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Hotel Crystal by Olivier Rolin
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Hotel Crystal (2004)

by Olivier Rolin

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I would describe this book as a mini-Life A User's Manual. Indeed there are references to Perec (and other literary figures) through-out this anti-novel novel. It begins with a quote from Perec: "I have an exceptional--I believe fairly prodigious even--memory of all the places I have slept in."

The book consists of 43 chapters, each describing in minute detail a hotel room in which the narrator has slept. The narrative has supposedly been compiled by an "editor" from various scraps of paper with scribbling on them found after the mysterious disappearance of the narrator. Each of the room descriptions is jarringly interrupted by sudden interjections of what is actually going on in the narrator's life. And it is an extraordinary life--is he a spy, an arms dealer, a thug for the mob? It's never entirely clear, and none of it may be true, but it is certainly entertaining. For example, in the middle of a boring and mundane description of the room in which he is staying, he will state, "...though it might not seem so, I'm in the process of preserving world peace (temporarily).", as he views "...the nuclear warheads that are set on six tarpaulin-covered trailers..." Or, in the midst of his description of some other hotel room, "I needed the money to pay the ransom for Melanie Melbourne, the love of my life, whom Islamist terrorists were holding prisoner somewhere in the desert." He even recalls the stateroom on the liner he took as a child during his passage to Africa (admitting that this is a digression) and interjecting, "During this crossing, I recall having pushed my English governess overboard." The interruptions in his descriptions of the hotel rooms are usually brief, and we are often left hanging. For example, "I recall the time we smuggled out the blueprints of the Proton rocket engines in a case of caviar...but that's another story, which I'll tell when the time comes (maybe)."

Other readers have said, and I tend to agree, that the room descriptions become tedious and repetitive. After awhile, I found myself skimming some of these to get to the "story", which wasn't really a story, but more fragments of various stories. For these reasons, a lot of people might hate this book, although it is very clever. I found it diverting, but one would have to be in the right mood to read it. ( )
3 vote arubabookwoman | Dec 19, 2012 |
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"At some Parisian lost-and-found, a mysterious manuscript, scribbled onto stray bits of hotel stationary and postcards, and stuffed into an abandoned briefcase, comes into the hands of an "editor," who claims to faithfully transcribe and assemble the random texts. On the face of it, these consist of fastidious descriptions of a series of hotel rooms in cities around the globe, but their world-weary writer, a certain "Olivier Rolin," is also involved in a number of highly improbable international networks, populated by unsavory thugs and Mata Haris in distress." "Author Olivier Rolin has dipped into his extensive travel notebooks to create this highly inventive novel that spoofs, among others, the decaying international espionage scene, the literary author publicity tour, and official French culture, all against a backdrop of the queasy alienation secreted by standard-issue hotel rooms across the globe. With luck, you'll be reading this hilariously intelligent novel in a hotel room somewhere, where you will wake up at 3 a.m. to a clanging radiator. Or was that a gunshot?"--BOOK JACKET.… (more)

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