‘The Man who wasn’t Maigret: A Portrait of Georges Simenon’ by Patrick Marnham

La Caque (named after a type of barrel used for packing herring) was a group of young men (painters, artists and writers), most of them former students of the Académie des Beaux-Arts (the Academy of Fine Art) in the city of Liège, Belgium. La Caque had a symbol, the scorpion biting its own tail, which  is sometimes taken as a symbol of eternity but could also be seen as a symbol of suicide. The leader of the group was the artist Luc Lafnet.

In her 1977 study of Simenon, “Georges Simenon: Maigrets and the Roman Durs”, Lucille Frackman Becker writes about the ‘La Caque’.

“….they feverishly sought intense excitement, any kind of ecstasy, of the boby, of the senses, of the mind, by any means imaginable and even using artifices, by meticulously codified formulas that resembled those of sexual maniacs”.

It was late in 1919, that Georges Simenon was introduced to the group by his friend Henri-J. Moers. He left soon after the suicide of his friend Joseph Kleine, one of the members of ‘La Caque’, one Christmas Eve. (He hanged himself on the portal of Saint-Pholien Church).

“Le pendu de St Pholien”, Simenon’s second novel. The image appeared on the cover is from a painting made by Luc Lafnet.

In his autobiography ‘Au-delà de ma porte-fenêtre’, in 1978, Simenon wrote:

‘What did we talk about, all through the night, so passionately, as through the fate of the world depended on it. Philosophy. We devoured the philosophers. I remember one whole night was spent discussing the most famous phrase from Socrates, ‘Know thyself’…. On other occasions everyone would bring a text or sketch and pass them around. We would compare our work to Villon, Baudelaire or Verlaine, or Goya or Delacroix’.