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Marie Redonnet: Splendid Hôtel (Hôtel Splendid)

Another of Redonnet’s tales of decay. This one is, naturally, set in the Splendid Hôtel. The unnamed narrator has inherited the hotel, proudly built by her grandmother at the side of a large bog. However, while she gets the hotel, she has to provide a pension to her older sisters, Ada and Adel, who, instead of the cash, opt for staying free at the hotel. But the hotel is not what it once was. Indeed, it is falling apart. It starts with the plumbing, which either leaks or is blocked up or both. A succession of problems hits the hotel – bedbugs, a roof that is about to fall in, rats, polluted water and food, leading to nasty illnesses and, of course, hotel inspectors. But the gravest problem is the railway. It had always been planned to build a railway to the hotel but, despite various plans and studies, the railway never quite materialises which means that she does not get the custom she needs to earn enough money to fix up the hotel.

The whole story is narrated by the owner in a somewhat plaintiff, long-suffering tone. While she sees clearly what is happening, there is no alternative but to carry on, despite the fact that she cannot pay the plumber or the roofer, that the wood merchant is cheating her, that the clients are either not coming or dying. And, all the time, there are the wretched Ada and Adel, two symbolic ladies if ever there was a symbol, making the narrator’s life miserable with their petty antics. But without them, what is left? You just go on and on till the bitter end.

Publishing history

First published in French 1986 by Les Éditions de Minuit
First published in English 1994 by University of Nebraska Press
Translated by Jordan Stump