The Eskimo Solution: Pascal Garnier

“He kills people’s parents the way Eskimos leave their elders on a patch of ice because … it’s natural, ecologically sound, a lot more humane and far more economical that endlessly prolonging their suffering in a nursing home. Besides, he’ll hardly be doing them harm; he’ll do the job carefully, every crime professionally planned and tailored to the person like a Club Med holiday.”

In Pascal Garnier’s The Eskimo Solution, an author of children’s stories decides to branch out into a different genre. On a slim advance from his skeptical publisher, he’s rented a house on the Normandy coast, and begins working on a novel about a middle-aged man named Louis who decides to start killing the parents of various friends in order to ‘gift’ his friends with premature inheritances.

Since everything goes to plan, no trouble with the law or anything, he starts killing the parents of friends in need. Of course, he doesn’t tell them what he’s doing-it’s his little secret, pure charity. He’s an anonymous benefactor, if you like.

Gradually the writer begins to identify with his fictional character and the writer’s life spirals out of control as fiction and reality mix in a deadly and disorienting fashion…

the-eskimo-solutiom

Any one reading The Eskimo Solution will have to pay close attention to the text as Garnier melts back and forth into the crime writer’s life and that of his main character and alterego, Louis. The crime writer’s tale is written in the first person while Louis’ story unfolds in the third, so if you get lost it’s fairly easy to pull yourself back and hang onto ‘reality.’ Any sense of confusion, however, isn’t helped by the fact that there’s another Louis, an elderly neighbour in the crime writer’s life. I asked myself why Garnier used the same name twice and concluded that the two characters named Louis–one real, the other fictional–serve to blur the lines between fact and fiction (in this metafictional novel). And as the novel continues with the plot taking the stance of Life Imitates Art, Garnier is clearly dragging the reader into a life spinning out of control.

I really liked parts of The Eskimo Solution; it’s classic Garnier black humour with the crime writer  bemoaning the fact that he has to wait until his parents die until he gets his hands on a meagre inheritance, hoping all the old people will be wiped out by an epidemic, and pissed off asthe fucking doctors have made them practically immortal,” but overall this is not Garnier’s best by a long shot. The novel’s premise had a lot of promise, and if the crime writer had begun following Louis’ lead, this would have been a much stronger novel. Indeed, Garnier seems to play with this possibility–he even places two elderly people in the path of the crime writer. The elderly neighbours, Arlette and (another) Louis are harmless and sweet, but since the crime writer’s fictional Louis has been bumping off people over 50 at an alarming rate, Garnier dangles the murder of Arlette and Louis as a tantalizing possibility.

Anyway, if you’re a Garnier fan as I am (and this is novel number 9) you won’t be able to resist. The Eskimo Solution shows a middle-aged man chomping at the bit to get his hands on his parents’ money, and like many a writer before him, he uses fiction to resolve the issues in his life. Given that I’ve talked to so many people in the last few years who dumped their elderly parents in ‘rest homes’ while they cleared out their estates, selling off all the parents’ worldly goods asap, this novel hit a chord for me. Garnier illuminates the dark wish of many early middle-aged children, drags it to daylight, and takes it to a typical Garnier-ish conclusion. Garnier’s work can’t all be as good as Moon in a Dead Eye, and when you start reading a large number of novels from any writer, it’s inevitable that you rank them in order of preference. While I wasn’t crazy about The Eskimo Solution, it had its merits in spite of its flaws.

Order of reading preference:

Moon in a Dead Eye

Too Close to the Edge

How’s the Pain

The Front Seat Passenger

The Islanders

Boxes

The Eskimo Solution

The Panda Theory

A-26

Here’s another review at Words and Peace

Review copy

Translated by Emily Boyce and Jane Aitken

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16 Comments

Filed under Fiction, Garnier Pascal

16 responses to “The Eskimo Solution: Pascal Garnier

  1. Strangely have just started this book about ten mins ago I love the use of both louis as you say it will blur the lines not sure my order of his books would be the same as yours

  2. thanks for the shout out. I also feel the book had much more potential than Garnier finally did with it

  3. Yes it could have been much better. I don’t know where this novel lands in his career so perhaps that’s part of it. The author seems more constrained than in some of the other novels I’ve read.

  4. Garnier clearly has a thing for what happens to us as we approach old age. Just reading your opening quote reminded me of Moon in a Dead Eye and his fascination for retirement communities and suchlike. I’ve taken a bit of a break from his novels of late but I’m probably due a return, maybe with Too Close to the Edge as it’s second in your order of preference.

  5. We had a friend a while ago with an absolutely horrible old mother who made her life a misery. We used to muse (not with our friend) about hiring a hit man to take the mother out. I’m sure there’s a market for this business.

  6. I’ll be starting this one very shortly, and have The Moon in the Dead Eye – been meaning to read it for ages, but I find I need to space out the Garnier books a little. But so far we agree with the top 3 and the bottom one. (I liked The Panda Theory a bit more than you but then it was my first Garnier, so perhaps it was the novelty and shock factor).

  7. I have not read Garnier but I would like to.

    The plot of this book sounds very good.

    Stories within stories are generally interesting as their structure often reflects insightful themes.

  8. Janet L Jackson

    Hello Much as I have loved getting e-mail reviews from His Futile Preoccupations over the past few years (to the point of considering leaving my book group!), your new format is dismaying me. Until a week or so ago, I could read the full review in your e-mail and save it to read again when thinking of which book to buy next. The new e-mail format, which requires me to click through to a website, is far less convenient – I live in a region with pathetically slow broadband – and makes it impossible to save a whole review easily. I haven’t as yet decided to unsubscribe, because that would be depriving myself of interesting book suggestions, but I have to make the point that your new regime is not very user-helpful and I am very disappointed that you have made this move. Best regards J Jackson

  9. The blurring of character within Garnier’s novel and character within that character’s novel sounds rather clever, so it’s a shame it doesn’t quite come off. Given where you rank it in your order of preference I think I’ll be skipping this one.

  10. What a great idea for a crime novel. I think I’d like to read it despite your reservation.

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