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 ?

12 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Nymeth
    Nov 04, 2011 @ 12:05:05

    I really, really like the sound of this. Thanks for bringing it to my attention, Stu!


  2. Caroline
    Nov 04, 2011 @ 13:40:30

    We live in the same town and I have a feeling I’ve seen him in town but haven’t read his book. it sounds very nice. I’ll see if I find it.
    Favourite Swiss authors? Urs Widmer, Eveline Hasler (not translated), Martin Suter.
    Of the older ones I like Keller, Gotthelf and Robert Walser, Meinrad Inglin. For me Swiss author doesn’t stop with the German speaking ones. Some of the best, I guess wrote/write in French, some in Italian but that’s not for German Lit Month.


  3. Penny
    Nov 04, 2011 @ 14:19:29

    In the US I am familiar with the acronym LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender). Your term LGBF is new to me. What is the F? Your insight into one of the novel’s themes is intriguing, that of “when lovers move apart and go on very different paths in their lives”. I am at an age when friends I have not seen for 15 to 40 years are seeking me out — and the discovered differences, due to our divergent paths, are not always comfortable. I think now of one friendship renewed, a person with whom I had no contact since teen years, and was quite shocked that presently they do not have a single book in their home. A house with no books?!? Although I am not gay, this particular novel appears to transcend LGBT into universal themes and thus is more appealing as something I would reach out to read (or watch as a film). Thank you for your synopsis and introduction to the author.


  4. Parrish
    Nov 04, 2011 @ 20:54:37

    Not an author I’m aware of, although the story has a premise that has appeal, with its themes of loss & then the renewal with all its implications.
    As with Penny, not heard of LGBF, or to be more accurate have, but not in this context


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  6. Willa
    Nov 05, 2011 @ 16:32:42

    Great post Stu, sounds like an interesting book.


  7. Bina
    Nov 06, 2011 @ 00:02:17

    My favorite Swiss author? Friedrich Dürrenmatt, hands down! 🙂


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  9. Frances
    Nov 06, 2011 @ 17:25:33

    All new to me but really appealing. Let’s see if it’s hard to find for me now…


  10. Kinna
    Nov 23, 2011 @ 14:29:40

    I’m not sure that I’ve read a Swiss author before, Hmm…. But I really like the sound of this book. There is a lot going on there. Sounds well-written as well. Thanks for bringing it to my attention.


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November 2011


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