cover image Hotel Crystal

Hotel Crystal

Olivier Rolin, , trans. from the French by Jane Kuntz. . Dalkey Archive, $12.95 (216pp) ISBN 978-1-56478-492-6

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)