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Inspector, Detective, or Superintendent Maigret?

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In 1950, five years after moving to the United States in 1945, Georges Simenon, having learned enough English, started paying attention to the English translations of his novels.

The first thing Simenon wanted to know was what to call his famous “commissaire”, Maigret: should it be “inspector”, as Simenon suggested, “superintendent” as his translator preferred, or should it be “detective” in the hope of satisfying both the English and the Americans? We know what was chosen – “inspector” – but this is an example of what translation is all about: choosing the right term to express the original.

The above anecdote is from Pierre Assouline’s biography, Simenon, featured below in a 1996 edition published by Folio Gallimard. (Strangely enough, the English translations of this edition are less than half the length in page numbers of the French edition.)

Written by Patrick Lennon

September 30, 2011 at 10:52 pm