Ogawa, Yoko Hotel Iris

ISBN 13: 9780099548997

Hotel Iris

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9780099548997: Hotel Iris

In a crumbling, seaside hotel on the coast of Japan, quiet, seventeen-year-old Mari works the front desk as her mother fusses over the off-season customers. When, one night, they are forced to eject a prostitute and a middle-aged man from his room, Mari finds herself drawn to the man's voice, in what will become the first gesture of a long seduction. Mari begins to visit the mysterious man at his island home, and he initiates her into a dark realm of both pain and pleasure. As Mari's mother and the police begin to close in on the illicit affair, events move to a dramatic climax. By the author of The Housekeeper and the Professor.

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About the Author:

Since 1988, Yoko Ogawa has written more than twenty works of fiction and non-fiction, and has won every major Japanese literary award. Her fiction has appeared in The New Yorker, A Public Space, and Zoetrope. Harvill Secker published The Diving Pool, a collection of three novellas, in 2007 and her novel The Housekeeper and the Professor in 2009.

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

o n e

He first came to the Iris one day just before the beginning of

the summer season. The rain had been falling since dawn. It

grew heavier at dusk, and the sea was rough and gray. A gust

blew open the door, and rain soaked the carpet in the lobby.

The shop keepers in the neighborhood had turned off their

neon signs along the empty streets. A car passed from time

to time, its headlights shining through the raindrops.

I was about to lock up the cash register and turn out the

lights in the lobby, when I heard something heavy hitting

the floor above, followed by a woman’s scream. It was a very

long scream— so long that I started to wonder before it ended

whether she wasn’t laughing instead.

“Filthy pervert!” The scream stopped at last, and a woman

came flying out of Room 202. “You disgusting old man!” She

caught her foot on a seam in the carpet and fell on the landing,

but she went on hurling insults at the door of the room.

“What do you think I am? You’re not fit to be with a woman

like me! Scumbag! Impotent bastard!”

She was obviously a prostitute— even I could tell that

much— and no longer young. Frizzy hair hung at her wrinkled

neck, and thick, shiny lipstick had smeared onto her

cheeks. Her mascara had run, and her left breast hung out

of her blouse where the buttons had come undone. Pale pink

thighs protruded from a short skirt, marked in places with

red scratches. She had lost one of her cheap plastic high heels.

Her insults stopped for a moment, but then a pillow flew

out of the room, hitting her square in the face, and the screaming

started all over again. The pillow lay on the landing,

smeared with lipstick. Roused by the noise, a few guests had

now gathered in the hall in their pajamas. My mother appeared

from our apartment in the back.

“You pervert! Creep! You’re not fit for a cat in heat.” The

prostitute’s voice, ragged and hoarse with tears, dissolved into

coughs and sobs as one object after another came flying out of

the room: a hanger, a crumpled bra, the missing high heel, a

handbag. The handbag fell open, and the contents scattered

across the hall. The woman clearly wanted to escape down the

stairs, but she was too flustered to get to her feet— or perhaps

she had turned an ankle.

“Shut up! We’re trying to sleep!” one of the guests shouted

from down the hall, and the others started complaining all at

once. Only Room 202 was perfectly silent. I couldn’t see the

occupant, and he hadn’t said a word. The only signs of his

existence were the woman’s horrible glare and the objects flying

out at her.

“I’m sorry,” my mother interrupted, coming to the bottom

of the stairs, “but I’m afraid I’m going to have to ask you to

leave.”

“You don’t have to tell me!” the woman shouted. “I’m going!”

“I’ll be calling the police, of course,” Mother said, to no

one in particular. “But please,” she added, turning to the other

guests, “don’t think anything more about it. Good night. I’m

sorry you’ve been disturbed. . . . And as for you,” she went on,

calling up to the man in Room 202, “you’re going to have

to pay for all of this, and I don’t mean just the price of the

room.” On her way to the second floor, Mother passed the

woman. She had scraped the contents back into the bag and

was stumbling down the stairs without even bothering to

button her blouse. One of the guests whistled at her exposed

breast.

“Just a minute, you,” Mother said into the darkened room

and to the prostitute on the stairs. “Who’s going to pay? You

can’t just slip out after all this fuss.” Mother’s first concern

was always the money. The prostitute ignored her, but at that

moment a voice rang out from above.

“Shut up, whore.” The voice seemed to pass through us,

silencing the whole hotel. It was powerful and deep, but with

no trace of anger. Instead, it was almost serene, like a hypnotic

note from a cello or a horn.

I turned to find the man standing on the landing. He was

past middle age, on the verge of being old. He wore a pressed

white shirt and dark brown pants, and he held a jacket of the

same material in his hand. Though the woman was completely

disheveled, he was not even breathing heavily. Nor

did he seem particularly embarrassed. Only the few tangled

hairs on his forehead suggested that anything was out of the

ordinary.

It occurred to me that I had never heard such a beautiful

voice giving an order. It was calm and imposing, with

no hint of indecision. Even the word “whore” was somehow

appealing.

“Shut up, whore.” I tried repeating it to myself, hoping I

might hear him say the word again. But he said nothing

more.

The woman turned and spat at him pathetically before

walking out the door. The spray of saliva fell on the carpet.

