A Love Letter to Europa: Ilja Leonard Pfeijffer’s Grand Hotel Europa

Duncan McColl Chesney


In this article I review Ilja Leonard Pfeijffer’s 2018 novel Grand Hotel Europa in order to explore the themes of hospitality, tourism, and European cultural identity. I argue that Pfeijffer masterfully intermixes multiple plots to make palpable the current (though pre-COVID) crisis in Europe, that is, the refugee crisis since 2015 and the on-going transformation of (Western) Europe’s capitals because of mass tourism. Following Pfeijffer’s lead, I review some work on hospitality and the legacy of the European Enlightenment by such writers as Jacques Derrida, Jürgen Habermas, and Aleida Assmann to draw some conclusions about European cultural identity. The tradition of European hospitality links the contemporary migrant and tourist in a general problematic that challengingly tests European identity. While a “thick,” positive Judeo-Christian tradition can no longer be assumed as constituting the identity of Europe, the learning processes of the 20th century bring forward the unfinished European project of Modernity and contribute to an identity around which solidarity can be forged today. I argue that Pfeijffer’s novel is a valuable contribution to thinking through these issues of pressing contemporary interest, and a successful example of what a new, European artwork can be.


hospitality, tourism, Europe

Full Text:



Appiah, K. A. (2006). Cosmopolitanism: Ethics in a World of Strangers. New York: Norton.

Assmann, A. (2018). Der europäische Traum. München: C.H. Beck.

Becker, E. (2013). Overbooked: The Exploding Business of Travel and Tourism.: New York: Simon and Schuster.

Buettner, E. (2016). Europe after Empire: Decolonization, Society, and Culture. Cambridge: CUP.

Cacciari, M. (1997). L’Arcipelago. Milano: Adelphi.

---. (1994). Geofilosofia dell’Europa. Milano: Adelphi.

D’Entrèves, M. P, and S. Benhabib, eds. (1996). Habermas and the Unfinished Project of Modernity. Cambridge: Polity.

D’Eramo, M. (2019). Il selfie del mondo. Milano: Feltrinelli.

---. (2021). The World in a Selfie: An Inquiry into the Tourist Age. Trans. Bethan Bowett-Jones and David Broder. London: Verso: London.

Derrida, J. (2021). Hospitalité, vol 1 (1995-1996). Paris: Seuil.

---. (2022). Hospitalité, vol 2 (1996-1997). Paris: Seuil.

---. (2001). On Cosmopolitanism and Forgiveness. Trans. Mark Dooley and Michael Hughes. London: Routledge.

Dufourmantelle, A. and J. Derrida. (2000). Of Hospitality. Trans. Rachel Bowlby. Stanford: Stanford UP.

Ellison, Ian. Late Europeans and Melancholy Fiction at the Turn of the Millennium. Palgrave-Macmillan, 2022. DOI: 10.1007/978-3-030-95447-5.

Habermas, J. (2012). The Crisis of the European Union. Trans. Ciaran Cronin. Cambridge: Polity.

---. (2015). The Lure of Tehnocracy. Trans. Ciaran Cronin. Cambridge: Polity.

---. (2020). “Moralischer Universalismus in Zeiten politischer Regression: Jürgen Habermas in Gespräch über die Gegenwart und sein Lebenswerk,” Leviathan 48 (1), 2020, pp. 7-28.

Han, Byung-chul. (2022). Infocracy: Digitalization and the Crisis of Democracy. Trans. Daniel Steuer. Cambridge: Polity.

Jabès, E. (1991). Le Livre de l’Hospitalité. Paris: Gallimard-NRF.

Jameson, F. (2022). “Criticism and Categories.”PMLA, Volume 137 , Issue 3 , May 2022 , pp. 563 -567 DOI: https://doi.org/10.1632/S003081292200044X

Kant, I. (1991). Political Writings. 2nd ed. Ed. H.S. Reiss. Trans. H.B. Nisbet. Cambridge: CUP.

---. (2020). Schriften zur Anthropologie, Geschichtsphilosophie, Politik und Pädagogik, vol. 1. Ed. Wilhelm Weischedel.: Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp.

Mann, T. (1969). The Magic Mountain. Trans. H.T. Lowe-Porter. New York: Vintage.

---. (2020). Der Zauberberg. Frankfurt am Main: Fischer.

Pfeijffer, Ilja Leonard. (2016a). Brieven uit Genua. Amsterdam: Arbeiderspers.

---. (2009). De Filosofie van de Heuvel. Amsterdam: Arbeiderspers.

---. (2015). Gelukszoekers. Amsterdam: Arbeiderspers.

---. (2018). Grand Hotel Europa. Amsterdam: Arbeiderspers.

---. (2022). Grand Hotel Europa. Trans. Michele Hutchison. London: 4th Estate.

---. (2020). Quarantaine: Dagboek in tijden van besmetting. Amsterdam: Arbeiderspers.

---. (2013). La Superba. Amsterdam: Arbeiderspers.

---. (2016b). La Superba. Trans. Michele Hutchinson. Dallas, TX: Deep Vellum.

Spengler, Oswald. (2006). Der Untergang des Abendlandes: Umrisse einer Morphologie der Weltgeschichte. München: DTV.

Steiner, George. (2016). “The Idea of Europe.” 22 June 2016. https:www.opendemocracy.net/en/can-europe-make-it/idea-of-europe/

Venmans, Peter. (2022). Gastvrijheid. Amsterdam: Atlas Contact.

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.6667/interface.20.2023.200


  • There are currently no refbacks.

Copyright (c) 2023 Duncan McColl Chesney

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.


Copyright © 2016. All Rights Reserved | Interface | ISSN: 2519-1268