Pascal Garnier – The Eskimo Solution (translated by Emily Boyce and Jane Aitken), Gallic Books, 2016. Original title La Solution Esquimau, 2006.
A Book Review by Eugen Kontschenko
“He kills people’s parents the way Eskimos leave their elders on a patch of ice because … it’s natural, ecologically sound, a lot more humane and far more economical than endlessly prolonging their suffering in a dismal nursing home.” (Page 11)
The Eskimo Solution by the late Pascal Garnier was a great success in France and has since acquired a cult status, together with its author. The novel tells two stories: One is about an unnamed crime author who, seeking motivation for his writing, retreats to a house in a small town on the Normandy coast. There he begins to tell the story of Louis, a man struggling financially to maintain his lifestyle. Inspired by the Eskimo ritual which gives the novel its title, Louis begins to violently help himself and the people around him to an early inheritance. As the stories progress, the plot of Louis’s novel intertwines with the author’s real life.
In this book Garnier plays with a macabre speculation : wouldn’t it be better for the next generation, if there were no seniors? Not only would the inheritance benefit the youth, but also retirement costs would be nonexistent. Just like in Eskimo legends, the elders would leave the community with their dignity in place instead of becoming a nuisance. This would be a benefit for everyone, or wouldn’t it?
Garnier’s outlook in this novel is almost Beckettian in its minimalism. His author’s bleak and nihilistic lifestyle befits his writing of a story exploring questions of morale and death. Despite having rented a house to have as few distractions as possible, he keeps distracting himself by staying in bed, watching TV or walking along the beach. Realizing how meaningless everybody and everything around him is, he struggles to make sense of life and existence. He only seems to find meaning in pragmatic ways, like finishing writing his book. The novel, through the complex characterization of a writer at work, becomes a study on authorship and the auctorial function.
On a generational and societal level, the representation of Louis’s transformation into a sort of twisted vigilante serving the interests of people who are his age against their elders is fascinating for its moralism. It is out of a sense of duty and Kantian morals that Louis fights for financial justice against the elderly. Louis’ story is very straight-forward, but the two stories complement each other in a superb way. While Louis becomes more and more creative in relieving society of old people, the author is confronted with this exact issue in real life and is forced to face the moral side of these actions. Here Garnier explores the connection between creator and creation and life imitating art.
Both stories balance out well, with the author trying to make sense of his remaining life, a depleted existence full of bleakness and antisocial tendencies and Louis’ entertaining, and even funny, struggle for blood and wealth. Viewed individually, Louis’ story would lack some depth, as his actions have no effect beyond financial benefit; the police is not mentioned once and no one seems to question the many deaths surrounding him. Nevertheless, contrasted with the author’s story and his personal views on society and life, it gains more universal, existential significance and symbolism, making The Eskimo Solution a perplexing yet entertaining read.