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Switzerland
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Literature of Switzerland Go Back
 
There is no such thing as a Swiss national vernacular literature, properly speaking. But there are four branches which make up a literature of Switzerland, according to the language in which the works are composed. As the Confederation, from its foundation in 1291 till 1798, was exclusively composed (with a partial exception in the case of Fribourg) of German-speaking districts, the real Swiss vernacular literature (if any one branch is to be dignified by that name) is in German, though in the 18th century French became the fashionable language in Bern and elsewhere, while the influence of the French-speaking allies and subject lands was more marked than before. Hence the German branch is by far the more important and more national, while the French branch is not really Swiss till after 1815, when these regions took full rank as cantons. Thus Geneva and Lausanne in the 18th century, with their respective brilliant societies, were only Swiss in so far as Geneva was an ally and Vaud a subject land. The Italian and Romansch-Ladin branches are of less importance.
While the original League of 1291 (like the earlier charters of liberties) is drawn up in Latin, later alliances among the cantons, as well as documents concerning the whole Confederation (the Parsons Ordinance of 1370, the Sempach Ordinance of 1393, and the Compact of Stans (1481) and all the Recesses of the Diets) are compiled in German. Political documents are not literature, but these show that pre-Reformation alliances rested on the popular consent, and were expressed in vernacular German rather than in clerkly Latin.
In the later literary history of German-speaking Switzerland three names stand out above all others: Albert Bitzius, known as Jeremias Gotthelf from the first of his numerous tales of peasant life in the Emmenthal, Gottfried Keller, perhaps the most genuinely Swiss poet and novelist of the century, and Conrad Ferdinand Meyer, also a poet and novelist, but of more cosmopolitan leanings and tastes. Jakob Burckhardt was a famous writer on Italian art, while Jakob Frey (1824–1875) continued the work of Bitzius by his tales of Swiss peasant life. Ulrich Hegner (1759–1840) of Winterthur wrote novels full of local colour, as is also the case with David Hess (1770–1843) in his description of a cure at Baden in Aargau and various tales. Johann Martin Usteri (1763–1828) of Zürich was one of the earliest to write poems in his native dialect.
Source:en.wikipedia.org
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