Alain Claude Sulzer: A Perfect Waiter

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<em>Benedicte Page writes:</em></p>
<p>On an autumn afternoon, when the leaves are just turning and there&rsquo;s the first hint of winter chill in the air, there is nothing more pleasurable than reading melancholy novels about frozen emotions, unfulfilled lives and thwarted love affairs. (Or is that just me?) So the other Sunday I reached for my proof of <em>A Perfect Waiter</em> by Alain Claude Sulzer (Bloomsbury, January), translated from the German by John Brownjohn, with a feeling of eager anticipation, suspecting that this story of a doomed gay relationship between two young waiters in a grand Swiss hotel in the 1930s would strike just the right note. It did. Erneste, the &ldquo;perfect waiter&rdquo; of the title, is now middle-aged, and has no life beyond his role in the hotel restaurant, where he is devoted to playing his part with absolute punctiliousness and attention to detail. Yet beneath his very proper exterior burns a private passion, the treasured memory of his illicit affair with a handsome young waiter, Jakob, 30 years before. Jakob soon left him for a famous writer, a guest at the hotel, but Erneste has never ceased to think of his former lover, and when a letter arrives from America, bearing Jakob&rsquo;s name, his emotions are stirred afresh. Sadly, Jacob&rsquo;s return will not bring Erneste any happiness - on the contrary, it will only underscore his desolate sense of loss. One may struggle to understand quite how the unremarkable Jakob wrought such havoc for three decades in poor Erneste&rsquo;s heart. But love is blind, and this slender tale is a mood-piece as much as anything: an elegantly written, brooding tale of yearning, loneliness and regret, with a very classic feel. Reading on my sofa in the autumn sun, I enjoyed it thoroughly.&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;</p>