Laura Marello writes, through the American photographer Eduard Steichen, and through the voices of the painters Matisse, Rousseau and Picasso, dancer Nijinsky, sculptor Camille Claudel, and others, the story of the artist's life in Paris, 1908-1917. In this novel, each artist tells his or her own story.
Laura Marello is a masterful and brilliant writer. Backed by strict scholarly research, her novel The Tenants of the Hôtel Biron
brings us a perceptive and unique understanding of the people whose lives crossed in the Hotel Biron: Rodin, Claudel, Picasso, Satie, Matisse and other fascinating characters from that time. This is a compelling story on a real and imagined Paris - the ravishing bohemian Paris of the early 1900s.
The Tenants of the Hôtel Biron
is a wonderful, wild ride, a novel comprised of diary entries, pages from notebooks, letters, "histories," "spiritual exercises," introductions and notes, each and all invented, though highly researched, and attributed to various known figures (writers, painters, sculptors and others) inhabiting Paris early last century. Its portraits and pieces unfold to form a composite that fascinates much: the reader overhears, eavesdrops, glimpses and gleans, discovering an intense, secret world, peering in.
Laura Marello writes, through the voice of Eduard Steichen, that "... all these powerful artists are so invulnerably weak. "Rodin, his lover Camille Claudel, Picasso, Rousseau, Nijinski, Matisse, Rilke and others, all tenants of Hôtel Biron, and all brilliantly and excitedly human, presented by manuscripts fictionally collected. The result is an appropriately cubist look at each, because we see each from several subjective vantages. This is a brilliantly conceived work of reflective and self-reflective parts. With Marello we get to imagine, as war is coming on, the confusions and certainties of competing artists, conflicting and collaborating geniuses in a world of misunderstood avant-garde where gallery patrons sometimes slashed canvases. The tenants, as a "decadent" group in much of the public eye, were entropic, burning up on mutual energy but producing lasting art and reputation. And there is a love story at the core: Rodin and Claudel, medieval in its passion and constraint, physical and spiritual amidst wild theologies of art. As each character speaks to us from manuscript and letters, their mutual story moves on. Chaucer would have loved it.
This novel is based on the conceit that certain historical figures who lived in Paris 1908-1917 created these texts, which then become the chapters of her novel. Marello’s approach was to give authenticity to the voices in the text through historical research, and by creating an authentic imagining of what the historical person would sound like or write like.
Arnaud Lefebvre, Galarie Arnaud Lefebvre owner in Paris after a reading / performance in French, German and English of The Tenants of the Hotel Biron