NOBODY understood the power of boundaries better than Charles-Ferdinand Ramuz (1878–1947). A Swiss writer who had to go to Paris to find his voice, he returned to his native canton of Vaud during the First World War to create a distinctively French-Swiss body of literature. He was loyal to his patrie but his patrie was not Switzerland. It was his village, at most his canton – the people who shared his language and who sprang from the same soil as him. From his home on the north shore of Lake Geneva he looked across the water at the French Alps, a reminder that boundaries are where both creation and destruction happen; where opposing forces clash and new forms are born out of the old…
This article first appeared in The Times Literary Supplement on 21 August 2015.
To sing of one origin
Rue Centrale: portrait of a European city is now out in English from Editions L’Age d’Homme.
Lausanne is a cosmopolitan city located at the heart of Europe. Viewing it as a microcosm of the continent as a whole, Laura Spinney goes out to meet its inhabitants. The result is a portrait of a European city painted in the words of the people who live and work there. Encountered in the street, in their bedroom, on a barge or in the belfry of the cathedral, 68 individuals talk about their hopes, their fears and their daily lives. Bankers, prostitutes, illegal immigrants, pillars of the community… Word by word, from the grassroots up, they build a city in Europe at the beginning of the 21st century.
Rue Centrale is available from Payot, Lausanne’s English bookshop Books Books Books, the three kiosks of Lausanne Tourisme and online on the L’Age d’Homme webpage.