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A headless body

Updated: Mar 25, 2023

I imagine every corner of Paris of poor people, cafés where they serve wine from the provinces.

I lost my head and bought two books by George Simenon, at Casa da Achada for 0.50 € each, and started reading "The Headless Body" from 1955.

I lost my head because I had plenty of things to read. I have seen the TV series and look forward to knowing the literary text. For example, "Normal People" by Sally Rooney, a 30-something Irish writer.

Except that Paris and Maigret's pipe was stronger.

Paris has inhabited my imagination since forever. French classes at the age of 12, postcards with the Eiffel Tower, music punctuated with the accordion, Claude Monet's paintings, canals with barges, Edith Piaf, the smell of crispy croissants.

Going to Paris was the materialization of many dreams. I spent my honeymoon there. It was like the images of the postcards came alive, and I could enter the lovely scenery of the streets and the canals. From there, I brought back a cup bought at a flea market, where I have coffee for many breakfasts.

Simenon, a Belgian writer, born in 1903, reconstructs the odours of a black and white Paris through every word. I watched, religiously, a series in the 1970s, in black and white on RTP. Jean Richard was the actor who embodied Commissioner Maigret. I never could believe the other actors, who tried, with a lot of effort, to incorporate this mythical character, much less Roman Atkinson, an actor that I admire a lot, but not in the skin of the Parisian commissioner. A heresy, in my opinion.

I savour every sentence, and I sense the smells. I imagine every corner of Paris of poor people, cafés where they serve wine from the provinces. Maigret, sipping it, tastes the faint hint of flint. He guesses its origin.

A headless body has been found in one of Paris' canals. Who is the murderer? We won't know until the end. Perhaps the result of the intersection of many miseries.

Maigret's pipe keeps going out. I know what it is, for I once had the pretension of smoking a pipe. Perhaps the habit will return with two or three more books by Simenon.

© Eduardo Rui Alves

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