Pascal Garnier; Emily Boyce (translator)
Gallic, Jun 9 2015, $13.95
Just a few days before Christmas in -17 degrees weather, Olivier Verdier’s mother dies in Versailles. All the recovering alcoholic could think of is that she still is a pain in the ass even in death as her burial must wait until after the holiday; while he wants to return home to his wife in Nice. A snow storm adds to Olivier’s misery.
While at his mom’s pad, Olivier runs into neighbor Jeanne Mangin, a schoolteacher for two decades. Twenty-five years earlier in Le Chesnay when they were teens, the cops considered Olivier and Jeanne as the prime suspects in the murder of a child she babysat. She tells him that her mother and the twins died in an accident, and she lives with her blind brother Rodolphe whose only respite from his internal rage is the Louvre. At the same time that the déjà vu relationship dynamics boil over, needing shelter from the unbearable weather, homeless Roland Toutin enters the out of control orbit.
This translation of a Pascal Garnier French middle class tragedy is another superb character-driven dark novella from an author who consistently provides insightful looks at the underbelly of human interactivity. Filled with mocking graveyard humor and anticipation that things will only turn worse, this like in his previous works I read (see The A26, The Front Seat Passenger, Moon in a Dead Eye, The Panda Theory and How’s the Pain?) is why Monsieur Garnier has become one of my favorite auteurs.