cover image A Perfect Waiter

A Perfect Waiter

Alain Claude Sulzer, . . Bloomsbury, $19.95 (211pp) ISBN 978-1-59691-411-7

In Alsace-based Sulzer’s first translated novel, set in 1966 Switzerland, self-possessed, middle-aged Erneste is the rock of the Restaurant am Berg, working the lavish Blue Room without missing a shift in 16 years. A letter posted from New York threatens to shatter the orderly cocoon he’s built around himself. Claiming to be “in a bad way from every angle,” Jakob Meier, Erneste’s one great love of 30 years ago, pleads with Erneste to track down Julius Klinger, the intellectual whom Jakob followed to America in 1936. Klinger, Jakob tells Erneste, has returned to Europe, been nominated for a Nobel prize and “lives near” Erneste; Jakob wants Erneste to ask Klinger for money, and to send it. Erneste is immediately torn between his tidy independence and intense longing. Sulzer sure-handedly layers the past on the present, gradually opening windows on both. The pieces fall together like bits of a puzzle, with a full portrait of Erneste and the truth about his relationship with Jakob coming together only at the end, powerfully. (Apr.)