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A Perfect Waiter by Alain Claude Sulzer
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A Perfect Waiter (2004)

by Alain Claude Sulzer

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"His way of moving, speaking and daydreaming -to Erneste, everything about him seemed utterly superlative"
By sally tarbox on 15 May 2017
Format: Kindle Edition
Set in a grand Swiss hotel, and opening in the 1960s, the main character is Erneste, a quiet, reserved career-waiter. Excellent at his job, Erneste lives a modest and unexciting life, keeping himself to himself. Then one day he receives a letter from someone he hasn't seen for thirty years - Jakob, an attractive younger man, who came to the hotel in the run-up to the War as a trainee.
Sulzer pursues the two narratives simultaneously: Erneste's emotions on getting the letter which seeks practical help; and memories of the long hot summer they met and Erneste fell in love... and how it all panned out.
Against both tales is the constant activity of the hotel, which must always take precedence over their private lives.
This is a concisely - and beautifully- written novel, where every word counts and you really want to see what happens. ( )
  starbox | May 14, 2017 |
PARTIAL SPOILER ALERT. DO NOT READ THIS REVIEW UNTIL YOU HAVE READ THE BOOK , OR IF YOU DON"T CARE TO FIND OUT THE BASIC PLOT OF THE STORY.
The bulk of the events in the story happened between 1935 and 1941. Two young men fall in love, but one of them later is unfaithful to his partner due to a third, older, man. So much so that the deceived one is left alone when the other two leave the country. This is the core event of the story. But it stands to reason that what happened once could happen again. If the couple remaining after the first infidelity was itself to suffer a new infidelity, what would be its result? Who would the new third person be? And who would the new betrayer be? You can puzzle this through all you want and see if you end up with any clear answers after finishing reading the story.
Speaking of story, now back to the story: The man who had been deceived the first time is Erneste, who is a waiter. Now his life is quite peaceful by outside indications, but there are hints of the earlier or other traumatic events lurking under his calm and assured professional demeanor. He might have continued on in this way indefinitely but for the arrival of a letter from his first love, Jakob, with whom he had an apparently idyllic relationship until it was shattered by Klinger, the older man.
Erneste hasn't seen Jakob since 1936, but Klinger last saw Jakob in 1941 or 1944, as far as Erneste and the third-person narrator are revealing to us. So after the fled from Erneste and the uncomfortable situation of their discover, what happened to Jakob and Klinger in America between 1936 and 1941? How can Erneste hope to find out?
Erneste's sources in the period after WWII include:
A.) 2 letters from Jakob that Erneste receives in Switzerland in 1953, that say no direct details about the 1936-1941 period. The letters instead concentrate on Jakob asking Erneste to go to Klinger and to ask him for some money to bail him out of financial problems he is experiencing in America.
B.) 2 discussions Erneste has with Klinger about Jakob. Klinger is willing to discuss the whole matter when Erneste gets some time of work and seeks out Klinger, who happens to live not all that far away from him. The mass of information that Klinger provides is quite convincing, and the reader might assume that Erneste takes each bit of information at face value. But I feel that both Erneste and the reader should investigate if Klinger is being entirely honest in his string of divulgations (all of which Erneste has, at first glance, no way of proving or disproving.
C.) Little bits of information he can glean from the Klinger's long-tenured housekeeper who happended to be present in the Klinger menage during the time that that it stayed at the Swiss hotel that Erneste and Jakob worked at in 1935-1936.
Therefore, the reader must ask him or herself if Klinger has told the entire truth about
-the nature and outcome of Jakob's illness.
-whether or not Jakob wrote any letters to Klinger, which Erneste has assumed never occurred, but Klinger never disabuses him of, nor confirms this assumption.
-the entire string of events from 1936-1941. (To me it seems that the narrator is not revealing whether these facts can be verified, but rather reports the speech of Klinger verbatim. Although the book is in the third person, the narrator, if omniscient, is not revealing all that he/she knows. It leaves the reader out on a limb and thus the ending is open-ended to a large extent.)
If as a reader you like neat compact answers, then be prepared for no cut and dried answers from this book. If you like to puzzle through unsolvable enigmas, then read this book. I only ready it two days ago, but I will be trying out solutions to the Klinger revelation for quite some time.
  libraryhermit | Oct 21, 2012 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Alain Claude Sulzerprimary authorall editionscalculated
Brownjohn, JohnTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Epigraph
Apart, who can divide us?

Divided, we shall never be parted.

Twilight of the Gods


Richard Wagner
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On September 15, 1966, Erneste was surprised to receive a letter from New York.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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"Erneste Is The Perfect Waiter - and his private life seems to embody the qualities he brings to his profession. But inwardly this polite and dignified man is in the grip of a violent passion: He yearns for a young waiter-in-training, Jakob, who broke his heart when he fled Nazi-dominated Europe for a new life in America with his lover, a celebrated German intellectual. Nursing a broken heart, Erneste slinks even deeper into his well-ordered world, and spends the next thirty years hardening into what had previously only been a role. After decades of silence, however, he receives a letter from a distraught and penniless Jakob asking for help. Soon, Erneste must decide if he will finally take action and help his former lover - or will dramatic news of Jakob finally destroy the memories of the great love of his youth?" "Set against the backdrop of a genteel Swiss hotel, and moving skillfully between two time periods, this exquisitely written story of a lifelong passion is rich in tension and emotion and explores the nature of love and betrayal, memory and regret."--BOOK JACKET.… (more)

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