French-language Literature in Switzerland

French-speaking Switzerland is a culturally independent area within the framework of Francofonie, which, however, still stands in a strong tension between approaching and demarcating its dominant neighbor France. This tension is reinforced by the status of the double minorization – culturally compared to France, demographically, politically and economically compared to the German-speaking majority in Switzerland. With regard to the early French-speaking literature in Switzerland, similar to the literature of Quebec, a sensible distinction is made between historically changing literary terms as well as between texts that are written for the audience of another country and those that are written for the own population. de Staëlin the 18th century – only speak since the 19th century.

French-speaking Switzerland is made up of three wholly and three partly French-speaking cantons, which are very different from one another, each joined the Swiss Confederation at a different point in time and has a specific cultural tradition.

Cultural life began in the French-speaking part of Switzerland with the Reformation, which was introduced from France by G. Farel. J. Calvin’s presence in Geneva attracted numerous French-speaking reformers and humanists (Pierre Robert, calledOlivetan, * 1506, † 1538; P. Viret; T. Beza among others). Other regions of French-speaking Switzerland, whose literature experienced its first heyday in the 16th century, remained decisively influenced by Protestantism until at least the end of the 19th century. Geneva, “Protestant Rome”, was the center of the French Protestants. Lausanne, too, with its academy founded in 1537, soon became a spiritual center; T. Beza, who teaches there wrote the first tragedy in French literary history, “Abraham sacrifiant”, for his students in 1550. The cultural autonomy of French-speaking Switzerland is based to this day on the fact that it is the only independent Protestant area in the French-speaking world. The Huguenots who fled to French-speaking Switzerland during the wars of religion also emanated significant cultural impulses.

According to a2zgov, the second high point was the literature of French-speaking Switzerland in the 18th century. The J.-J. Rousseau made the landscapes of Lake Geneva and the Valais and Vaud Alps symbols of a new sensibility that already referred to Romanticism. The group of European intellectuals around Madame de Staël (B. Constant, A. W. Schlegel and others), who met in Coppet Castle, played a prominent role as a link between French and German culture. French-speaking Switzerland was one of the centers of French culture in the 18th century and produced important scholars: Jean-Pierre de Crousaz (* 1663, † 1750), Samuel-Auguste Tissot (* 1728, † 1797), HB de Saussure . The German-speaking Swiss aristocrats, such as the Bernese A. von Haller, Beat Louis de Muralt (* 1665, † 1748) and Charles Victor de Bonstetten (* 1745, † 1832) participated in this intellectual life, as did many European writers who – such as Voltaire, E. Gibbon et al. – stayed temporarily in western Switzerland.

In the second half of the 18th century, Philippe-Sirice Bridel’s (* 1757, † 1845) Helvetism awoke a Swiss national feeling, which in the wake of the French Revolution led to a patriotic consciousness (often at the same time regional and national). B. through the versatile Juste Olivier (* 1807, † 1876), who was friends with Sainte-Beuve. In the 19th century, this cultural independence led French-speaking writers in Switzerland to a strong tension between a locally fragmented and unsustainable intellectual life and the literary dominance of France. The western Swiss writers, painters and musicians were faced with the alternative of leading an intellectual shadowy existence within the puritanical, art-hostile western Switzerland or, often at the price of their identity, of making a career in the cultural metropolis of Paris. Different reactions to this conflict can be observed. The Geneva J.-F. Amiel ignored an important, but only posthumously published diary. The theologian and literary critic A. Vinet dedicated himself to v. a. his teaching. The novelists É. Rod and Rodolphe Samuel Cornut (* 1861, † 1918) spent a large part of their lives in constant confrontation with the identity conflict in Paris. Her contemporary Victor Cherbuliez (* 1829, † 1899), on the other hand, integrated himself so much into French literary life that he is hardly perceived as a Swiss writer today. Eugène Rambert (* 1830, † 1886), on the other hand, remained close to Switzerland with his Alpine theme and therefore unknown outside his country.

At the beginning of the 20th century, a new generation of writers and artists from western Switzerland had their say, who wanted to revolutionize the intellectual life of French-speaking Switzerland and create a French-speaking Swiss culture that was artistically superior and specifically Swiss in terms of style and expression rather than in terms of subject matter. This group, to which i.a. C. F. Ramuz, G. de Reynold, Charles-Albert Cingria (* 1883, † 1954), Edmond Gilliard (* 1875, † 1969), but also the painter R. Auberjonois and the musician E. Ansermet heard, said v. a. in the magazines “La Voile latine” (1904-09) and “Cahiers vaudois” (1913-19) and created the basis for all subsequent French-Swiss literature of the 20th century. The article “Raison d’être” by CF Ramuz in the first issue of the “Cahiers vaudois” had a programmatic character. Most of the important authors of the first half of the 20th century published their first works in these and subsequent journals, such as the poets G. Roud, Edmond-Henri Crisinel (* 1897, † 1948), Pierre-Louis Matthey (* 1893, † 1970), M. Chappaz and the novelists Jacques Mercanton (* 1910, † 1996), A. Rivaz , C. Bille and the essayist D. de Rougemont. In the 1950s and BC a. In the 1960s, western Swiss literature experienced a great boom, which was expressed in the emergence of a dynamic publishing industry and the interest of a small but active audience. Today the literary independence of the French-Swiss authors is undisputed in the entire Francophone-speaking area. The Prix ​​Goncourt, awarded to J. Chessex in 1973, was seen as a recognition of all French-language Swiss literature. The Neuchâtel novelist Yves Velan (* 1925, † 2017) is often seen as belonging to the French Nouveau Roman, and the Vaudois P. Jaccottet is considered one of the most important French-speaking poets of the present. Even if there are Swiss writers who, following the example of B. Cendrars, do not regard themselves literarily as French-speaking Swiss in any way, such as R. Pinget or J.-L. Benoziglio , far more authors reinterpret the former conflict-ridden competition to Paris in creative discussions, such as Philippe Monnier (* 1864, † 1911), Georges Haldas (* 1917, † 2010), Georges Borgeaud (* 1914, † 1998), Nicolas Bouvier (* 1929, † 1998) among others. The specific character of French-Swiss literature today extends far beyond the local subject; References to J.-J. Rousseau and Calvinist ethics are still noticeable today, e.g. B. in the tendency to the confessional inner view, in the preference of the first-person novel and the autobiography and in the nature poetry. Other important authors of the second half of the 20th century are the poet and essayist Vahé Godel (* 1931), the poet Pierre Chappuis (* 1930), the narrator Jean-Marc Lovay (* 1948), the essayist and narrator Yves Laplace (* 1958). Á from Hungary is internationally successful . Kristóf . The essayist É. Barilier did a great job of imparting German-Swiss literature in the French-speaking area.

French-language Literature in Switzerland