February 28, 2021

The A26 – Pascal Garnier


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 that year, Yolande hasn’t been out since. And life has not been kinder to her terminally ill brother, Bernard. Realising that he has so little time left, Bernard suddenly feels less gloomy, but more reckless – and murderous…

I bought The A26 by Pascal Garnier following the recommendation of Phill Jupitus at Aberdeen’s Granite Noir Festival this February.

At only 100 pages this is a short and quite frankly bizarre novel.

First published in French as L’A26 in 1999, The A26 was translated to English by Melanie Florence and published in the UK in 2013.

Yolande and Bernard are siblings living together in their hovel of a home. Yolande is agoraphobic and quite psychotic. Bernard is dying, I assume from cancer, and works for the railways.

Following his terminal diagnosis Bernard loses the plot a little. Two rapes and murders (bodies disposed of in the construction of the A26) and one further accidental death witnessed by Bernard means it’s a fairly brutal book.

Mentally scarred by having her head shaved in her 20s for being a ‘tart’, Yolande has descended into madness. Bernard through some quite disturbing attachment to his sister now looks after her – there’s more than a hint of incest.

This novel probably has some deep and hidden meaning but I missed it. It’s a wonderfully written and translated book and I can appreciate the writing… but as a story I really didn’t see what the author was trying to say.

Perhaps it’s lost something in the translation or maybe I just didn’t ‘get’ it.

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