There are no banana trees. There is a man and a newspaper. There is hunger, and also thirst. The sun, still low in the eastern sky, rakes the breakfast buffet from the side through the hotel restaurant’s plate glass windows. The silver chafing dishes, positioned at oblique angles to the edge of the breakfast bar, are everywhere quite distinct in this light. There are no banana trees.
From the bottom of the breakfast bar, where the plates, still warm from the dishwasher, are stacked, it is quite easy to count the chafing dishes, particularly since there are only four and the man can count that high in his head. The first contains scrambled eggs, the second breakfast sausage and bacon, the third home fries, and the fourth some sort of pickled something or other — this being a German hotel and this dish — pickled something or other — apparently being the sort of thing that Germans like to eat for breakfast. Further down the bar there is yogurt and cereal if you like yogurt and cereal. There is also orange juice. Fresh squeezed, not from concentrate. Yum. There are no banana trees.
The man, K–, fills his plate (avoiding the pickled something or other) and finds a seat in the bustling restaurant. He sets his plate in the center of the placemat and sets the newspaper to the left of his plate, positioned parallel with the table’s edge. The table is square. The newspaper is rectangular. His plate is round. His fork is long with tines on one end.
The newspaper has six columns of text per page. It reports the news of the day under pithy headlines intended to catch the eye. “EU Split Over Kosovo Recognition.” “Head Scarf Divides Turks.” There are also updates on the latest developments in the sporting world and, on the last page of paper, a collection of familiar daily comics: Peanuts, Dennis the Menace, good old Beetle Bailey. There are no banana trees.
In the lower right corner of page 3, the man notices a short obituary. “Alain Robbe-Grillet, avant-garde writer,” it reads. The man peruses the obituary, chewing slowly at a croissant dipped in raspberry jam.
“At least I never have to sit through Last Year at Marienbad again,” the man says to no one in particular in the tone of one who prefers not to show what he is thinking about — if anything — and always flashes the same smile, which can be interpreted as derision just a well as affection, or the total absence of any feeling whatever. Still, there are no banana trees.