Paris six weeks later in this sorry state. Having never seen him in anything but a naval officer’s uniform, Julie had been dismayed to find him wearing an off-the-peg grey suit. She is anxious, uneasy. Whenever she looks at the captain, her face reflects both pity and a nameless fear, a haunting anguish. It really is him, obviously! It’s her monsieur, all right. And yet, he is no longer completely himself. ‘He’ll get well again, won’t he? I’ll take good care of him …’ The mist is now turning into large, blurry drops on the windows. Maigret’s big, stolid face rocks a little from side to side as the train rattles along. Placidly, he goes on watching his companions: Julie, who pointed out to him that they might just as well have travelled third class, as she normally does, and Joris, who is waking up only to look around him vacantly. One more stop, at Caen. Then on to Ouistreham. ‘Around a thousand people live in the village,’ a colleague originally from there had told Maigret. ‘The harbour is small but important, because of the canal linking the roadstead to the city of Caen. The canal can handle ships of five thousand tons or more.’ Maigret doesn’t bother trying to imagine what the place looks like; he knows that’s a fool’s game. He waits, and his eyes keep turning to the wig, which hides the raw pink scar. When Captain Joris disappeared, he had thick, dark brown hair with only a touch of silver at the temples. Another torment for Julie, who can’t bear the sight of his bare skull … Every time the wig slips, she quickly straightens it. ‘In short, someone tried to kill him …’ He was shot, and that’s a fact. But he was also given the very best of medical care. He had no money when he vanished – yet was found with five thousand francs in his pocket. But there is more to come. Julie suddenly opens her handbag. ‘I forgot! I brought along the captain’s mail.’ Almost nothing. Brochures for marine supplies. A receipt for dues paid to the Association of Merchant Navy Captains. Postcards from friends still in the service, including one sent from Punta Arenas … A letter from the Banque de Normandie, in Caen. A printed form, the blanks filled in on a typewriter. … beg to inform you that the sum of three hundred thousand francs has been transferred as per your instructions from the Dutch Bank in Hamburg and credited to your Account No. 14173 … And Julie has already insisted over and over that the captain is not a wealthy man! Maigret looks from one to the other of the pair seated across from him. Salted cod’s roe … Hamburg … The made-in-Germany shoes … And only Joris could explain all this. Joris, who beams a nice broad smile his way because he sees that Maigret is looking at him … ‘This station is Caen! Passengers for Cherbourg remain on board; change here for Ouistreham, Lion-sur-Mer, Luc …’ It is seven o’clock. The air is so humid that the lights on the platform can barely shine through the milky mist. ‘How do we go on to our destination now?’ Maigret asks Julie as the other passengers push past them. ‘Well, the local train runs only twice a day in the winter …’ There are taxis outside the station. Maigret is hungry. Having no idea what awaits him in Ouistreham, he prefers to have dinner in the station buffet. Captain Joris is still behaving well and eats what he is served, like a child who trusts those in charge of him. A passing railway employee pauses at their table to consider the captain. ‘Isn’t that the harbourmaster of Ouistreham?’ he asks Maigret, and twirls a finger at his temple. At a nod from Maigret he goes on his way, visibly amazed. As for Julie, she takes refuge in practical matters. ‘Twelve francs for a dinner like this, and it wasn’t even cooked with butter! As if we couldn’t simply have eaten when we got home …’ As she speaks, Maigret is thinking, ‘A bullet in the head … Three hundred thousand francs …’ He stares searchingly into the captain’s innocent eyes, while his mouth sets in a hard line. The next taxi in line, once a fine limousine, has lumpy seats and creaking joints. The three passengers must crowd together in the back because the jump seats are broken, and Julie is pinned between the two men, squashed by first one, then the other, as the car swerves. ‘I’m trying to remember if I locked the garden gate!’ she murmurs, increasingly concerned about her domestic duties as they get closer to the house. Leaving the village, they literally drive into a wall of fog. A horse and cart appear abruptly, barely two metres away, like phantoms, and the trees and houses flitting by on both sides of the road seem like ghosts as well. The driver slows down. They’re going barely ten kilometres an hour, which doesn’t prevent a man on a bicycle from bursting out of the fog and into the side of the taxi, which stops. The cyclist is unhurt. As they go through Ouistreham, Julie rolls down the partition window to speak to the driver. ‘Keep going to the harbour and across the swing bridge … Then stop at the cottage that’s right by the lighthouse!’ Between the village and the harbour lies about a kilometre of road, now deserted, outlined by the feeble glow of streetlamps. At one corner of the bridge they see a lighted window and hear voices. ‘That tavern is the Buvette de la Marine,’ Julie points out. ‘Everyone in the harbour spends most of their time in there.’ Beyond the bridge there’s hardly any road at all, and what little there is goes wandering through the marshes along the banks of the Orne, leading at last only to the lighthouse and a cottage surrounded by a garden. When they stop, Maigret watches the captain, who gets out of the taxi as calmly as you please and walks over to the gate. ‘Did you see that, inspector!’ cries Julie delightedly. ‘He recognizes the house! I’m sure he’ll eventually be completely himself again.’ She fits the key into the lock, pushes open the squeaky gate and heads up the gravel path. After paying the driver, Maigret quickly joins her, but now that the taxi is gone it is pitch dark. ‘Would you mind striking a match? I can’t find the keyhole …’ A tiny flame; the door is opened. A dark form brushes past Maigret’s legs. Already inside, Julie switches on the light and, looking curiously along the floor, asks softly, ‘That was the cat going outside just now, wasn’t it?’ She takes off her hat and coat with practised ease, hangs them on a coat peg, pushes open the door to the kitchen and turns on the light, thus inadvertently revealing that this is the room where everyone usually gathers. A well-lit kitchen with tiled walls, a big sand-scoured pine table, sparkling copper pots and pans. And the captain goes automatically to sit in his wicker armchair over by the stove. ‘But I’m sure I put the cat out when I left, the way I always do …’ She’s worried, talking to herself. ‘Yes, I’m certain of it. I left all the doors locked. Oh, inspector, would you please go through the house with me? I’m frightened …’

Editorial Reviews

‘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.’— The Guardian 'I love reading Simenon. He makes me think of Chekhov.'— William Faulkner 'The greatest of all, the most genuine novelist we have had in literature'— André Gide ‘A supreme writer…unforgettable vividness’— The Independent'Superb... The most addictive of writers... A unique teller of tales'— The Observer ‘Compelling, remorseless, brilliant.’— John Gray 'A truly wonderful writer... marvellously readable - lucid, simple, absolutely in tune with the workd he creates'— Muriel Spark 'A novelist who entered his fictional world as it he were a part of it'— Peter Ackroyd 'Extraordinary masterpieces of the twentieth century'— John Banville