Today Matias Faldbakken comes to the blog with his North American debut – a story that I’m still wondering just what I think in
A story of an old and established restaurant in Oslo is turned upside down with the addition of a woman into the ranks. Told by the waiter, a long-term and rather set in his ways employee, he’s the epitome of someone who does not deal well with change, and carries many (or most) of the traits that one who is frightened by all he cannot or does not wish to accept into his closed off little worlds: he reacts badly. And it is his reactions that become the focal point for satire, derision and even a sly sort of generational scoffing at the ‘old guard’.
The waiter is not one who engenders any sort of empathy, from the moment we realize that he thrives in the ‘familiar’ and the established. Customers are all regulars, with their usual tables, a fairly samey sort of order, the interactions with waitstaff are also familiar and proscribed. Diners rarely interact with anyone else but their servers, each night everyone is aware of who is coming, and the restaurant has lost some of the glamor that had been its hallmark since the doors opened in the 1800’s. But, the ownership wants to restore or enhance the reputation, and hires a woman, the first, to work in this old school place, and that, is one step too far.
The waiter starts with anxiety and concern, watchful and frightened by the changes that often erupt in his own forgetfulness –more newness for this man who never put a foot wrong before. His often unkind yet exacting descriptions of patrons and staff, with frequent forays into philosophical ramblings that, at first, feel rather abstracted, but getting the insight into his thoughts, and the aged and often staid examples used, are brilliantly done. But, be aware, this is not a book for everyone, and in so saying, it also isn’t one that leaves you thinking about the likeability of the characters. It’s is pointed, often unsympathetic and feels ‘observatory’ in that the waiter, in his very defined explanation of how his world works (and is meant to) does never truly engage with the reader – there’s a proper remove from his own recognition of his emotions and fears, as well as his clutching to the ways of the past. The author is an acquired taste – but a wonderful read for pointed satire and clearly defined depictions of fearfulness that limits one’s ability to move forward and see / accept / work within change.
Title: The Waiter
Author: Matias Faldbakken
Genre: Literary Fiction, Satire
Published by: Scout Press
Published on: 9 October, 2018
Source: Publisher via NetGalley
Audio Length: 5 Hours: 31 minutes
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In the tradition of modern classics The Dinner/em> and A Gentleman in Moscow/em> comes The Waiter, in which the finely tuned balance of a grand European restaurant (that has seen better days) is irrevocably upset by an unexpected guest.
In a centuries-old European restaurant called The Hills, a middle-aged waiter takes pride in the unchangeable aspects of his job: the well-worn uniform, the ragged but solid tablecloths, and the regular diners. Some are there daily, like Graham “Le Gris”—also known as The Pig—and his dignified group of aesthetes; the slightly more free-spirited drinking company around Tom Sellers; and the closest one can get to personal friends of the waiter, Edgar and his young daughter, Anna.
In this universe unto itself, there is scarcely any contact between the tables...until a beautiful and well-groomed young woman walks through the door and upsets the delicate balance of the restaurant and all it has come to represent.
Like living in a snow globe, The Waiter is a captivating study in miniature. Everything is just so, and that’s exactly how the waiter needs it to be. One can understand why he becomes anxious when things begin to change. In fact, given the circumstances, anxiety just might be the most sensible response...
With the sophistication of The Remains of the Day and the eccentricity of The Elegance of the Hedgehog, The Waiter marks the North American debut of an exciting new voice in literary fiction.
A copy of this title was provided via Publisher via NetGalley for purpose of honest review. I was not compensated for this review: all conclusions are my own responsibility.
Reading this book contributed to these challenges: