Pascal Garnier: Where To Start A Legacy Of French Noir

‘Garnier’s darkness is of the kind that only astronauts get to see, gleaming, depthless, yet dotted throughout with mysterious points of light at once ice-cold and curiously consoling.’ John Banville, New York Review of Books 

 

Pascal Garnier was a talented novelist, short story writer, children’s author and painter. From his home in the mountains of the Ardèche, he wrote fiction in a noir palette with a cast of characters drawn from ordinary provincial life. Though his writing is often very dark in tone, it sparkles with beautiful imagery and dry wit. The author boasts a glittering literary fan club with members such as John Banville, Ian Rankin and A. L. Kennedy, and his short, sharp books have an almost addictive quality to them. Once you try one, it is almost impossible to resist returning for another taste.

Now that Gallic Books have translated and published twelve of Pascal Garnier’s novels in English, it is surely about time we created a reading guide to help any newcomers to his iconic style work out where to start, and for his loyal fans to note down any gems they may have missed.

Shown here with their beautiful new ebook covers, each title is available in both paperback or digital and can be purchased on our website (see individual links below).

The Panda Theory (tr. Svein Clouston)
Paperback / Ebook 

Gabriel is a stranger in a small Breton town. Nobody knows where he came from or why he’s here. Yet his small acts of kindness, and exceptional cooking, quickly earn him acceptance from the locals.

His new friends grow fond of Gabriel, who seems as reserved and benign as the toy panda he wins at the funfair.

But unlike Gabriel, the fluffy toy is not haunted by his past . . .

‘Taut, low-key . . . this novel is dark enough to sink the hook deep into fans of noir’ Publishers Weekly

‘I loved the pace and style of The Panda Theory. It is very French and reminded me of film noir cinema. Garnier manages to swiftly portray deep real people and quirky elements such as the eponymous Panda are cleverly interwoven into his tale’ Literary Flits 

 

 

How’s the Pain? (tr. Emily Boyce)
Paperback / Ebook

Death is Simon’s business. And now the ageing vermin exterminator is preparing to die. But he still has one last job down on the coast, and he needs a driver.

Bernard is twenty-one. He can drive and he’s never seen the sea. He can’t pass up the chance to chauffeur for Simon, whatever his mother may say.

As the unlikely pair set off on their journey, Bernard soon finds that Simon’s definition of vermin is broader than he’d expected . . .

‘Action-packed and full of gallows humour’ Sunday Telegraph

‘The perfect introduction to the novellas of French noir master . . . A cast of memorable characters (including Bernard’s tragicomic mother); a generous helping of black humour and a touch of romance can be found amongst the inevitable death or two’ Booksellers at Mr B’s Emporium in Bath

 

 

The A26 (tr. Melanie Florence)
Paperback / Ebook

The future is on its way to Picardy with the construction of a huge motorway. But nearby is a house where nothing has changed since 1945.

Traumatised by events in 1945, Yolande hasn’t left her home since, and life has not been kinder to Bernard, her brother, who is now in the final months of a terminal illness.

Realising that he has so little time left, Bernard’s gloom suddenly lifts. With nothing left to lose, he becomes reckless – and murderous.

‘This is tough, bloody stuff, but put together with a cunning intelligence’ Sunday Times

‘It is powerful and gut-wrenching, with Garnier’s compelling writing enhanced by an excellent translation’ Fiction Fan Blog

 

 

 

Moon in a Dead Eye (tr. Emily Boyce)
Paperback / Ebook 

Pascal Garnier turns his dark vision and ruthless wit to the inhabits of a retirement village in the south of France.

Given the choice, Martial would not have moved to Les Conviviales. But Odette loved the idea of a brand-new retirement village in the south of France. So that was that.

At first it feels like a terrible mistake: they’re the only residents and it’s raining non-stop. Then three neighbours arrive, the sun comes out, and life becomes far more interesting and agreeable. Until, that is, some gypsies set up camp just outside their gated community . . .

‘The final descent into violence is worthy of J G Ballard’ The Independent

‘Savagely hilarious . . . Garnier shows how this sort of isolation is unhealthy and contributes to the idea that any sort of difference (class, wealth) feeds paranoia’ His Futile Preoccupations

 

The Front Seat Passenger (tr. Jane Aitken)
Paperback / Ebook

Fabien and Sylvie had both known their marriage was no longer working. And yet when Sylvie is involved in a fatal car accident, her husband is stunned to discover that she had a lover who died alongside her.

With thoughts of revenge on his mind, Fabien decides to find out about the lover’s widow, Martine, first by stalking her, then by breaking into her home. He really needs to get Martine on her own. But she never goes anywhere without her formidable best friend, Madeleine…

‘A small but perfectly formed piece of darkest noir fiction told in spare, mordant prose’ The Guardian

‘Can be read as a thriller, but also as a modern parable warning against the dangers of obsession and self-absorption’ Killing Time Crime

 

 

 

The Islanders (tr. Emily Boyce)
Paperback / Ebook

It’s a few days before Christmas in Versailles. Olivier has come to bury his mother, but the impending holidays and icy conditions have delayed the funeral.

While trapped in limbo at his mother’s flat, a chance encounter brings Olivier back in touch with childhood friend Jeanne and her blind brother, Rodolphe.

Rodolphe suggests they have dinner together, along with a homeless man he’s taken in. As the wine flows, dark secrets are spilled, and there’s more than just hangovers to deal with the next morning . . .