“You’ll have to pay for everything,” Mother said, rounding

on the man once more. “The cleaning, and something extra

for the trouble you’ve caused. And you are not welcome here

again, understand? I don’t take customers who make trouble

with women. Don’t you forget it.”

The other guests went slowly back to their rooms. The

man slipped on his jacket and walked down the stairs in silence,

never raising his eyes. He pulled two bills from his

pocket and tossed them on the counter. They lay there for

a moment, crumpled pathetically, before I took them and

smoothed them carefully on my palm. They were slightly

warm from the man’s body. He walked out into the rain

without so much as a glance in my direction.

I’ve always wondered how our inn came to be called the

Hotel Iris. All the other hotels in the area have names that

have to do with the sea.

“It’s a beautiful flower, and the name of the rainbow goddess

in Greek mythology. Pretty stylish, don’t you think?”

When I was a child, my grandfather had offered this explanation.

Still, there were no irises blooming in the courtyard, no

roses or pansies or daffodils either. Just an overgrown dogwood,

a zelkova tree, and some weeds. There was a small

fountain made of bricks, but it hadn’t worked in a long time.

In the middle of the fountain stood a plaster statue of a curlyhaired

boy in a long coat. His head was cocked to one side

and he was playing the harp, but his face had no lips or eyelids

and was covered with bird droppings. I wondered where

my grandfather had come up with the story about the goddess,

since no one in our family knew anything about literature,

let alone Greek mythology.

I tried to imagine the goddess— slender neck, full breasts,

eyes staring off into the distance. And a robe with all the

colors of the rainbow. One shake of that robe could cast a

spell of beauty over the whole earth. I always thought that if

the goddess of the rainbow would come to our hotel for even

a few minutes, the boy in the fountain would learn to play

happy tunes on his harp.

The r in iris on the sign on the roof had come loose and

was tilted a bit to the right. It looked a little silly, but also

slightly sinister. In any event, no one ever thought to fix it.

Our family lived in the three dark rooms behind the front

desk. When I was born, there were five of us. My grandmother

was the first to go, but that was while I was still a baby so I

don’t remember it. She died of a bad heart, I think. Next was

my father. I was eight then, so I remember everything.

And then it was grandfather’s turn. He died two years ago.

He got cancer in his pancreas or his gallbladder— somewhere

in his stomach— and it spread to his bones and his lungs and

his brain. He suffered for almost six months, but he died in

his own bed. We had given him one of the good mattresses,

from a guest room, but only after it had broken a spring.

Whenever he turned over in bed, it sounded like someone

stepping on a frog.

My job was to sterilize the tube that came out of his right

side and to empty the fluid that had collected in the bag at

the end of it. Mother made me do this every day after school,

though I was afraid to touch the tube. If you didn’t do it

right, the tube fell out of his side, and I always imagined that

his organs were going to spurt from the hole it left. The liquid

in the bag was a beautiful shade of yellow, and I often

wondered why something so pretty was hidden away inside

the body. I emptied it into the fountain in the courtyard,

wetting the toes of the harp- playing boy.

Grandfather suffered all the time, but the hour just before

dawn was especially bad. His groans echoed in the dark,

mingling with the croaking of the mattress. We kept the

shutters closed, but the guests still complained about the

noise.

“I’m terribly sorry,” Mother would tell them, her voice

sickly sweet, her pen...

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Book Description Vintage Publishing, United Kingdom, 2011. Paperback. Book Condition: New. 196 x 128 mm. Language: English . Brand New Book. In a crumbling, seaside hotel on the coast of Japan, quiet, seventeen-year-old Mari works the front desk as her mother fusses over the off-season customers. When, one night, they are forced to eject a prostitute and a middle-aged man from his room, Mari finds herself drawn to the man s voice, in what will become the first gesture of a long seduction. Mari begins to visit the mysterious man at his island home, and he initiates her into a dark realm of both pain and pleasure. As Mari s mother and the police begin to close in on the illicit affair, events move to a dramatic climax. By the author of The Housekeeper and the Professor. Bookseller Inventory # LIB9780099548997

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Book Description Vintage Books USA, 2011. Book Condition: New. 2011. Paperback. In a crumbling, seaside hotel on the coast of Japan, seventeen-year-old Mari works the front desk as her mother fusses over the off-season customers. When, one night, they are forced to eject a prostitute and a middle-aged man from his room, Mari finds herself drawn to the man's voice, in what will become the first gesture of a long seduction. Translator(s): Snyder, Stephen. Num Pages: 176 pages. BIC Classification: FA. Category: (G) General (US: Trade). Dimension: 199 x 131 x 12. Weight in Grams: 154. . . . . . . Bookseller Inventory # V9780099548997

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Book Description Vintage Books USA. Book Condition: New. 2011. Paperback. In a crumbling, seaside hotel on the coast of Japan, seventeen-year-old Mari works the front desk as her mother fusses over the off-season customers. When, one night, they are forced to eject a prostitute and a middle-aged man from his room, Mari finds herself drawn to the man's voice, in what will become the first gesture of a long seduction. Translator(s): Snyder, Stephen. Num Pages: 176 pages. BIC Classification: FA. Category: (G) General (US: Trade). Dimension: 199 x 131 x 12. Weight in Grams: 154. . . . . . Books ship from the US and Ireland. Bookseller Inventory # V9780099548997

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