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The Occidental Hotel
Guernica Editions, Fall 2020
268 pages
Trade Paperback
ISBN13: 9781771835145
ISBN10: 1771835141
English
$20.00 Canada, $17.95 US, £11.95 UK


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A brooding fugitive hides out in a crumbling hotel that was once filled with celebrities enjoying the successes of postwar America. He is a racist with a criminal past, an anti-hero who reflects on the ruins of the South and simultaneously on the life of a German performance artist called “Jupp”. The fictional Jupp is a thinly-veiled cipher for the late real-life German artist, Joseph Beuys, and the photos in the novel are photos of the performances by the controversial Beuys. At once echoing the moody worlds of W. G. Sebald and incorporating outrageous elements of pulp fiction, this novel of dark romanticism is not for optimists seeking redemption, but for those willing to take a look into a searing heart of darkness.
The strange mid-winter weather in Düsseldorf, in the municipal district of Heerdt, where this takes place on a day in early 1956, has nothing to do with what happens. It might do so, were Jupp to notice how unnaturally dry the air is today, how it lingers, windlessly, bright and unstirring, around the dormers and angles of the elderly house his studio is in, which he does not. The weather might play a part in this narrative, were it to tempt Jupp to go outdoors, which it does not.

Books by John Bentley Mays

The Occidental Hotel