Friday, 23 November 2007
Man Friday: Hercules Poirot
People like to poke fun at Belgium (well, on the rare occaisions that they think about the place), and the favourite joke is concerning the game "Name a Famous Belgian". This isn't as hard as it sounds, because you're usually allowed "Hercules Poirot".
In addition to being the most famous Belgian ever, he's also the most famous Belgian who never lived (a bit like JR Ewing being the most famous Texan, I suppose).
Anyway, Monsieur Poirot first came to the public's attention in 1920 ("The Mysterious Affair at Styles"), and died in 1975 ("Curtain"). According to Wiki, he's the only fictional character to have had his obituary printed by the New York Times.
Poirot was a vain, pompous little man, whom Agatha Christie came to loathe, but couldn't stop writing the books because they were too popular. His sidekick, modelled on "Dr Watson", was Colonel Arthur Hastings, who accompanied him on his cases, and wrote many of them, although not all of the stories are narrated by him.
Inspector Jap of Scotland yard was modelled on "Lestrade". But why was Poirot Belgian? Apparently, Christie considered making him French, but decided there were too many French detectives already. Peter Ustinov, who played HP in six films admitted that as he knew nothing about Belgians, he played him as a Frenchman, with a French accent.
Although there are a lot of "Sherlock Holmes" influences, there is one major difference. Sherlock Holmes is like a hunter, picking up the spoor of his prey (luckily for him the villains had a tendency to smoke rare brands of Turkish cigarettes). The modern day equivalent would be the CSIs.
Poirot is different - he solves the murders using his "little grey cells", and by considering the psychology of the people involved. His equivalent here would be "Cracker" - the criminal psychologist. He solves one murder "Five Little Pigs", years after the event, purely from accounts given by those involved.
Oh, and for those who want to learn how to play the Belgian game, this website is for you - Impress all your friends!