Grand Hotel Europa: A Novel (Paperback)
“[Grand Hotel Europa] calls to mind Nabokov, Tom Wolfe, Baudrillard, Umberto Eco, Wes Anderson . . . [A novel of] incorrigible high spirits.” —Rand Richards Cooper, The New York Times Book Review
A sweeping, atmospheric novel about European identity, centered on a hotel that encapsulates the continent’s manifold contradictions.
The love of my life lives in my past. Despite the alliteration it’s a terrible line to have to write. I don’t want to come to the conclusion that, just as for the hotel I’m staying in and the continent it is named after, the best times are behind me and I’ve little more to expect of the future than living off my past.
A writer takes up residence in the stately but decaying Grand Hotel Europa in order to contemplate where things went wrong with Clio—an art historian and his one great love. His recollections take him back to when they first met in Genoa, his wanton visits to her in Venice, and their dulcet trips to Malta, Palmaria, Porto Venere, and the Cinque Terre in their thrilling search for the last painting made by Caravaggio. Meanwhile, he becomes fascinated by the mysteries of the Grand Hotel Europa and the memorably eccentric characters who inhabit it, all of whom seem to hail from a halcyon era. All the while, globalization is laying claim to even this place, where a sense of lost glory hangs sulkily in the air.
Grand Hotel Europa is Ilja Leonard Pfeijffer’s masterly novel of the old continent, where there’s so much history that there hardly seems space left for a future. Cinematic, lyrical, and brimming with humor, this is a novel about the European condition, which, like the staff and residents of the Grand Hotel Europa, may have already seen its best days.
Michele Hutchison is a literary translator from Dutch and French into English. In 2020, she won the Vondel Translation Prize for her translation of Stage Four by Sander Kollaard and the International Booker Prize, together with the author Marieke Lucas Rijneveld, for The Discomfort of Evening. She is also the coauthor of The Happiest Kids in the World: What We Can Learn from Dutch Parents.
Praise for Grand Hotel Europa
"One can’t help being impressed by how many narrative balls Pfeijffer keeps in the air. The novel combines a comedy of manners with travel journalism, political and cultural commentary, and reflections on European identity. Oh, plus an art-heist mystery (centering on the final days and paintings of Caravaggio)." —Rand Richards Cooper, The New York Times Book Review
"An epic new work . . . Pfeijffer’s voice is variously comic, tragic, knowledgeable, inspired, and obsessive . . . Characteristically elegant." —Kirkus Reviews
"Lively and entertaining . . . Grand Hotel Europa is a fine take on (one big part of) the contemporary European condition, as well as on tourism and the question of authenticity (with considerable overlap across all of these). It's a big, fun read." —M. A. Orthofer, The Complete Review
Praise for Ilja Leonard Pfeijffer's La Superba
“Pfeijffer’s language, as a rule, is remarkable . . . A master of creating tension, suspense, and intrigue through strange situations and well-drawn characters, Pfeijffer . . . continues to ensnare the reader in his labyrinthine novel while his character loses himself in the contradictions of Genoan society. The author wants to leave the reader wanting more, and he does.” —Alina Cohen, Los Angeles Review of Books
“If Italo Calvino decided to make one of his invisible cities visible, the result might look something like Pfeijffer’s Genoa: rooted in the real world of Europe in the age of mass migration, but abstract and mythic enough that the legendary Genoese travelers—Columbus, the Ostrogoths—could still find their way through its labyrinthine streets.” —Benjamin Moser, Pulitzer Prize–winning author of Sontag: Her Life and Work
“Thoroughly compelling and lyrical . . . The stories related throughout La Superba are attention-grabbing and entertaining, sometimes surreal, and at times downright grotesque. But while flirting with the obscene, the novel’s rawness also manages to strike a sympathetic chord.” —Lindsay Semel , Asymptote