A Perfect Waiter, By Alain Claude Sulzer, trans John Brownjohn

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Erotic tendresse and mittel-European manners go hand-in- hand in Alain Claude Sulzer's perfectly-formed novella. The waiter of the title, Erneste, is a consummate professional.

Having spent his entire adult life waiting tables in the Restaurant am Berg – the dinning room of a smart Swiss hotel – he can indicate the way to the "toilettes" without pointing or even jerking his chin. His unruffled exterior, however, conceals the scars of a long-past hurt.

Sulzer draws the reader back to the events of a pre-war summer, and the arrival of Jakob Meier, a beautiful 19-year-old trainee entrusted to Erneste's care.

Tragically for Erneste, the young man also attracts the attention of one of the hotel's guests, an eminent émigré writer who has his own reasons for coming between the lakeside lovers.

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