The Waitress Was New

The Waitress Was New

4.3 3
by Dominique Fabre, Jordan Stump
     
 

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Pierre is a veteran bartender in a café in the outskirts of Paris. He observes his customers as they come and go – the young man who drinks beer as he reads Primo Levi, the fellow who from time to time strips down and plunges into the nearby Seine, the few regulars who eat and drink there on credit – sizing them up with great accuracy and empathy.

Overview

Pierre is a veteran bartender in a café in the outskirts of Paris. He observes his customers as they come and go – the young man who drinks beer as he reads Primo Levi, the fellow who from time to time strips down and plunges into the nearby Seine, the few regulars who eat and drink there on credit – sizing them up with great accuracy and empathy. Pierre doesn’t look outside more than necessary; he prefers to let the world come to him. Soon, however, the café must close its doors, and Pierre finds himself at a loss. As we follow his stream of thoughts over three days, Pierre’s humanity and profound solitude both emerge. The Waitress Was New is a moving portrait of human anguish and weakness, of understated nobility and strength. Lire est un plaisir describes Dominique Fabre as a "magician of the everyday."

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"A slim, whisper of a book that speaks to aging, solitude and the need for human contact, it feels like a philosophy primer for the meaning of life. A short read with a long tail impact." — Monica Carter, Three Percent

A tiny miracle like a perfect cup of coffee or just the right wine. . . . It’s a minor classic, a charming little book, a short account of ordinary goings-on in a French café that some highfalutin reader might call a deceptively detached exploration of the quotidian.  It’s the sort of book you can’t wait to find again, and for others to find it for the first time. —Daniel Handler (author of A Series of Unfortunate Events under pen name Lemony Snicket)

The strong, intimate voice of this gentle, canny narrator continues to stay with us long after we reach the end of The Waitress Was New—what an engrossing, captivating tale, in Jordan Stump’s sensitive translation. —Lydia Davis

For his U.S. debut, Fabre offers a poignantly funny, slender slice of a French waiter’s life . . . In his patient, deliberative layering, the details of Pierre’s quotidian life assume an affecting solidity and significance. —Publishers Weekly

Simply and elegantly captures the dignity of a day’s work, the humanity of friendship and the loneliness of aging. —Kirkus Reviews

A sweetly comic book, savored with tristesse, lightly renders feeling and profundity in the manner only the French can. —Reamy Jansen, Bloomsbury Review

Fabre becomes the lyrical, compassionate spectator of all these infinitesimal, silent lives—our lives—as they move between leaving the suburban underground station and arriving home. It is a tiny fragment of life, simply told and yet touching in the extreme. When Fabre writes, he ‘really believes in the possibility of showing you genuine beauty, genuine dignity and places or people that have been somehow overlooked.’ Mission accomplished. —French Book News

Publishers Weekly

For his U.S. debut, Fabre offers a poignantly funny, slender slice of a French waiter's life. Pierre, 56 and divorced, has worked at the suburban Parisian cafe Le Cercle for so long that he's become a fixture. He's a good listener, too, particularly to the boss's wife, heartbroken over her husband's seeming affair with the young head waitress, Sabrina. As a long shift unrolls, the boss and Sabrina are absent from the busy cafe, leaving Senegalese cook Amédée fuming and Pierre and the title's fill-in waitress scrambling. The next day brings big changes, and loyal, orderly Pierre must suddenly measure out his mortality by the pay stubs he has hoarded over his working life. In Fabre's patient, deliberative layering, the details of Pierre's quotidian life assume an affecting solidity and significance. (Feb.)

Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
School Library Journal

For his U.S. debut, Fabre offers a poignantly funny, slender slice of a French waiter's life. Pierre, 56 and divorced, has worked at the suburban Parisian cafe Le Cercle for so long that he's become a fixture. He's a good listener, too, particularly to the boss's wife, heartbroken over her husband's seeming affair with the young head waitress, Sabrina. As a long shift unrolls, the boss and Sabrina are absent from the busy cafe, leaving Senegalese cook Amédée fuming and Pierre and the title's fill-in waitress scrambling. The next day brings big changes, and loyal, orderly Pierre must suddenly measure out his mortality by the pay stubs he has hoarded over his working life. In Fabre's patient, deliberative layering, the details of Pierre's quotidian life assume an affecting solidity and significance. (Feb.)

Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
Kirkus Reviews
After decades of listening to his patrons' life stories, a bartender shares his own in the first of French author Fabre's novels to be published in the United States. Pierre has been at Le Cercle, a cafe in the Parisian suburb of Asnieres, for eight years. Before that, the 56-year-old tended bar at several other places, fell in love a few times, married and divorced once. He now lives alone and sometimes wonders if he will ever have another woman. The conscientious worker has little time to dwell on private matters, however, because Sabrina, Le Cercle's waitress, is out sick with the flu. Henri, the cafe's owner, has hired a temporary waitress. When she arrives, Pierre is relieved to see that she is good at her job. Despite Sabrina's absence, the day will be just like other days, Pierre thinks. Then Pierre's boss slips out the back door and things get complicated. Henri's wife Isabelle believes he is having an affair with Sabrina; he has strayed before. But when Pierre borrows Isabelle's Audi to help resolve the crisis, he finds that Sabrina really is sick, and Henri is not there. With this low-key material, Fabre eloquently conveys the wisdom of a man forever in the background, observing the lives of others. When Isabella closes the cafe, Pierre is left wondering how much longer he will need to keep working before he can claim his pension. Simply and elegantly captures the dignity of a day's work, the humanity of friendship and the loneliness of aging.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780977857692
Publisher:
Steerforth Press
Publication date:
01/21/2008
Pages:
117
Sales rank:
975,060
Product dimensions:
5.52(w) x 6.49(h) x 0.39(d)

Read an Excerpt

The waitress was new here. She came out of the underpass and hurried down the sidewalk, very businesslike, keeping to herself, as tall as me even in flat-heeled shoes. Maybe forty years old? That’s not the kind of thing you can ask a lady. She had a sort of flesh-pink makeup on her eyelids, she must have spent a long time getting ready. I didn’t look too closely at her shoes, the way I usually do to size someone up, because I had a feeling she’d seen some rough times, and there was no point overdoing it. And I’ve seen some rough times too, I tell myself now and then, but I’m not even sure it’s true. The sky was all cloudy. Sometimes, on gray days like this, you can see why you’re here, in a café like Le Cercle. People come in to get out of the weather, they have a drink, and then they go on their way.

Meet the Author

Dominique Fabre possesses a unique voice among contemporary French novelists. Focusing on the lives of individuals on the margins of society, his works combines somber, subdued realism with lyrical perception. In his own words, Fabre "believes in the possibility of showing you genuine beauty, genuine dignity and places or people that have been somehow overlooked." He has produced nine works of fiction over the last decade. In 1995 Maurice Nadeau published Fabre’s first novel, Moi aussi un jour j’irai loin, to much critical acclaim. His Fantômes (Serpent à plumes) received the Marcel Pagnol prize in 2001. The Waitress Was New is his first book to appear in English.

Jordan Stump received the 2001 French-American Foundation’s Translation Prize for his translation of Le Jardin des Plantes by Nobel Prize winner Claude Simon. In 2006, Stump was named Chevalier de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres. He has translated the work of Eric Chevillard, Marie Redonnet, Patrick Modiano, Honoré de Balzac, and Jules Verne, among others. He is a professor of French literature at the University of Nebraska.

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The Waitress Was New 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 3 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
SAHARATEA More than 1 year ago
"I'm only a barman, and when I forget that, the world around me seems like a bunch of different movies running at the same time. There are romance movies and sad movies, and if you pay attention most of their stories start to get all mixed together, till there's no way you can go on telling them to yourself. It's like they're all chasing after each other..." This excerpt shows the complications inherent in the life of the "simple" bartender. Rather than being the nameless face behind the bar, important only in his quick delivery of a cocktail or beer, this novella by Dominique Fabre goes much deeper into the life of a very complex man. The story takes place over only a few days, yet we see, in detail, the conflicts within him and within his profession in the upscale cafe Le Cercle, where he's worked some eight years. There's an abundance of unique characters, from the black-dressed young man who covers his poetry books with paper to hide the contents, to the articulate, kindly man who argues with the Moon and on to the beautiful but betrayed owner's wife. One of the underlying themes appears to be the pathological desire for order that Pierre, our fifty-six year old barman seeks. From his keeping the restaurant functioning to the way he does his laundry, Pierre is the picture of routine efficiency mixed with constant self-analysis. Yet his memories, that flood him often, reveal a past far from the orderly and efficient one he is living now.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago