cover image The Hotel

The Hotel

Sophie Calle. Siglio, $39.95 (224p) ISBN 978-1-938221-29-3

The reader unwittingly becomes the accomplice in this beguiling work from artist Calle (The Address Book). When she took a job in 1981 as a chambermaid at a hotel in Venice, Italy, Calle did it less with the intention of cleaning messes and more with a desire to document them. With a hidden camera and tape recorder in tow, she spent three weeks cobbling together the stories of the hotel’s guests, rummaging through suitcases, diaries, wallets, and closets, assessing unmade beds and conversations heard through the walls. In Calle’s world, privacy is an illusion and she whimsically disregards it, treating each room like a crime scene and diligently taking inventory of each occupant’s belongings. “The brown raincoat is no longer in the wardrobe (it’s raining),” she notes on her second day in Room 47. She surmises guests’ reasons for visiting (honeymooners, partiers, businessmen); steals chocolate from Room 43 and a sip of the dregs of a Coca-Cola from another; and occasionally feels moved, letting herself get carried away in a fantasy after reading a love letter: “I imagine for a few seconds a patron... telling me to drop everything and go away with him, to Paris perhaps.” While decidedly illicit, there’s something benign, even curiously charming, about the way Calle studies her subjects. This is a gem. (Nov.)