Switzerland Literature in German

By | November 4, 2021

According to Extrareference, the origins of Swiss literature in the German language are confused in the Middle Ages with those of German and Austrian literature. The first center of diffusion was the Abbey of San Gallo, where the Vocabularius Sancti Galli (770-790), the first German dictionary in history, was born, and in which Notker Balbulus (ca. 840-912), author of sequences in Latin, and then Notker III Labeo (ca. 950-1022), translator into German of parts of the Bible, of Virgil and Boethius. The epic poem Waltharius Manu Fortis (9th-10th century) also comes from the monastery of San Gallo, which had a library of European fame at the time. The Minnesang it was represented in the Swiss area by Steinmar von Klingenau and Konrad von Würzburgand by the great lyricist and epic Hartmann von Aue (ca. 1160-1215). The late Middle Ages saw the flourishing of prose in a series of didactic works and mystical texts and in the first sacred representations, including the anonymous Osterspiel by Muri. But it is only with humanism that the young Confederation becomes aware of its own identity and originality: Swiss humanism, marked by the vast production of Niklas von Wyle (ca. 1410-1478), Joachim von Watt (ca. 1484-1551) and others, it gives Europe an innovator in the field of medicine and philosophy in the person of Paracelsus (1493-1541) and one of the protagonists of the Protestant Reformation in the person of Zwingli (1484-1531). While on the one hand the popular theater flourishes, in particular with the Bernese Niklaus Mane, on the other there are valid examples of erudite prose in the work of Konrad Gessner (1516-1565), valid historiographers such as J. Stumpf (1500-ca. 1578)), V. Audhelm and Aegidius Tschudi (1505-1572), author of the Chronikon Helveticum, biographers such as Thomas (1499-1582) and Felix Platter (1534-1614). In the early seventeenth century the most important cultural event was the triumph of the Jesuit theater, a triumph common to Austria and Bavaria. Towards the middle of the eighteenth century Switzerland becomes, after a century almost devoid of events, the driving force of modern German culture that reacts to the French Enlightenment classicism, and the cradle of pre-Romantic irrationalist aesthetics. The critics Bodmer (1698-1783) and Breitinger (1701-1776), rediscoverers of medieval poetry, by J. Milton, by W. Shakespeare, advocates of the rights of the fantastic and the wonderful, their pupil JG Sulzer (1720-1779), A. von Haller (1708-1777) with his poem Die Alpen (1732), Rousseau’s celebration of intact nature, S. Gessner himself (1730-1788) with his famous idylls (1756) attracted the attention of all of Germany. in search of their own cultural identity outside the ancient and neo-Latin models. Goethe himself visits Lavater (1741-1801) who fights, at the same time as the great pedagogue Pestalozzi (1746-1827), the battle for the rejuvenation of Europe, while the spirits of Rousseau animate the singular autobiography, among the most beautiful from the eighteenth century, by U. Bräker (1735-1798). In the later age, the Swiss literature, which provides the romanticism the aesthetic foundations, did not have any great poet or narrator: the greatest prose writer of the period was the historian H. Zschokke (1771-1848), whose historical novels have a prevalent pedagogical tint.

The major lyricist, GG de Salis-Seewis (1762-1834), is a mild elegiac. We tend to see the reason for this setback in a strong sense of community from which any strong individualism, any true unscrupulousness of the imagination, incompatible with sociality, and in an irrepressible moral-pedagogical instance are excluded: it has been observed that the bizarre and dark genius of the painter Füssli took the road to England. But on this ground two of the greatest modern narrators in the German language nourished themselves in the following age: the realists J. Gotthelf (1797-1854), spokesman for the peasant world and a Christian-patriarchal-feudal vision of the world, and G. Keller (1819-1890), spokesman for the new progressive bourgeoisie. The second nineteenth century gave another great narrator in CF Meyer (1825-1898), lyric poet and nostalgic author of stories set in the past and almost epic equivalent of the historical work of J. Burckhardt (1818-1897) on the civilization of the Renaissance. With C. Spitteler (1845-1924), Nobel laureate in 1919, German-speaking Switzerland found a mighty decadent, aristocrat, Schopenhauerian, who revives the heroic poem. With the narrators H. Federer (1866-1928), J. Schaffner (1875-1944), R. Walser (1878-1956), greatly admired by Kafka, Switzerland has given important narrators that range beyond the Swiss horizon. More recently, writers such as OF Walter (1928-1994), U. Widmer (b. 1938), W. Schmidli (b. 1939) and H. Burger (b. 1942) have established themselves. Contemporary poetry counts avant-garde authors such as E. Gomringer (b. 1925) and the traditionalist A. Ehrismann (1908-1998). The post-war period saw a brilliant revival of the theater with the Bernese F. Dürrenmatt (1921-1990) and with the Zurich-born M. Frisch (1911-1991), both also active as storytellers. The literary landscape, for years corroborated by the happy vein of these two world-class writers, has begun to slow down a bit after their disappearance, which has created a hole that cannot be easily filled. It remains to underline the presence of certain moral value of Peter Bichsel (b. 1935), who has confirmed himself as one of the most appreciated and loved writers. In the early nineties, although the German-language literary market was oriented almost exclusively towards Eastern narrators, after the fall of the Berlin wall, a moderate European diffusion met L. Hohl (1904-1980) and E. Pedretti (b. 1930), while the works of N. Meienberg (1940-1993) and H. Burger (1942-1989) deserve more attention. Switzerland also has a number of first-rate literary critics, such as M. Rychner (1897-1965), E. Staiger (1908-1987), W. Muschg (1898-1965).

Switzerland Literature in German