Swiss Literature From 1918 to 1960

The First World War initially changed little in the preference for local themes and conventional narrative styles. Although Dadaism originated in Zurich, it hardly left any traces in Swiss literature. The departure from home literature and the G. Kellermodel, as demanded by the Zurich literary critic E. Korrodi, did indeed take place among the younger generation, among others. J. Schaffner, A. Steffen, M. Pulver, R. Faesi, Anklang, but was reviewed by E. Korrodi withdrawn even a few years later; the new notes in Swiss literature were v. a. a belated expressionism, socially critical in the short story by Charlot Strasser (* 1884, † 1950), experimentally in the »Himmelpfortgasse« (1927) by M. Pulver, with an unusual mixture of peasant milieu and expressionist mood in the novel »The Brothers of the Flame« (1925) by A. Fankhauser and in the novels by O. Wirz; for the poetry are the expressionist poetry of the late K. Stamm, the poetry influenced by the »Poésie pure« by Langs and Werner Zemps (* 1906, † 1959) Also to be mentioned are the highly sensitive texts (“mood pictures”) by Hans Morgenthaler (* 1890, † 1928), which include poetry, personal observations and experiences. Authors such as A. Steffen, R. Ullmann , M. Waserand C. Lauber looked for the basis of a new spirituality in religion or in nature, understood as a symbol of simple life, which Traugott Vogel (* 1894, † 1975) got Immediately search for a time-sensitive character. M. Inglin’s novels, which were widespread throughout the German-speaking area (“Schweizerspiegel”, 1938), also have a time-critical trait. Most popular Swiss writer of the time, however, was J. Knittel .

The narrowing of the intellectual climate in the wake of the “intellectual national defense” and the loss of the German market after the rise of the National Socialists brought difficulties for the critical and nonconformist writers: Jakob Vetsch (* 1879, † 1942), H. Marti, Bernhard Diebold (* 1886, † 1945), Hans Mühlestein (* 1887, † 1969) and A. Turel; and F. Glauser, whose crime novels belong to “Wachtmeister Studer” the classics of the genre was an outsider, as C. Loos, the travel writerAnnemarie Schwarzenbach (* 1908, † 1942) and A. Zollinger; the aphorist L. Hohl, who, like R. Walser, was only to be discovered by a new generation in the 1970s and 80s, wrote his literary work while in exile in his own country (“Die Notes or Von der Unpreligen Versöhnung”, 1939–42). R. Walser withdrew completely from the world in 1929 (his »micrograms«, which he wrote from 1924 to 1932, were not published until 1985–2000). The political developments in the 1920s and 30s made some writers sympathize with the political left, such as H. Mühlestein, A. Ehrismann and J. Bührer, who lost his bourgeois audience when he joined the Social Democratic Party. Elisabeth Gerter (* 1895, † 1955) wrote the first important Swiss industrial novel in 1938 with the novel “Die Sticker”.

The escape from the National Socialist regime led numerous German and Austrian writers to Switzerland, some only stayed for a short time, such as B. Brecht, C. Zuckmayer, F. Werfel, Else Lasker-Schüler and T. Mann, while others were in Switzerland settle down (including R. Musil, G. Kaiser, H. Kesten, F. Hochwälder). Even if there were only very limited contacts with local writers – R. J. Humm in Zurich and Aline Valangin in Ticino kept an open house for German emigrants – so it happened anyway, v. a. at the Zürcher Schauspielhaus, on important impulses that continued into the post-war period. Political cabaret also experienced an upswing with the “Pfeffermühle” E. Manns and the Swiss “Cabaret Cornichon” (lyricist Max Werner Lenz, * 1887, † 1973, and Walter Lesch, * 1898, † 1958).

The year 1945 was by no means “zero hour” for Swiss literature. In the course of the “intellectual national defense”, which had a lasting effect far beyond the end of the war, there was a revival of the native literature with the national Swiss character by authors such as Reinhart, G. Renker or J. M. Camenzind, historical novels with Swiss subjects by E. Stickelberger and Mary Lavater-Sloman. C. von Arx, most played playwright of these years, took up the form of the historical festival again. The native literature, written in dialect, also experienced a new popularity, building on the wealth of forms of its local models, which achieved the greatest widespread effect in the Gotthelf radio plays in the Bernese dialect by Ernst Balzli (* 1902, † 1959). Far less popular with the public was the other local literature that thwarted the traditional cliché, such as the Bern German dialect poems written in the form of Sapphic odes by the committed social politician C. A. Loosli or A. J. Welti’s dialect piece »Steibruch« (1939). The traditional narrative literature of the 1930s was also continued after the war, for example in R. Faesis trilogy “The City of Fathers” (1941), “The City of Freedom” (1944) and “The City of Peace” (1952), a conservative counterpart to J. Bührer’s “In the Red Field” (3 volumes, 1938–51), in K. Guggenheim’s novel sum about the city of Zurich in the first half of the 20th century (“Alles in Allem”, 4 volumes, 1952–55) and in the autobiographical “Öppi” novels by A. Kübler.

However, the decisive literary impulses for Swiss literature in the subsequent period came from others. To be mentioned here are v. a.: A. Zollinger (who stimulated the novels of the early M. Frisch with his linguistic magic), F. Glauser (who influenced F. Dürrenmatt with his detective novels) and especially R. Walser, whose work the authors of the following generation (inter alia P. Bichsel, G. Leutenegger and J. Amman as well as A. Turel and H. Loetscher). M. Frisch were already pioneering in this post-war phase of Swiss literature and F. Dürrenmatt; Their early theatrical work had received important stimuli from the émigré stage at the Zürcher Schauspielhaus, but, significantly, they achieved their public breakthrough in Germany. In each of their own, sometimes even opposite ways, both time and world experience were incorporated into a work that repeatedly referred to Switzerland as a model for the representation of social and historical processes of general importance (by M. Frisch et al. »Biedermann und die Brandstifter, 1958; Andorra, 1961; by F. Dürrenmatt i.a. “The Old Lady’s Visit”, 1956; “The Physicists”, 1962). In addition to these two authors who helped Swiss literature to gain international recognition in the post-war period, AX Gwerder, who was equally gifted as a poet and painter, R. Brambach, K. Raeber; Josef Vital Kopp (* 1906, † 1966), who was drawn from classical and Catholic education , and Ruth Blum (* 1913, † 1975), who was misunderstood in her categorization as a native writer , were hardly noticed at the time. The poetry of that time stood between tradition and innovation (Urs Martin Strub, * 1906, † 1990; Oberlin, * 1919, † 2008; M. Rychner), found new subjects in A. Turel’s late expressionism, to renewal in fabric and Form in E. Jaeckle , H. Schumacher and H. R. Hilty. Forerunners of this process were after the Dadaists (especially H. Arp) the surrealist poems of the visual artists P. Klee, M. Oppenheim and O. Tschumi as well as those of F. Wurm . Another direction was marked by the natural poetry by R. Brambach and Walter Gross (* 1924, † 1999), influenced by K. Krolow and J. Bobrowski, as well as the important E. Burkart , whose influence on young poets is still great (collection »Eyewitness«, 1978). The sacred songs of the nun S. Walter are a singular phenomenon.

Swiss Literature From 1918 to 1960