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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction

The A26

Pascal Garnier

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To purchase The A26

Title: The A26
Author: Pascal Garnier
Genre: Novel
Written: 1999 (Eng. 2013)
Length: 100 pages
Original in: French
Availability: The A26 - US
The A26 - UK
The A26 - Canada
L'A26 - Canada
The A26 - India
L'A26 - France
  • French title: L'A26
  • Translated by Melanie Florence

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Our Assessment:

B : dark tale, cutting to the quick

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
The Independent . 8/2/2013 Emma Hagestadt
The NY Rev. of Books . 9/4/2020 John Banville
Sunday Telegraph . 11/2/2013 Mark Sanderson
Sunday Times . 10/2/2013 David Mills

  From the Reviews:
  • "In precise, limpid prose, Garnier builds up a creepily memorable portrait of life inside the house. (...) Garnier's novel has been described variously as a roman gris and a roman dur. While this is an undeniably steely work, his translator Melanie Florence does justice to the author's occasional outbreaks of dark humour that suddenly pierce though the clouds of encroaching existential gloom." - Emma Hagestadt, The Independent

  • "A brilliant exercise in grim and gripping irony, it makes you grin as well as wince." - Mark Sanderson, The Telegraph

Please note that these ratings solely represent the complete review's biased interpretation and subjective opinion of the actual reviews and do not claim to accurately reflect or represent the views of the reviewers. Similarly the illustrative quotes chosen here are merely those the complete review subjectively believes represent the tenor and judgment of the review as a whole. We acknowledge (and remind and warn you) that they may, in fact, be entirely unrepresentative of the actual reviews by any other measure.

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The complete review's Review:

       The slim noir The A26 takes place in the shadows of the new highway under construction of the title, marking the coming of a fundamental change for the locals. Bernard Bonnet is even an employee of the French national railway, making him more obviously a representative of the old established order being displaced. But beyond that, Bernard's future turns out to be personally even bleaker: his cancer is reaching its last stages, there's little hope left.
       Other shadows also figure here, pasts still haunting present -- most obviously in the form of Bernard's sister, Yolande. Publicly shamed, and her head shaved at the end of the war for her intimacies with the German enemy, she has not ventured forth from the over-stuffed house she shares with her brother ever since, for almost half a century. The shock to her system -- her hair growing back pure white -- was too much for her, and while she didn't completely lose her mind she's stuck in an odd reality largely of her own making.
       There's also Jacqueline, who might have wound up with Bernard, way back when, but settled for café owner Roland -- who proves to be very much his father's son (very much to his detriment, in the final reckoning).
       Mortally ill, Bernard becomes rather more philosophical about life and, especially, death. Not just his own. Opportunity presents itself and he takes advantage. He realizes:

A life wasn't very much, not much at all. Giving, taking away. It was so easy. Sometimes death spares people.
       Other times: not.
       Bernard's moral compass likely has long been at least a bit off. So too his sister's, who never sympathized with the Nazis but was always just a girl looking for a good time. Indeed, it was Jacqueline who taught Bernard: "how to kiss, and to masturbate"; indeed, she came very close to teaching him more.
       The novel builds up, at first, as one of Bernard seemingly abandoning any sense of right and wrong and going down the A26 in his own way -- on a murderous rampage. But Garnier doesn't make it that simple, and the novel turns a rather different way, in not so much a surprise ending but rather reaching the inevitable points by other means.
       The A26 is almost too slim, with some of its weighty material perhaps underdeveloped. Presumably, it feels different for its original French audience, for whom Jacqueline and her fate resonate much more familiarly, and for whom the rapid development of the 1990s in the background resounds much more strongly. Still, it's a nice, sharp piece of writing, and a pretty powerful piece of work.

- M.A.Orthofer, 16 February 2015

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The A26: Reviews: Other books by Pascal Garnier under review: Other books of interest under review:

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About the Author:

       French author Pascal Garnier lived 1949 to 2010.

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