Nanou is a streetwalker in Paris. Her heart has taken on the colour of the pavement. All manner of things are dropped on it, her soul trampled on. In this excellent novel she isn’t about to tell the story of how she came to be in this position but instead she wishes to give us an insight into her day.
Oscar Coop-Phane gives us this story through short chapters detailing the characters that she encounters in a single day in her work. The writing really burrows into the heart and soul of these characters, allowing them to voice their innermost thoughts, desires and anxieties. People adjust and get used to the things that life throws at them.
Nanou sees the small talk with her clients and having to go through the motions of laughing at their jokes as being as much prostitution as the sale of her body. She feels like a factory worker on a production line, doing the exact same action for years. All over Paris and beyond people are lost in their jobs, the constant in their lives that keeps them grounded. People can walk the streets in Paris with anonymity in a world where people are always alone, even with company.
It’s a world where characters can be given dirty looks in the street when out walking alone, a world where we always have to be seen to be doing something at every moment. A man out walking on his own can be seen as suspicious, a man walking a dog is seen as perfectly normal.
The air of loneliness flows through the book. Emmanuel has got used to his daily routine. He’s solitary in his work with no friends to discuss it with. He’s content with this though, having kids would disrupt his routine, change the flow of his life.
Robert wonders what he’d be without other people. Would he wash his hands after going to the toilet or change his socks? He unsure of how to relate to people but he puts great love and affection into looking after his trees. He enjoys the freedom of solitude.
Zenith Hotel is deeply poetic, an insightful work that could certainly be revisited time and time again, such is the gravity of the prose and the fullness of the characters. It’s a rare talent that can convey such depth of emotion in such a short space, every page teeming with beauty.