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A Rather Strange Career Change

By Arnon Grunberg

It has now been two weeks since I came to this small village in the Bavarian Alps. The village itself is pretty, and the lake nearby might be even described as beautiful. One could easily think that I traveled to Bavaria to spend my holiday here.

Maybe I came here because of my childhood memories. Even though my parents were forced to flee Germany thanks to the Nazis and then they declared that they never ever wanted to live in Germany again, we went hiking in the mountains in Germany every summer. I leave explanation for this behavior to psychiatrists.

Anyhow, I'm not here because I'm too fond of my childhood memories. I'm here to work as a chambermaid, for the lack of a better word, in a family hotel. I do help to set up the breakfast buffet and I do help to serve lunch, but my work mainly consists of cleaning rooms.

I work here under a different name. In this hotel, I'm known as Anton Morsink. In the kitchen, there is a black man from Texas and he refers to me as "Anton from Tirol."

About this experience, I am writing a daily series for a Dutch newspaper, NRC Handelsblad.

The owner of the hotel knows that I'm a writer, but it's not known that I write these columns for a Dutch paper. At least, I haven't informed anybody here.

In the series, I don't name the hotel nor do I name the village. Despite these precautions, some ethical questions remain which I hadn't thought thoroughly about before I embarked on this project.

With some of my colleagues I have developed a certain relationship—especially with the other chambermaid, a lady from Turkey soon to retire. Cleaning rooms together is quite an intimate experience.

I would say that we share a certain fondness for each other. She told me, "Tell your girlfriend that you have met me." And we share certain secrets. When a guest visited the hotel just for one night and the sheet wasn't too dirty, we didn't change it.

But when should I tell her that my name is not Anton Morsink, that I'm not a guy from the Netherlands who is thinking about a career change? Becoming a chambermaid is a rather strange career change, but nevertheless....

I'm afraid I cannot tell her any of this. For her, I must remain Anton Morsink for the rest of my life.

Published Aug 16, 2007   Copyright 2007 Arnon Grunberg

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