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John Lanchester · Maigret’s Room: The Home Life of Inspector Maigret · LRB 4 June 2020

The writing method was as extraordinary as the books. A Maigret novel came on Simenon like an illness: he would feel the pressure of an idea building to a point where he had no choice but to write it. At that stage he would go to his doctor for a check-up, then shut himself up in a room and write flat out until the novel was finished. This would take around seven days, plus two for revision. Each book is a delirium, a sweatbox, a spell trapped on a desert island. The bizarre thing is that for Simenon they may also have represented a welcome easing-off and slackening of the pace: during the hack period of his early twenties, he would work every day until he had written eighty typed pages. Then he’d throw up. That’s how you write 150 books in seven years.