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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction

The Hotel Life

Javier Montes

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To purchase The Hotel Life

Title: The Hotel Life
Author: Javier Montes
Genre: Novel
Written: 2012 (Eng. 2013)
Length: 237 pages
Original in: Spanish
Availability: The Hotel Life - US
La vida de hotel - US
The Hotel Life - UK
The Hotel Life - Canada
The Hotel Life - India
La vida de hotel - España
  • Spanish title: La vida de hotel
  • Translated by Ollie Brock and Lorna Scott Fox

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Our Assessment:

B : nicely spun out tight tale of obsession

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
TLS . 29/6/2012 Ollie Brock

  From the Reviews:
  • "(W)hile it stretches credibility as narrative, the commentary that emerges is all the clearer for it. Montes reminds us that the ultimate pornographic fantasy is that porn should come to life and so no longer involve representation. Fantasies live by their fictitiousness, though, so the voyeur has a certain amount invested in not realizing them. (...) The narrator of La vida de hotel spends much of the novel in a purgatory of his own deliberate creation." - Ollie Brock, Times Literary Supplement

Please note that these ratings solely represent the complete review's biased interpretation and subjective opinion of the actual reviews and do not claim to accurately reflect or represent the views of the reviewers. Similarly the illustrative quotes chosen here are merely those the complete review subjectively believes represent the tenor and judgment of the review as a whole. We acknowledge (and remind and warn you) that they may, in fact, be entirely unrepresentative of the actual reviews by any other measure.

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The complete review's Review:

       The Hotel Life is an account by an anonymous narrator -- a man who writes a hotel review-column for a newspaper and, in that role, presents himself pseudonymously to his public (noting also: "nobody is who they say they are in hotels" in any case ...). A relatively isolated figure -- he seems to have no family or real friends, his few relationships the ones with colleagues (where's he's never quite sure where he stands) -- he does come to reveal his identity to several figures in the novel, hoping to impress or because it gains him an advantage he feels he can't do without. The fact that he sacrifices such an essential part of himself -- that he reveals himself -- illustrates just how far he falls in the course of the novel. Yet nowhere in this confessional narrative does the reader learn his name (or pseudonym): he exposes himself only where strictly necessary, and tellingly that isn't to the reader.
       The story is straightforward: when he checks in to a hotel he plans to review he is given the wrong key card, or a master key card, and he opens the door to the wrong room. Instead of finding an empty room he stumbles onto a porn shoot. Briefly mesmerized, he lingers longer than he has to, but then slips out again unnoticed.
       Eventually he meets the woman who arranged the filming: she does this professionally, hosting a website -- which shares a name with the critic's column: thehotellife.com [no, neither the author nor his publisher registered the domain] -- where she posts pictures and videos of sexual encounters in hotel rooms. The participants are amateurs (though she pays them) -- locals she solicits and hires as she and her small crew go from city to city. She fills the narrator in -- and gives him a special password to the site, akin to the master key he mistakenly got at reception, that will allow him to explore the site anytime he wants.
       The narrator is hooked, fascinated by the concept (and the erotic element) -- and fascinated by this woman. He compares what he does to what she has created:

I visit hotels, while she's managed to build one immense, labyrinthine hotel out of fragments of thousands of others, tailor made to be just right for her , and just right for anyone.
       In a sense, he has found his holy grail -- a perfect hotel (albeit very different from the ones he visits and reviews). And he can't let go: he sets out on her trail, desperate to find her again.
       Interspersed with the narrative are several of his newspaper columns, reviews of hotels that in which he muses more on details and memories than providing information of much value to potential travelers. As his obsession grows, he neglects his job. All that matters to him is to find the woman again -- but as he gets closer she makes clear that his attention is unwanted. She even has an assistant who deals with the kind of problem he becomes, someone who: "gets rid of snitches, peeping Toms and weirdos for us".
       The narrator is so obsessed that he's not easily scared off -- making for a creepy culmination to the story in an exclusive, isolated hotel.
       A great deal of The Hotel Life is about atmosphere, and Montes does a nice job of describing the feel of various hotels -- and the narrator's downward spiral in them (with nice touches to compound it, such as a spreading strike by hotel workers). The narrator's anonymous voyeurism in his role as critic takes a darker turn when he becomes obsessed with the woman and her creation -- the apotheosis of the hotel-concept, on some level. Yet he remains voyeur, struggling, until the end, to enter and make himself part of her world. It's quite nicely done -- a small story, neatly spun out -- and comes to a nicely disturbing conclusion, too.

- M.A.Orthofer, 25 December 2013

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The Hotel Life: Reviews: Other books of interest under review:

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About the Author:

       Spanish author Javier Montes was born in 1976.

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© 2013-2022 the complete review

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