Katya Knyazeva (avezink) wrote,
Katya Knyazeva
avezink

Park Hotel as a pagan temple

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Image from auction-imperia.ru

Zaschitnye Rubashki [=Protective shirts] is a biography of the leader of the All-Russian Fascist Organization, Anastasy Vonsyatsky, written and published in 1939 by his Shanghai-based admirer, Nikolay Grozin. Several chapters from the book came to my attention thanks to a recent genealogical enquiry. This extravagant book evokes some strong images:

"At the center of Shanghai, the junction of Bubbling Well Road and Nanking Road is a perfect embodiement of the mythical Babylonian curse. At night, the confusion of languages is mysterious and ominous. The multilingual crowd gurgles like a cascade. The canyons of streets are on fire. Magic silhouettes of fairy-tale towers glow in neon against the black sky. The expanse of the Racecourse is dark and exciting like a bay of a non-existent sea. Traffic flows are made not only of roaring torrents of cars but also of flocks of harnessed people: Shanghai, comparable in size with Berlin or Paris, has people riding people.

In the center of these streams there is a row of skyscrapers, and in the center of that row is the pagan temple of Park Hotel. Some hotel inhabitants are refined merchants in starched shirts; others are obscure international scum, without shirts but in leather jackets and crazy pants. Here you can buy a Brasilian cruiser or an island in the Pacific. Or you can listen to a Sunday sermon.

All earhtly languages are heard here, except for Russian. Park Hotel lies beyond the border of Russian Shanghai; it is a foreign land. Conservative Russians do not take Park Hotel seriously: for them it is an empty architectural flourish. Not a single Russian client ever booked a room in Park Hotel, not even under the influence of delirium tremens. The characters inhabiting this portal seem as alien as characters from Hoffmann's tales. Park Hotel is a tower of abstractions, phantoms and goblins with expensive suitcases."

From later chapters we learn that Vonsyatsky chose Park Hotel for his stay in Shanghai.


Image part of the ad for the Sky Terrace in Park Hotel (c) Peter Hibbard
Tags: 1930s, book, fascists, park hotel, shanghai, translation, vonsyatsky
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