Living in a hotel is the conception of life like a novel
From Aden to Zurich, from Asia to Europe, from the Americas to Africa, this site is a world tour of writers' hotels.
Real or fictitious, palace, pension, inn or motel, the hotel has always occupied a privileged place in the romantic imagination.
Hotels are true traps for literary fantasies, as we have verified again with Olivier Rolin's tasty novel with Suite at the Crystal Hotel (2004).
For the writers as for their characters, this place of passage is the scene of all the dramas, all the passions. One can find death there like Pavese, Roussel, Tchekhov, Lautréamont or Wilde, passion like Apollinaire and Lou, or Lolita, ghosts like Julien Green or Yeats, thieves like Mayakovsky or Zweig…
"The hotel room is the monastic cell of the layman" said the writer Gabriel Matzneff, who lived from 1987 to 1991 in a small two-star Parisian in the XNUMXth arrondissement, the Taranne, which has since disappeared. “If I were rich, I would live in the hotel all year round. We are freed from household worries and reduced to what is strictly necessary: cupboard, bed, table. It is the ideal place to write, because it prevents the distractions to which the apartment lends itself, ”adds Matzneff.
As a child, Marcel Proust stayed with his grandmother at the Grand Hôtel de Cabourg. When he gets down to writing In search of lost time, he takes up his summer quarters there. Cabourg, the Balbec In the shade of young girls in bloom, will remain his home port until 1914. The writer flees the light and is content to contemplate the sea from the hotel's large lounge (today the Balbec restaurant). Behind his window, she appears to him "Like a canvas of a pleasant color". He can't stand noise and, so as not to hear someone walking overhead, he occupies a room under the roof. It's the 414. Fans of Proust are fighting for the rental, offered without price increase.
Very often, the stay of a writer in a hotel opens the doors of history. At the end of the 1950s, Vladimir Nabokov abandoned university life and America. He sets down his suitcases in Switzerland, on the shores of Lake Geneva. Peter Ustinov recommends the Montreux Palace to him. In 1961, the author of Lolita settled there on the sixth and last floor. He did not move there until his death in 1977, dividing his time between writing and butterfly hunting. Vera, his widow, will live there for another fourteen years. Since then, major renovations have been undertaken. Today, room 67 is where Nabokov worked. The Russian clientele, who come to Montreux as one makes a pilgrimage, do not fail to visit it. The hotel carefully maintains the memory of the writer, and for the 100e anniversary of his birth (1999), a bronze statue was erected in the garden.
The hotels understood the notoriety that they could draw from their illustrious hosts. They therefore strive to cultivate its memory.
The Gritti hotel in Venice has named the second-floor suite “Hemingway”, whose Gothic windows open onto the Grand Canal. It was Papa's favorite, who stayed there often between 1948 and 1954.
Colonel Richard Cantwell, hero beyond the river and under the trees and double of Ernest Hemingway, also lives "The charming little pink palace on two floors right by the canal ". Like his illustrious creator, he has his table reserved at the bar, where he orders very dry double Martinis. And in the dining room, they still serve the valpolicella with which Cantwell-Hemingway loved to sprinkle his lunches.
Agatha Christie did not imagine any intrigue in Istanbul. On the other hand, she traveled several times aboard the Orient-Express, notably to join her husband, archaeologist Max Mallowan, on his excavation sites in Iraq, and she stayed at the Pera Palace.
Renovated at great expense in 2010, the luxurious hotel has dedicated room 411 to the queen of the detective story: a 1930s Remington has been prominently placed in the room. The Bellevue, a charming little hotel in the Slovenian Alps with a terrace overlooking Lake Bohinj, does less manners. In August 1967, Agatha Christie, however, spent a fortnight's vacation there. In the hallway leading to the bedrooms, discreet photographs bear witness to her stay, as one celebrates a beloved relative rather than a world-revered writer.
Some writers have chosen old palaces: the Ritz in Paris or the Copacabana Palace in Rio de Janeiro, others small charming hotels, but still strategically located like the Louisiane in Saint-Germain-des-Prés where the writer Egyptian of Greek origin Albert Cossery lived for more than 50 years until his death in 2008.
In reality, welcoming writers is not always easy for a hotelier: at La Sapinière in Chamonix, Curzio Malaparte disturbs other customers by barking at night, “his only pleasure in life”; Ernest Hemingway organizes cricket games between the legs of the antique furniture in his room at Gritti Palace, Venice; one drunken night, Sergei Essenin breaks the mirrors and destroys the furniture in his room at the Crillon, place de la Concorde, before fleeing naked in the corridors; and Cyril Connolly, staying at the Hôtel de La Louisiane in Paris, raises ferrets which he feeds on bloody liver!
But not all authors are so eccentric and, most of the time, they only seek a haven to protect them from unwelcome visitors, like Baudelaire at the Hôtel du Quai Voltaire when he was working on the translation of Adventures of Arthur Gordon Pym by Edgar Poe, while correcting the proofs of You fleurs.
There are establishments with mythical names in literature, such as the Raffles Hotel in Singapore, famous for the books that take place there or the short stories written within its walls by a number of travel writers, who gave their name to the room where they have slept: if you go there, treat yourself to the 107 from Kipling, the 116 from Malraux, the 119 from Conrad or the 120 from Somerset Maugham! Same parade of celebrities at the Waldhaus in Sils-Maria with Tagore, Mauriac, Hesse, Thomas Mann, Jouve, Moravia, Adorno, Friedrich Nietzsche, who appreciated the spacious ornate library. The Beau-Rivage in Ouchy is not to be outdone with Paul Bowles, who hosts the heroine of one of his short stories there, Christmas Coward, who places the beginning of his Private Lives there, and above all Albert Cohen, who spent a decisive weekend of love here with Jane Fillion, Ariane's model in Belle du Seigneur.
In Paris, the small Hôtel des Grands Hommes owes its reputation to the fact that André Breton's room, which served as the headquarters for the surrealist review Literature, hosted Aragon, Tzara, Eluard, Ungaretti, and that it is there that Breton invented automatic writing with Philippe Soupault. But what about the Algonquin or the Chelsea in New York? The owner of the first organized literary round tables attended in particular by Robert Benchley, Edmund Wilson and the fantastic Dorothy Parker. As for the second, all that the world of letters has original personalities has one day put its bags there: Mark Twain, Dylan Thomas, Vladimir Nabokov, Tennessee Williams, the poets of the Beat Generation, William Burroughs - not to mention the singers Bob Dylan, Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix…
The name of the Grand-Hôtel de Cabourg remains attached to that of Proust, like the Danieli with the Venetian loves of George Sand and Musset or the old Hôtel des Roches Noires (Trouville) with that of Marguerite Duras; but the great travelers that are André Gide, Kafka, Valery Larbaud, Tchekhov, Paul Morand, Hemingway or Fitzgerald have left traces of their passage in many places and hotel establishments. And some, like Albert Cossery or Julien Benda, have chosen to live in a hotel so as not to burden themselves. Source of inspiration, meeting place, love nest, refuge, place to be bored (like Richard Brautigan in Tokyo, who goes up and down in the elevator for no reason whatsoever), the hotel is everything that. It is also a place where one dies: if the death of Tchekhov, Oscar Wilde or Lautréamont is due to illness, it is the suicide that Pavese chose at the Hotel Roma in Turin, leaving a last text, Death will come and she will have your eyes ending with " Enough words. An act ! ».