Sunday 2 August 2020

A Perfect Waiter

Finished July 25
A Perfect Waiter by Alain Claude Sulzer, translated by John Brownjohn

This book is set in two time periods, the earliest begins in the summer of 1935 and goes into the following summer. The second time period is three decades later.
The waiter that is the main character is Erneste and he works at a grand hotel in Switzerland. He has no aspirations beyond this career and behaves with perfection in his role. He is unfailingly polite, quiet, and observant enough to anticipate needs. In 1935, he is nineteen years old, and a new young staff member has arrived, Jakob, from Germany. Erneste is smitten, and Jakob notices and the two begin a love affair. They share a room in the staff quarters of the hotel, and soon share a bed. Erneste is careful not to show his feelings elsewhere, treating Jakob with the quiet friendly manner he treats the other staff. When the season ends, Jakob returns to Germany and Erneste to Paris, each promising to be back the following summer. In 1936, Erneste arrives at the hotel first and settles in. When Jakob arrives, he seems less ardent, but Erneste explains it away, and their affair continues. But Jakob is noticed by another person, this time a guest, also from Germany. Julius Klinger is a famous writer, who has spoken out against the rising Hitler in Germany, and when his words have no effect, he is looking to leave Europe for the United States.
The second time period has Erneste still working as a waiter in Switzerland at a hotel, when he receives a letter from the United States from Jakob. It is not the reconciliation that Erneste has dreamed of, but a request for help. Despite Jakob's betrayal of their love, Erneste is still compelled to submit to Jakob's wishes, and when he does, he learns more of his lover than he imagined.
This is a tale of love, one that happened during a brief time with great passion and was then left as a memory of a great love of Erneste's youth. Erneste is a perfect waiter in more ways than one, as someone else observes. This is sad, and one feels for Erneste as he deals with the truth of the man that he held strongly in his memory, and still cared deeply for.

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