João Gilberto Noll: Hotel Atlântico (UK: Hotel Atlântico; US: Atlantic Hotel)
Our unnamed hero/narrator is something of a mystery. He seems to be completely adrift. We know a little bit about him, though of course, he may be an unreliable narrator. He was apparently born in Porto Alegre but left there and never returned. He has since lived in Rio. He was an actor, appearing in soap operas – two characters in this book recognise him from the soaps. Apart from that we know nothing. He seems to have no friends or family nor a fixed abode. Indeed, apart from some money and the clothes he is wearing, he seems to have nothing, as he drifts around Brazil without luggage.
He starts in Copacabana and it is there, in a hotel, where he will have his first casual sexual encounter. There will be two more. Similarly, it is there where he will first see the dead body of a woman. He will see two more. This one was apparently murdered, though we learn no more about her. The receptionist promises not to put him in the room where she was murdered though he is somewhat surprised to see a bloodstain on the carpet in his room.
After sex with the receptionist, despite the fact that, because he has no luggage, he had to pay three nights in advance, he suddenly decides to walk out after one night. He tells the taxi driver that he is going to an alcoholic treatment centre in Minas. Instead he heads to the bus station and seemingly arbitrarily buys a bus ticket to Florianópolis, simply because he saw the name on a ticker in the bus station. He meets an American woman who may or may not be an archaeologist who lends him a coat, as it is cold.
It is in Florianópolis that he is first recognised. Nowadays I’m on the hunt for treasure, or something like that, he tells the person who recognises him. He gets a lift from a man who is taking his brother-in-law to a little town in Rio Grande do Sul. The man turns out to own a brothel and takes both our hero and the brother-in-law (for one last pre-marital fling for the bridegroom-to-be but merely a sleep for our hero). It all goes horribly wrong. His next stop is a small town called Viçoso, where it gets even worse.
We never learn who he is, what he wants, where he is going and why. Indeed, he does not seem to have any idea where he is going, choosing destinations at random. Is it about identity? We do not know who he is and, at times, he himself seems not to be sure. He takes on other identities. Several of the other characters are also mysterious and turn out not to be who we and he think they are. Several of them also seem to be drifting. Our hero never seems to know where he is going nor why he is going there nor what to do when he gets there. There are a few names but they are only first names and generally common ones.
It is not just the people. The weather seems to change dramatically. One minute it is too cold, the next too hot. His body also changes. It seems to gradually deteriorates as though, as he loses his identity, he also loses his corporeal presence. Nothing is solid, nothing is real, nothing stays.
First published in 1989 by Rocco
First English translation in 1997 by Boulevard
Translated by David Treece (UK version); Adam J Morris (US version)