A perfect waiter by Alain Claude Sulzer

A perfect waiter by Alain Claude Sulzer

Swiss fiction

Translator – John Brownjohn

I went to library when the german lit month was first mention determined to try some new writers in German and this was one of them I got .I ,must admit the mention of magic mountain and the Downton abbey feel of Erneste the  waiter on the front sold it to me when I mention I got it some one from germany said of that is a LGBF book ,that peaked my interest more it is hard enough getting a book translated but very few LGBF make out through from their original language to english .

So we meet Erneste he is like the star waiter of a swiss hotel good at his job able to speak four languages he has it all going for him work wise ,so one of his perks for being the star waiter is he meets the passengers and new staff that arrive at the picturesque hotel by ferry .So one day he arrives and meet a new waiter a young German looking to expand his horizons Jakob and also two pretty young country girls as the book unfolds we see the two men grow closer but this is in 1935 and just over the border the dark shadow of the war is effecting the hotel as this happen the two men kiss and a new arrival an exiled German writer called Julius sends a spanner into the works for Ernste ,as he also has eyes for the young Jakob anyway Jakob goes back to Germany and then America  and Erneste carries on as a waiter til one day a letter arrives in 1966 many years later this sparks of the whole story being told as it is from Jakob who now is living in the us and has fallen on hard times since they last meet just before the war .

He sometimes caught himself yearning for the authentic Jakob while the real one was lying beside him .Although he could feel the warmth of him ,he kept thinking of the Jakob who had left him behind on the platform in Basel and then ,far away in Koln ,dissolved into thin air .

Erneste dream of Jakob .

This book is a great insight into gay love just before the world war two but also what happens when lovers move apart and go on very different paths in their lives ,also it catches that dream world just before the war where life in some ways in a place like the hotel where they worked was just perfect .We also see how people’s lives can arc one goes one way and another twists off like Jacob of to the US .I loved Sulzer style this is a gentle story of what at the time was a frowned on love between two men told with sensitivity and honesty .I really want to read some of his other books I think I ve found a special writer in Sulzer .I m sure large part of this is due to John Brownjohn translation skills as well holding the gentle prose together of this book .

Have you read any translated LGBF ?

Who is your favourite Swiss writer ?

November 2011


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