J. G. Ballard Wins the Brookner Prize, 1984! And Rejects It!
A retired colleague writes from Lausanne (not the same retired colleague who wrote to describe the events that became HK 37: Luna(moth)cy):
What attracts writers to this town is the quiet, and the lake. Not necessarily in that order.
In the ominous year 1984, a literary kerfuffle arose when Anita Brookner won the Booker Prize for her novel Hotel du Lac. Quite a few lit-erati thought J.G. Ballard’s rip-roaring epic Empire of the Sun deserved the honor.
By curious coincidence, both authors chose to spend part of mid-October on the shores of Lake Leman, in Switzerland. They also booked the same hotel (which isn’t called du Lac, but close), the one where I was Breakfast Director.
Both authors wanted to be able to take the morning meal with the best possible view of the lake, so they sat at the same table. I assume they already knew each other, at least slightly. I couldn’t help but overhear parts of their conversation. Mr Ballard had recently purchased a Walk-Man, or whatever those gadgets were called, and was quite taken with the thing.
Anita Brookner: James... James, can you hear me?
J. G. Ballard: Oh yeah. Uh-huh. Would you please pass the jam? No, the raspberry. Thanks.
AB: I didn’t ask to win the Man-Booker, you know. If anything, you should air your grievances with the jury.
JGB: I have no grievance. Just... Ooh, you gotta hear this song. It’s about something that happened not too far from here. Frank Zappa and the Mothers were playing, and some idiot fired a bazooka at them onstage. (tries to put the headphones on Anita's head)
AB: Oh, please, no! I don’t want loud music, especially not so early in the day. You’re ruining my hair. Stop it.
JGB: “A fire in the sky-yyyy.” Oh man, the whole joint went up in flames. The emergency exit was blocked, so Frank Zappa bashed it open with his Gibson SG. Quite the hero. Dunt-dunt-dunnnnn...
AB: If it's any consolation, I don’t think Hollywood will be breaking down my door, which is Suite 1690, by the way, to make a movie of Hotel du Lac. Although I totally see Dirk Bogarde in the role of Mr Pusey.
JGB: I bet Zappa got plenty, after that incident. I heard he has the most enormous...
AB: The BBC, however, has expressed a, shall we say moderate interest in adapting Hotel du Lac for a televised version.
JGB: I’m sure we’ll be able to watch telly on these little wonders in a few years, at most. Did you know that Deep Purple’s singer was Jesus Christ?
AB: Oh, steady on!
JGB: In the Broadway musical. Now that I think of it, Hotel du Lac would make a great Broadway musical, Anita. I can just hear the tap-dancers.
AB: Do you know what I really love about Switzerland, James?
JGB (didn’t hear or, or pretended not to): Dunt-dunt-dunnnnnn!
AB: The lakeboats. They look so Victorian. Would you invite me to dance with you aboard one of them this evening, James?
JGB (air guitar) Vlad Nabokov lived only a few hotels down from this one. I never liked him, but I do wonder what he would’ve made of your book, Anita.
AB: I’ll take that as a no.
A lakeship floated regally by at that moment. Anita lapsed wistful. J. G. Ballard rose from his seat. His earphones were still in place, otherwise he might not have shouted quite so loudly. “Do you know what I’d like to do? Ram that fucking barge with a nuclear submarine.”
Since Hotel Kranepool’s Italian-speaking guests might not appreciate the above, the Management has opted for imagery, which, it hopes, English-speaking guests will also enjoy.
Visto che i graditi ospiti di lingua italiana potrebbero non apprezzare il testo riportato di sopra, per via dei numerosi riferimenti culturali, la Gestione di Hotel Kranepool è lieta di presentare in alternativa una serie di immagini, sperando che ne possano trarre godimento anche i graditi ospiti anglofoni.