Bouquets and Brickbats for Incognito by InD'tale.
Well, this was a fun and informative look at Switzerland through the ages and through the lense of a reader - we get to hear stories of way too many writers to list, that have traveled to Switzerland or are Swiss and have traveled elsewhere. The only common denominator was, you guessed it, Switzerland.
I'll keep the book as a reference because some of the backstories were interesting but I know I will have forgotten them by next weekend.
If there was one thing I missed, it would be more examples of how Switzerland or the Swiss theme had merged into the writers' work. There were some like the scene on the ice in Frankenstein or Conan Doyle's seemingly odd choice for Holmes adventures at the Reichenbach Falls, but I would have liked more of that sort of thing- and less about people's love lives. I mean, surely after reading about Lord Byron's escapades, nothing will have the same entertainment value...
The Swiss writer Robert Walser, who has become something of a rediscovered literary darling in recent years, notoriously avoided writing anything in Swiss German, considering this to be eine unziemliche Anbiederung an die Masse, an unseemly pandering to the masses. This brief play, not performed or published in his lifetime, is the one exception. It was written in 1902, when Walser was in his early twenties, staying in a little village on Lake Biel near his sister, and not published until 1972 as part of his Gesamtwerk.
It therefore has its linguistic interest, but as a play it's a bit cringeworthy and – Walser's feelings about dialect notwithstanding – you can see why he never tried to do anything with it. In some ways it's exactly the kind of plot you'd expect a young, artistically-inclined loner to write: a young boy who feels no affection for his family and thinks they don't appreciate him pretends to drown himself in order to make everyone realise how great he was after all.
Annoyingly, instead of slapping some sense into him, they react more or less as he hoped, with his mother immediately swearing her devotion to him:
Bueb, Bueb, was wosch usmer mache? Soll i öppe vor dr i d'Chneu falle? Soll i?—Ach.—I ha der großes, großes Unrächt ato. Aber i will's guet mache.
My boy, my boy, what are we going to do? Do I really need to fall to my knees before you? Do I? Oh, I have done you a great, great injustice. But I shall make it right.
Bleurgh. This maternal reconciliation scene becomes so florid that it edges into Oedipal territory, though perhaps I am misunderstanding things.
This particular edition, part of the appealing Insel-Bücherei series, is beautifully done, with some illustrative woodcuts and an afterword from someone at the Robert Walser Centre which makes a lot of rather grandiose claims for such a minor piece of juvenilia. There is also a translation of the text in Standard German, which was a big help to me at several points (though Swiss GR friend Isabelle says that in literary terms the German version is a disaster).
Basically it's forgettable; a nice curio for Walser fans at best, and one that can at least be read comfortably in under an hour. Though I'm afraid it took me more than a month armed with a shelf's worth of Schwiizertüütsch dictionaries.
“There is no love in the gay world!” Daniel is told.
“Be a servant in the world of cocks! That’s our religion! Cock is our God Almighty!”
Daniel cannot accept this philosophy. He longs for more.
Growing up in the absence of his emotionally unstable mother, Daniel suffers at the hands of his cold and rejecting father and his second wife. His childhood insecurities deepen with the early recognition that he is gay, and he soon realizes that, because he is different, answers will have to come from within. He conceals his inner truths but secretly goes to the porn cinema and soon finds himself alone in a world of erotic fantasies. Although he fervently yearns to find true love, his insecurities propel him to choose solitude and the pleasures of anonymous sex, which so reliably protect him from being hurt and disappointed by others.
With the magic of an unexpected encounter, Daniel’s life begins to change. Although he has to face seemingly intractable prejudices—and even overt homophobia—the most difficult battle of his life is overcoming his own self-protective defenses as he tries to find love.
This One Thing documents with great subtlety and nuance Daniel’s determined odyssey of self-discovery and growth in a world where being gay remains a challenge. It will contribute to the legacy of insightful and heartfelt novels depicting experiences shared by gay men the world over.
I received this novel by Jill Alexander Essbaum as an Early Reviewer via LibraryThing and Random House.
Anna Benz is an ex-pat living a comfortable life in Switzerland as a housewife with her successful banker husband Bruno and their three children. When we meet Anna she has been in Zurich for more than ten years, without any close friends or interests nor knowledge of the German language. She finally decides to take a German class and it is there she meets Archie and begins an affair. What we find out as we sit in on her therapist sessions is that this affair is not her first nor her last. Anna is not happy nor does she seem to know how to be happy.
While most would think this a very depressing and heartbreaking book, and yes in some ways it was, what I found interesting was being inside Anna's head and her thought process if you'd call it that. Anna lives isolated inside her head and not outside of it. I thought the author did a superb job describing the logic and rationale of this character. Because of this I enjoyed the book regardless of the distressing theme. I put this book in the Thelma & Louise category which I define as bad decision after bad decision continues until there is no going back. A modern day Anna Karenina if you will.
Recommended for readers who can appreciate a well-written story.
How I acquired this book: Complimentary copyvia LibraryThing Early Reviewers and Random House
Shelf life: One month