The Panda Theory by Pascal Garnier
Translator – Svein Cloustin
Pascal Garnier was a french writer he had a number of jobs including being in a number of rock and roll bands before turning to a writing career in his mid thirties ,he unfortunately died in 2010 age 61 ,Gallic books have taken to translate three of his books .In france he was frequently compared to Simenon and Bove .The Panda Theory is the first of these books to be published .
Now Panda theory is a strange book it falls between categories of books lit,detective ,darkly humourous and also a slight surreal air .A strange turns up in a Breton Town his name is Gabriel as the book went on I saw him as a catalyst rather like Spencer Tracy’s character in Bad day at black rock a man come to sort things out .He makes friend he is a chef and connects well with the locals a pretty Hotel receptionist Madeline ,then there is a Junkie pair and a stuffed panda in a bar that which was won at a fun fair by Gabriel .This is all added by the fact the Gabriel is seemingly from nowhere ,you do wonder if his name has a meaning Gabriel being the name of the most famous angel and this man seems on one level to angelic helping people with their lives and the cooker of wonderful food .But then there is always a feeling that this is too good to be true .I found the feeling of something else at work apart from the goodness we see very dark .I think this is in dept in some part to the french love of existentialism the moral questions we ask and in this way is this why Gabriel is here ? is he real ? As I said like spencer Tracy he is here to make people think .This is another take on the stranger comes to town ,we see so much in western films .
He was sitting alone at the end of a bench on a deserted railway platform .Above him a tangle of metal girders merged into the gloom ,It was the station of a small Breton town on a Sunday in October – a completely nondescript town but certainly Brittany ,the interior the sea was far away its presence unimaginable .
The opening very like bad day at black rock the feeling of being nowhere in particular .
Garnier has woven a strange unusual tale here it is very unlike anything I ve read for years I m going to be eagerly awaiting the other two books the publisher has got in the pipeline from him .I ve not read enough of the other writers he is compared too I m assuming it is more Simenon non Maigret books the french readers have in mind when comparing his work to Simenon and I have only read one of them ,numerous Maigret’s thou and that said ,in some ways there is a dry humor that also seeps through Maigret the slipped comments he sometimes makes that make you smile especially with his wife are maybe sometimes echoed in Gabriel comments to people .It was a shame he passed so early in his writing career I feel Garnier would be a major french writer at some point .
Have you read this book ?