Susan Holbrook: Your description of cities as sites of energy, as incitements to create and/or revolt, applies also to the micro dwelling of the traveler: the temporary shell of the hotel room. The Hotel Furama, Hotel Rafale, Red Arrow Motel, Hotel Clarendon, and on and on . . . the setting recurs in your books. Sometimes the room cradles a brilliant lesbian erotic encounter, but we also hear, in Picture Theory, “There is always a hotel in my life to make me understand patriarchy.” What is a hotel?
Nicole Brossard: Dear Susan, I am now in Studia Hotel in Paris and can reply to your question by saying hotel means writing and solitude, transit. Hotels are about passages, time, and the strange space allowing us to renew the firm intention of life around us. Hotels also mean escaping obligations of daily life while forcing us to be by ourselves and pay attention or take care of language as it falls on us.
Hotels are part of travelling, dreaming. For me they are always positive though I know for others they can be full of sadness. But the freedom they provide is exciting. Most of the time, they are related to a city, a landscape and the sea. They link to humanity in all sorts of ways: poverty, boredom, luxury, arrogance, vanity. They are full of what we are: alone and very small in a multitude. They are history, think of the Lutetia Hotel in Paris after the war, the Hôtel des Mille Collines in Rwanda, and of course the literary hotels like the Algonquin in New York, the Sylvia Hotel in Vancouver. Hotels are rooms of one's own. They do offer the best in terms of: I am alone. In a hotel you are alert, curious, and have a unique kind of relationship to time and people; and you are so free of family bonds to the advantage of cultural bonds. Hotels are also a place where you are a stranger, an outsider, and of course for me this is a vital theme whether we explore it with regard to language or to marginality. In a way, we could also say that hotels have an identity which can suit you almost like a book. If a hotel makes you think of a writer or writing it is a real aperture.
Of course novels that take place in a hotel always seduced me. Death in Venice. I also think of Pereira and Nocturne indien by Antonio Tabucchi, and the Hôtel d’Angleterre in Geneva which appears in Hubert Aquin’s novel Prochain épisode and to which I refer in Fences in Breathing. I guess ultimately Hotel equals the world, like one would say Hotel Univers, Hotel Cosmos, or, as in Claude Beausoleil’s book of poems, Grand hôtel des étrangers. For me hotels are almost indispensable in a novel.
In my novels there are real hotels but as well hotels that I need to name myself so they can play a role and interfere with a symbolic meaning in the novel like Hotel Rafale in Baroque at Dawn, Red Arrow Motel in Mauve Desert.
Read more from this interview in TCR 3.19 (Winter 2013)—the narrative issue.