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Authors: Georges Simenon

The Two-Penny Bar

BOOK: The Two-Penny Bar
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Georges Simenon
Translated by David Watson
Previously published as
The Bar on the Seine

Published by the Penguin Group
Penguin Books Ltd, 80 Strand, London
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
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(a division of Pearson Penguin Canada Inc.)
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division of Pearson Australia Group Pty Ltd)
Penguin Books India Pvt Ltd, 11 Community Centre, Panchsheel Park, New Delhi – 110 017, India
Penguin Group (NZ), 67 Apollo Drive, Rosedale, Auckland 0632, New Zealand (a division of Pearson New Zealand Ltd)
Penguin Books (South
Africa) (Pty) Ltd, Block D, Rosebank Office Park, 181 Jan Smuts Avenue, Parktown North, Gauteng 2193, South Africa

Penguin Books Ltd, Registered Offices: 80 Strand, London

First published in French as
La Guinguette à deux sous
by Fayard 1932
This translation first published as
The Bar on the Seine
in Penguin Books 2003, and revised 2014

Copyright 1932 by Georges Simenon Limited
Translation copyright © Georges Simenon Limited, 2003, 2014
MAIGRET ® Georges Simenon Limited

Cover photograph (detail) © Burt Glinn/Magnum Photos
Front cover design by Alceu Chiesorin Nunes
Cover credit: © Harry Gruyaert/Magnum Photos

All rights reserved

The moral rights of the author and translator have been asserted

Typeset by Palimpsest Book Production Ltd, Falkirk, Stirlingshire

ISBN: 978-0-698-18304-9



Title Page

Copyright Page

About the Author

1. Saturday with Monsieur Basso

2. The Lady's Husband

3. The Two Boats

4. Meetings in Rue Royale

5. The Doctor's Car

6. Haggling

7. The Second-Hand Dealer

8. James's Mistress

9. Twenty-Two Francs of Ham

10. Inspector Maigret's Absence

11. Ulrich's Murderer

EXTRA: Chapter 1 from
The Shadow Puppet



‘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


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.

1. Saturday with Monsieur Basso

A radiant late afternoon. The sunshine almost as thick as syrup in the quiet streets of the Left Bank. And everything – the people's faces, the countless familiar sounds of the street – exuded a joy to be alive.

There are days like this, when ordinary life seems heightened, when the people walking down the street, the trams and cars all seem to exist in a fairy tale.

It was 27 June. When Maigret arrived at the gate of the Santé prison he found the guard gazing soppily at a little white cat that was playing with the dog from the dairy.

Some days the pavement must be more resonant underfoot: Maigret's footsteps echoed in the vast courtyard. He walked to the end of a corridor, where he asked a warder:

‘Does he know? …'

‘Not yet.'

A key turned in the lock. The bolt was pulled back. A high-ceilinged cell, very clean. A man stood up, looking unsure as to which expression to adopt.

‘All right, Lenoir?' the inspector asked.

The man nearly smiled. But a thought came into his mind and his face hardened. He frowned suspiciously, and his mouth twisted into a sneer for a moment or two. Then he shrugged his shoulders and held out his hand.

‘I see,' he said.

‘What do you see?'

A resigned smile.

‘Give it a rest, eh? You must be here because …'

‘I'm here because I'm off on holiday tomorrow and …'

The prisoner gave a hollow laugh. He was a tall young man. His dark hair was brushed back. He had regular features, fine brown eyes. His thin dark moustache set off the whiteness of his teeth, which were as sharp as a rodent's.

‘That's very kind of you, inspector …'

He stretched, yawned, put down the lid of the toilet in the corner of the cell which had been left up.

‘Excuse the mess …'

Then suddenly, looking Maigret in the eye, he said:

‘They've turned down the appeal, haven't they?'

There was no point in lying. He knew already. He started pacing up and down.

‘I knew they would … so when is it? … Tomorrow?'

Even so, his voice faltered and his eyes drank in the glimmer of light from the narrow window high up the cell wall.

At that moment, the evening papers being sold on the café terraces announced:

The President of the Republic has rejected the appeal of Jean Lenoir, the young leader of the Belleville gang. The execution will take place tomorrow at dawn.

It was Maigret himself who had arrested Lenoir three months previously, in a hotel in Rue Saint-Antoine. A
split second later and the bullet the gangster fired at him would have caught him full in the chest rather than ending up
lodged in the ceiling.

In spite of this, the inspector bore him no grudge; indeed, he had taken something of a shine to him. Firstly, perhaps, because Lenoir was so young – a twenty-two-year-old who had been in and out of prison since the age of fifteen. But also
because he had a self-confidence about him.

He had had accomplices. Two of them were arrested at the same time as him. They were both guilty and on this occasion – an armed robbery – they probably played a bigger part than the boss himself. However, Lenoir got them off the hook. He took
the whole blame on himself and refused to ‘spill the beans'.

He never put on an act, wasn't too full of himself. He didn't blame society for his actions.

‘Looks like I've lost,' was all he said.

It was all over. More precisely, it would be all over when the sun, which was casting a golden strip of light on the cell wall, next rose.

Almost unconsciously, Lenoir felt the back of his neck. He shivered, turned pale, gave a derisive laugh:

‘It feels weird …'

Then suddenly, in an outburst of bitterness:

‘There are others who deserve this, and I wish they were going down with me!'

He looked at Maigret, hesitated, walked round the narrow cell once more, muttering:

‘Don't get excited, I'm not going to put anyone in the frame now … but all the same …'

The inspector avoided looking at him. He could feel a confession coming. And he knew the man was so prickly that the slightest reaction or sign of interest on his part would make him clam up.

‘There's a little place known as the “Two-Penny Bar” … I don't suppose you're familiar with it, but if you happen to find yourself in the neighbourhood you might be interested to know that one of the regulars
there has more reason than me to be putting his head on the block tomorrow …'

He was still pacing up and down. He couldn't stay still. It was hypnotic. It was the only sign of his inner turmoil.

‘But you won't get him … Look, without giving anything away, I can tell you this much … I don't know why this is coming back to me now. Maybe because I was just a kid. I couldn't have been more than sixteen … Me and my
friend used to do a bit of filching around the dance halls. He must be in a sanatorium by now – he already had a cough back then …'

Was all this talk just to give himself the illusion of being alive, to prove to himself that he was still a man?

BOOK: The Two-Penny Bar
5.43Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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