It is possible to explore the endless variety of the Helvetic Confederation without poles, skis or snowshoes.
During these long dark days before the snowdrops emerge, why not light a fire, prepare a Kafi Fertig, snuggle up on the sofa and escape into a good book? There is something for everyone. Here are six fiction novels set in Switzerland:
A Tramp Abroad – Mark Twain (1880)
A quirky, charming read, peppered with Twain’s trademark wit, follows our hero on a walking trip from Germany to Italy through Switzerland. Much like a journal, with flights of fancy, entertaining asides and not-to-be-missed appendices, it is funny and occasionally acerbic in its commentary on Europe.
Unconventional but all the more delightful for it.
(Buy A Tramp Abroad on Amazon - Travel, humor)
The Visit – Friedrich Dürrenmatt (1956)
Dürrenmatt was a hugely influential dramatist with a sly sense of humour. This satirical tragic-comedy, set in the fictional Swiss town of Güllen, is wholly gripping from the outset. When a local woman returns, older and richer, she could be the route out of poverty and depression. But she has her own reasons for returning and her demands throw the community into a moral quagmire.
If you have never read a Dürrenmatt, you have a treat in store.
(Buy The Visit on Amazon - Play)
Small World – Martin Suter (1997)
A moving and unusual story set in Zürich. Konrad has enjoyed a long association with the Koch family, but he is getting forgetful, and the family suspect him of drinking too much. When his absent-mindedness leads to a devastating fire, something has to change.
Swiss author Suter draws his characters with balance and depth, using the gentle, inexorable pace of the story to increase tension and offer poignant insights as to the nature of memory and the dangers of secrets.
(Buy Small World on Amazon - Literary fiction)
The Fear Index - Robert Harris (2011)
It is a case of man versus machine. The world of high finance and technology collide in a fast-paced thriller which echoes the contemporary duality towards capitalism – fear and admiration. But who is in control?
The atmosphere of modern Geneva seeps through the book alongside some astute and effective descriptions of social dysfunction, the by-products of success and the relationship between money, art and fulfillment.
(Buy The Fear Index on Amazon - Thriller)
We're Flying – Peter Stamm (2012)
This collection by award winning Swiss author and playwright Stamm, translated by Michael Hofmann, is hypnotic and haunting. He peels back layers of culture and conditioning, touching on subjects close to Swiss hearts, but exposing the universal.
These tales take us up peaks and down valleys, onto trains and into homes, inside minds and relationships. We’re Flying is rooted in Switzerland, both its landscape and its psyche.
(Buy We're Flying on Amazon - Short stories)
Charlotte Aimes: The Great Alpine Adventure – Libby O (2013)
This coming-of-age adventure with attitude is perfect for the teenager in your life. Snowboard action, excitement, snappy dialogue and some thoughtful asides on growing up in a cross-cultural environment, this is a read-in-one-sitting book with truly memorable characters in some fast-paced fun.
Just do not expect to get any response out of the kids while they are reading, apart from some cackles of recognition.
(Buy Charlotte Aimes: The Great Alpine Adventure on Amazon - Young Adult/Adventure)
For more about bookish Switzerland, try out the Literaturlandkarten, an entertaining way to explore the country and its rich literary heritage.
About the Author
JJ Marsh is an author and journalist, whose own crime novel, Behind Closed Doors, is set in Zürich. She is one of the organizers and speakers at WriteCon Zürich 2015 – a weekend conference of workshops and events for writers – and co-editor of The Woolf Quarterly, Zürich's English-language literary journal.