‘If you like a grim comedy that explores the dark side of human nature in a classic noir style, then Garnier is your man. For how not to do the festive season, you can’t do better than this novel’ Shiny New Books

‘Garnier weaves an intricate web of compelling storytelling that’ll have you hooked’ France Today

 

 

Boxes (tr. Melanie Florence)
Paperback / Ebook

He was the sole survivor of the natural disaster that at one time or another strikes us all, known as ‘moving house’.

Brice and Emma had bought their new home in the countryside together. And then Emma disappeared. Now, as he awaits her return, Brice busies himself with DIY and walks around the village.

He gradually comes to know his new neighbours including Blanche, an enigmatic woman in white, who has lived on her own in the big house by the graveyard since the death of her father, to whom Brice bears a curious resemblance . . .

Boxes is a real page-turner . . . Garnier is a surprising, often witty writer whose stories never get predictable. You always want to know what will happen next’ NPR 

‘This intense, morbid character study from Garnier (1949–2010) is less noir than gloomy contemporary gothic’ Publishers Weekly

 

Too Close to the Edge (tr. Emily Boyce)
Paperback / Ebook

A widow’s quiet retirement in the foothills of the Alps is turned upside down by the arrival of a mysterious stranger.

Recently widowed grandmother Éliette is returning to her home in the mountains when her micro-car breaks down. A stranger comes to her aid on foot. Éliette offers him a lift, glad of the interruption to her humdrum routine.

That night, her neighbours’ son is killed in a road accident. Could the tragedy be linked to the arrival of her good Samaritan?

‘It’s a diverse tale drawing from a variety of darker ‘domestic’ themes: incest, murder, suicide, discrimination, alcoholism, and drugs. There’s a lot crammed into the pages, yet somehow it’s not oppressive, or disturbingly illicit’ Little Bookness Lane

‘The observation of human behaviour at the margins of deviancy, is reminiscent of Simenon at times. Rarely has noir been so much fun’ Crime Review 

 

 

The Eskimo Solution (tr. Emily Boyce & Jane Aitken)
Paperback / Ebook

A children’s writer rents a house on the Normandy coast where he plans to write his first crime novel. There, away from his love life, his editor and his friends, he’ll be free to pen the story of Louis, who after killing his mother, is inspired to relieve his friends of their own burdensome elderly relatives.

But even far away from everything he knows, distractions seem to find their way to his door: from his lovable elderly neighbours, to his girlfriend’s tearaway teenage daughter. And somehow, events from his life appear to overlap with those of his imagination . . .

‘Garnier shines . . . It’s short, sleek, beautifully written and well translated’ Globe and Mail 

‘It’s both welcoming and disturbing—a story that is easy to get into and stay with, yet one that also messes with your head. It’s bleak in a knowing and darkly humorous way’  Criminal Element

 

 

Low Heights (tr. Melanie Florence)
Paperback / Ebook

At least vultures have the decency to wait until their prey’s dead before picking it apart . . .

After losing his wife and suffering a stroke, cantankerous retiree Édouard Lavenant has moved from Lyon to a village in the mountains with his put-upon nurse, Thérèse. One day, a man comes to the door claiming to be Édouard’s long-lost son. Édouard’s temper seems to be softening, but it isn’t long before the local vultures are circling overhead . . .

‘Low Heights has as much to say about ageing and emotional intelligence as many more overtly literary novels’ Financial Times

‘It’s very funny, full of insight on being arrogant and getting old, and on being a servant who is generous of spirit. Humility, grumpiness, some tender love, and brutal violence’ Chrissie Hynde in The Week

 

 

C’est la Vie (tr. Jane Aitken)
Paperback / Ebook

‘Happiness for those unused to it is like food for the starving – a little too much can be fatal.’

Writer Jeff Colombier is not accustomed to success. Twice divorced with a grown-up son he barely sees, he drinks too much and his books don’t sell.

Then he wins a big literary prize and his life changes for ever. Overwhelmed by his newfound wealth and happiness, he feels the need to escape and recapture his lost youth, taking his son, Damien, with him. And if strange encounters lead them down dangerous paths . . . well, c’est la vie.

‘A jeu d’esprit of hard-boiled symbolism, with echoes of Raymond Chandler, T.S. Eliot and the Marx Brothers’ Wall Street Journal

C’est la Vie is trippy, cool, empathetic, violent, and surprising. I don’t know what more you could want’ NB Magazine 

 

 

 

A Long Way Off (tr. Emily Boyce)
Paperback / Ebook

Marc dreams of going somewhere far, far away – but he’ll start by taking his cat and his grown-up daughter, Anne, to an out-of-season resort on the Channel.

Reluctant to go home, the curious threesome head south for Agen, whose main claim to fame is its prunes. As their impromptu road trip takes ever stranger turns, the trail of destruction – and mysterious disappearances – mounts up in their wake.

Shocking, hilarious and poignant, this final book from Pascal Garnier, published shortly before his death, is the author on top form.

‘Taut, unsettling . . . a vein of wild humor runs through the gray’ New York Times Book Review

‘This tiny little gem of a novel . . . is a mind-blowing masterpiece’ Bookgasm

 

 

We hope this has provided some insight into where to start with Pascal Garnier’s incredible work. In a strange time of upheaval and tension, Garnier’s witty nihilism seems more resonant today than it did when he was writing.

Posted on March 27, 2020 by Isabelle Flynn in , ,

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