Ludwig Bemelmans
Hotel Bemelmans.
Overlook, 302 pages, $24.95

Lugwig Bemelmans is best known for his Madeline books. But he is also a dazzling writer on the demimonde. Bemelmans was the sort of expatriate who never let reality get in the way of imagination. As a youth he left his home in the Tyrol (after shooting a waiter), boarded a ship for America (believing it full of Indians), and landed in various jobs at the old New York Ritz—the thinly veiled “Hotel Splendide” of these stories. Overlook Press, which is bringing out the collected Wodehouse stateside, has similar plans for this charming writer. Bemelmans crafts a lush world, but his interests are in the kitchen and service areas and the mischief contained therein. Monsieur Victor, Herr Otto Brauhaus, Mr. Sigsag, Lustgarten, and Kalakobé—the Senegalese “casserolier”—fill the menagerie. Bemelmans never approaches that Wodehousian level of storyline or ear for language. But his cosmopolitan innocence and joy for life are second to none.

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This article originally appeared in The New Criterion, Volume 23 Number 1, on page 77
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