Hotel Crystal

Overview

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 ...

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Overview

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.

Dalkey Archive Press

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Editorial Reviews

L'Humanite
Olivier Rolin once again made the bet of a radical invention. And he filled his contract. Superbly.
Entertainment Weekly
“In this witty puzzler of a novel by Olivier Rolin (translated by Jane Kuntz), a traveler with the same name as the author begins each chapter with a description of a different hotel room he's stayed in around the world. These, in turn, become occasions for Rolin (or 'Rolin'?) to tell us of his adventures as a globe-trotting amateur spy and dashing lover. Frenchman Rolin engages in literary game-playing in Hotel Crystal, crossing influences such as Vladimir Nabokov and Georges Perec.”
World Literature Today
“Rolin's mastery of language, along with his rich perceptions of locale and the human psyche, rewards a reader willing to attend.”
L'Humanité
“Olivier Rolin once again made the bet of a radical invention. And he filled his contract. Superbly.”
Publishers Weekly

Using a Georges Perec line about memory as his point of departure, Rolin, a French journalist and accomplished novelist (Port-Soudan, Tigre en papier), has fashioned in forensic detail a travelogue of hotel rooms around the globe. From Room 308 in the "Polar Hotel" of Khatanga, Russia, to Room 8 in the Au Bon Accueil in Saint-Nazaire, France, another "Olivier Rolin" scribbled these brief, diarylike accounts on scraps of paper to be discovered before he supposedly disappeared for good. Along with the exact measurements of the room, descriptions of furnishings-especially the mirrors, in which he notes his reflection-the missing narrator offers clues about himself; he does some underhanded dealing with a smalltime Russian crook, Gricha; he drops literary allusions, from Homer to Malcolm Lowry; and he likes women, frequently using his rooms as trysting spots. It seems as though he could be embroiled in an international Machiavellian plot. In the end, he pines for one unattainable woman, Mélanie Melbourne, who scolds him because he can't remember the room that signifies their "impossible life together," Room 211 of the Hotel Crystal, in Nancy, France. Rolin's arch antinovel works as a kind of jokester hall of mirrors or a playful, literary roman policier. (May)

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Kirkus Reviews
Visions of Italo Calvino's seminal postmodernist romp Invisible Cities arise as the reader enters the cleverly fabricated world of this novel, originally published in French in 2004, from Rolin (Paper Tiger, 2007, etc.). The book's modus operandi is explained in a mock-editorial foreword declaring that "each [chapter] describes a hotel room in minute detail . . . then goes on to relate an anecdote involving the author and this particular location." Thus protagonist and narrator "Olivier Rolin" trots around the globe fulfilling miscellaneous diplomatic and criminal missions, indulging varied sophisticated tastes, including gratifying dalliances with often exotic, occasionally dangerous women-a blissful exception being his "ever-endangered" girlfriend Melanie. Our antihero gets awfully cozy with "discount dictators" trafficking in WMDs and other bad stuff, but he's basically an amiable thrill seeker who prefers uninterrupted creature comforts to inconvenient derring-do. Individual episodes offer differing degrees of smash-mouth action and risibility. It's hard to top an adventure in Helsinki where Olivier recovers from "a brawl over the interpretation of the Sibelius concerto for violin in D minor with some sailors in a bar." But we are treated to a Catholic plot to convert Muslims by bombarding them with "religious trinkets"; a Siberian scheme to clone mammoths from prehistoric DNA and sell the hybrid beasts to U.S. theme parks; a weird rescue operation accomplished in Hanoi's Natural History Museum; and an eye-popping sex scene performed under a table in a Montreal restaurant. An extra dimension emerges in Olivier's pilgrimages to locales associated with favorite writers, and due homageis paid to such prankish experimentalists as countrymen Boris Vian, Henri Michaux and Georges Perec (who, the foreword explains, was this book's major inspiration). Elegant fun, and one of the most enjoyable "serious" novels in many seasons.
The Barnes & Noble Review
Hotels are incubators of restlessness and dreams. They prick the occupant's mind with their unfamiliar environments -- which, by extension, loosen the collar of identity. Olivier Rolin's Hotel Crystal makes playful use of this notion by exploring one man's attempt to recall all of the hotel rooms in which he has ever resided. The novel's chapters typically begin with a detailed description of a room, followed by a far-out, frequently droll anecdote about events that transpired therein. The Zelig-like protagonist, who shares the same name as the novel's author, is a writer who moonlights as a spy, arms dealer, smuggler, tutor to fallen monarchs, and consultant to the likes of economic wizards such as Alan Greenspan. Alas, perhaps due to his more dangerous exploits, or weariness with life, "Olivier Rolin" is unable to bring his project to a conclusion. After he goes missing, an acquaintance chances upon his recollections, which have been jotted down on disparate pieces of stationery. She turns these over to a group of editors, who collate the work and embellish it with amusingly pointy-headed footnotes. This smart, madcap book is ideal for the inveterate traveler as well as for anyone who enjoys academic farces (especially when punctuated with things such as a hijacking of the Mars landing probe, the manipulation of a Vatican insider, and an attempt to purchase a literary prize -- aborted because the funds required for that purchase are stolen by "Rolin" to pay off terrorist kidnappers). --Christopher Byrd
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781564784926
  • Publisher: Dalkey Archive Press
  • Publication date: 5/28/2008
  • Series: French Literature Series
  • Pages: 190
  • Sales rank: 1,455,987
  • Product dimensions: 5.40 (w) x 8.10 (h) x 0.70 (d)

Meet the Author

Olivier Rolin was born in Boulogne-Billancourt, France in 1947. He spent his childhood in Senegal, but continued his studies in Paris, where he received a degree in philosophy and letters. Considered one of France's most distinguished contemporary novelists, Rolin won the Prix Femina for his novel Port-Sudan, while his Tigre en Papier was nominated for the 2003 Goncourt Prize. In addition to writing novels, Rolin is an editor at Seuil and has written for Libération and Le Nouvel Observateur.

Jane Kuntz has translated Everyday Life and The Power of Flies by Lydie Salvayre, Hotel Crystal by Olivier Rolin, Pigeon Post by Dumitru Tsepeneag, and Hoppla! 1 2 3 and Making a Novel by Gérard Gavarry, all of which are available from Dalkey Archive Press.

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