The members of our regular monthly book club have selected a Swiss title for the next meeting, and below we’re inspired to consider the literature of this linguistically-diverse nation!
Jakob von Gunten by Robert Walser. Our book club (Friday, March 3 at 6:30 pm) will discuss this 1908 work by Swiss author Walser, who in his day wandered lots, worked odd jobs, wrote amazing fiction, and did so with tiny handwriting. This coming-of-age novel is about a 17-year-old runaway who finds a post at a mysterious school for servants.
Reveries of the Solitary Walker by Jean-Jacques Rousseau. Perhaps the most famous Swiss writer on the planet offers a meandering memoir written while taking nature walks during his years of exile, and really hits those “nobody understands my genius” notes that plague us all.
Slow Train to Switzerland by Diccon Bewes. This travel book follows a writer who discovered the diary of an English traveler to Switzerland on the first train tour of the nation in 1863. Taking his cues from Miss Jemima, Bewes compares contemporary Switzerland to its own past through the eyes of a tourist.
Best European Fiction 2017. Dalkey Archive publishes these short story anthologies annually and they’re always satisfying. This year’s volume includes a short story from an Italian-speaking Swiss Giovanni Orelli, “Death by Laughter,” that is a funny if sardonic look at the afterlife. Or Orelli’s version of it, anyway.
And if you’re ready to be more than an armchair tourist of Switzerland, we have:
Rick Steves’s Switzerland. Steves’s guides to European countries are great go-tos, not only because of the friendly and informal writing style that makes them a pleasure to read, but he also gives great recommendations for more authentic restaurants and places to stay that are less corporate chain and more cozy, and he offers great walks: whether through a city or a museum, he’ll explain what you’re looking at without you having to buy an extra book to decode it all.
Lost in Zurich. The newest Swiss travel guide we have in stock is the latest in the very hip “Lost In” series that are equal parts magazine and travel guide with a design-driven hipster milieu.
And if you’re headed to Switzerland, be extra prepared with a phrasebook that contains all of the nation’s official languages: the Lonely Planet Western Europe Phrasebook and Dictionary. It also has a few other countries, so you can keep it for future trips!