The A-26: Pascal Garnier

Regular readers of this blog know that I’m a fan of Pascal Garnier. With A-26, I’ve now read 8 of his novels, and sad to say, I finally found one I disliked. Of course, I was forewarned by Max’s review. A-26 was, unfortunately, Max’s first Garnier, and if it had been my first Garnier, it might well have been my last…

A-26 is the story of two siblings: Bernard and his insane sister Yolande. Wait a minute … I’ve made it sound as though Bernard is sane. He’s employed, takes care of Yolande (in a very loosely defined way) and even has a relationship with a former girlfriend, the resentful Jacqueline (now unhappily married to some other sucker). But Bernard isn’t normal at all … he’s a serial killer, and a sick one at that.


A-26 had some of the hallmark signs of the other Garnier novels I’ve read (and loved)–the idea that when you kill someone you are doing them a favour by sparing them more time in this horrible world, a sparse yet descriptive style and the continual motif of death and decay. Yolande (otherwise known rather appropriately as Yoyo) is a hoarder who has refused to step outside of her home since her head was shaved for sleeping with a German during WWII. As far as Yoyo’s concerned WWII still rages outside her door and while Bernard may say he’s going off to work, he’s really part the Resistance. Yoyo’s only contact with the outside world is through a hole drilled for her benefit in the shutter.

Depending on her mood, she called it the ‘bellybutton’ or the ‘world’s arsehole.’

Yolande and Bernard’s world spins to its end stage when Bernard is diagnosed with terminal cancer. He isn’t afraid to die, and neither is he particularly sorry to leave the world behind. Living with his insane sister who spends her days concocting the most appalling meals, death will be a release for Bernard. Meanwhile Yoyo’s big concern is where to find the space for his body:

‘Bernard’s not gone to work today, he wasn’t up for it. He’s getting tireder and tireder, thinner and thinner. His body’s like this house, coming apart at the seams. Where am I going to put him when he’s dead? There’s not a bit of space left anywhere. We’ll get by, we’ve always got by, ever since I can remember. Nothing has ever left this house, even the toilet’s blacked up. We keep everything. Some day, we won’t need anything else, it’ll all be here, for ever.’

For this reader, while the themes of A-26 certainly fit with the other Garnier novels I’ve read, the black humour, so characteristic in his novels, couldn’t wash away the bad taste of several scenes: the death of victims and the cruelty to animals. While I often feel as though I don’t care what happens to Garnier’s despicable characters, I am, at least, interested in their destructive and self-destructive journeys as the novels careen towards the grand finales. In the case of A-26, I couldn’t care less.

Both Moon in a Dead Eye and Too Close to the Edge concern people who make disastrous retirement decisions, and as it turns out life in a gated community and in the bucolic countryside (respectively) is far more dangerous than living in the big city. While bad things happen to people, there’s the nagging feeling that they’ve brought it upon themselves–at least partly. How’s the Pain? is the story of a dying hit man who hooks up with a rather guileless young man. The juxtaposition of these two characters–dark and light–brings balance to the tale. In The Front Seat Passenger, the main character deserves what he gets. The Islanders concerns another whacko set of siblings, and while the novel takes a turn towards madness, plied with disgusting details, these characters, for the most part, turn on each other. The Panda Theory pushed my acceptance in a couple of scenes, but IMO A-26 went over the edge in its descriptions. Yoyo’s madness is intriguing, but the scenes involving animals left me with no room to care about these people who are a waste of oxygen. I get that Bernard and Yoyo’s life is threatened by the imminent arrival of a motorway, but A-26 for this reader was just unpleasant.

I delayed reading A-26 as I’d read Max’s negative review and had no new Garnier novels in sight. I didn’t want the last one I read to leave a bad memory, but The Eskimo Solution is due to be released 9/16.

So for anyone interested, here’s an order of reading preference:

Moon in a Dead Eye

Too Close to the Edge

How’s the Pain

The Front Seat Passenger

The Islanders


The Panda Theory


translated by Melanie Florence.




Filed under Fiction, Garnier Pascal

23 responses to “The A-26: Pascal Garnier

  1. With the benefit of hindsight, I think this might be Garnier at his most warped and twisted. It’s probably my least favourite of the four I’ve read so far – Moon and How’s the Pain? being my two faves as well. Stu likened The A26 to something akin to the TV series The League of Gentlemen, which is a fair reference in many respects.

    I find I have to be in the ‘right’ frame of mind for this writer, otherwise there’s a danger that certain elements of his fiction can leave an unpleasant taste in the mouth. I thought he went a step too far in the senseless violence department with the final twist in The Front Sear Passenger – but then again, that may have been down to my mood at the time of reading. On another day, I might have reacted somewhat differently.

    • I haven’t seen the League of Gentlemen…
      Mood can have a lot to do with whether or not you enjoy a book, i can see that, but the bits about the animals would have put me of any day of the week.

  2. It’s my least favourite as well. It just felt senseless in its violence.

  3. I listened to this as an audio book and violently disliked it – if it had been my first one I wouldn’t have continued either.. thankfully it wasn’t.

  4. Jacqui, Marina and Cleo: Glad to see that we’re of like minds on this one.

  5. Jonathan

    I’ve only read, and liked, Moon in a Dead Eye so far but your review ony piques my interest more with this one and it’s one that I picked up cheap from Amazon on a Daily Deal a while ago. I may have to give it a go.

    BTW The League of Gentlemen was probably my favourite TV programme from the last 15 years—it’s beautifully warped and well worth watching.

  6. Garnier’s misogyny always leaves a nasty taste in my mouth. I really liked How’s the pain but found Moon in a dead eye pretty nasty too. Yes, the characters often bring it on themselves, but there’s a sneer in the way Garnier nails this. This one sounds quite loathesome.

  7. Thanks for the warning. I really can’t handle cruelty against animals in fiction or otherwise. II’m going to stay away from this.

  8. I was ready to skip this one after Max’s review. Now I know I won’t read it. It’s rare that you write such a vitriolic review so it must be really a bad one.

  9. I’m a great fan as well. I recently read The Eskimo Solution and was very disappointed actually:
    So am hesitating at reading this one. Moon in a Dead Eye is also my favorite. I’ve read Too Close to the Edge and The Islanders

  10. Annabel (gaskella)

    I’m definitely saving Moon in a Dead Eye! A26 was my first Garnier, and unlike everyone else, it didn’t put me off – every one I’ve read since has been more amazing. 🙂

  11. It’s a bit of a relief to see you didn’t like it to be honest, because I have other Garniers and had really been put off reading them. This just seemed so pointlessly nasty; an exercise in meaningless ugliness.

    I have How’s the Pain, the Front Seat Passenger and apparently the Islanders (I think kindle had a 99p Garnier sale but even so this must predate my rule about not buying more books by an author until I’ve read the ones I have). All rather in the middle on your list. It does seem I didn’t choose my Garnier’s well.

  12. Of the ones you mention, I’d say try How’s the Pain? I think about that one a lot and wonder if I wouldn’t rank it higher on a reread.

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