A Perfect Waiter – Alain Claude Sulzer

PW2The person who chose this book said: I really liked a perfect waiter. What remains for me is the tone, sad and almost fatalistic and the way the two characters slowly played out their doomed relationship.

Some said that the first 60 pages were beautifully written while on says that he almost gave up, that there are only two characters for all that time, another disliked the style and said that the first few pages were badly written.

One said that it was an interesting story while another had no sympathy for any of the characters and that the book had no real impact on him.

The ends was inconclusive – was it cobbled together in a hurry to meet a deadline?

The waiter is lonely, repressed, self-effacing and deferential, seemingly observing his own life rather than being engaged with it. Hence the passive style in which most of the book is written.

An exception is the queer-bashing. One member objected to this ‘gratuitous violence’ while another said that this event changed the waiter, was the only big event in his otherwise dull life. Then again, do all gay books have to portray a victim culture?

The descriptions are vivid. One member said that he felt he knew exactly what the hotel looked like.

The fitting for the uniform was good – but Erneste notices Jakob’s armpit hair yet he hadn’t yet taken shirt off at that stage.

Fresh towels and bed linen provided monthly – compared with the waste today when people explain that to happen daily.

Who is the perfect waiter? On p. 77 it’s Jakob, not Ernest, though Klinger later calls Erneste this. The Guardian review suggests the author

The parting at railway station is evocative.

For Jakob, it was a ‘purely physical relationship’ yet it haunts Erneste for the rest of his life.

I had to look up ‘Cynosure’ = a person or thing that is the centre of attention or admiration.

Here is a particularly good example of the fine style of this book: The sentences he meant to write took shape in his mind, but they took shape so fast, and there was so many of them, that he was soon incapable of registering them all. They grew longer, and the longer they grew the less he under­stood them himself, and what was unintelligible to him would certainly be unintelligible to Jakob. And then it was as if they were trying to erase one another. The faster they occurred to him, the more this process of mutual erasure continued. One sentence gobbled up the next, yet they multiplied instead of becoming fewer. In lieu of a few well-organized sentences, whole concatenations of sentences took shape, and he knew he would never manage to memorize the best and most hurtful of them. That was why he had to write them down as soon as possible, but for that he needed some paper and a pen. As soon as he had a ballpoint in his hand at home, the right words—the ones that had slipped his memory—would come back to him. But he wasn’t at home, not yet, because first he had something else in mind: a form of diversion and re­lease—one of those escapades in which he had indulged for many years and at fairly regular intervals. Midnight came as the words continued to wing their way through his head and out again, like arrows, and just as midnight came he made his way past the statue beside the entrance to the park, the one he’d passed so many times before, a bare-breasted mother weeping over her dying child, and heard the familiar sounds he’d so often heard before: stealthy footsteps, a stifled groan, the rasp of a match as it flared up and went out, momentarily illuminating the features of some unknown man. A few whispered words were ex­changed, a door opened to reveal white tiles.and shadowy figures moving around in front of them. Then it softly Closed again. The door of the toilet, used only by his own kind from early evening onward, was a universal center of interest. Insofar as they were still looking because they adn’t yet found anything, all eyes were focused on that door. The light threw figures into relief, but not faces. When the door opened, a strip of light slanted across the gravel path. The door closed and swallowed the light, opened and spit it out again .a hundred times a night.

The air was filled with subdued sounds. The toilet’s telltale light, which never went out, illuminated the park’s activities for the benefit even of those who took no part in them—for those who watched those peculiar goings-on with the arrogance of wholesome distaste, or with the official curiosity displayed by the police when they raided the toilet at irregular intervals. They invariably arrested a few frightened, middle-aged men—married men with children, more often than not—and released them a few hours later.

There’s an older review here

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1 Comment »

  1. […] A more recent review is at https://gaymensbookclubbristol.wordpress.com/2014/10/31/a-perfect-waiter-alain-claude-sulzer-2/ […]

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