The complicated process of formation of the Confederation constituted for a long time an obstacle to the birth of a unified culture: in the absence of a common center of radiation, the culture of the individual cantons, especially the peripheral ones, continued for centuries to be nourished by modest local traditions. or from the great cultures of the neighboring peoples, to which the cantons themselves belonged ethnically. Later, even if a more intimate spiritual union was reached between one ethnic group and the other, the profound split represented by the diversity of languages continued to remain intact. However, a ‘Swiss spirit’ has gradually been consolidated in the conscience which, while revealing itself above all in the form of social ideologies and political will, invests the whole of life and also transpires from literature.
German language literature
It is only in the eighteenth century that a German-speaking Swiss literary tradition is established which has its forerunners in JJ Bodmer and JJ Breitinger, who, against the first German Enlightenment personified by JC Gottsched, made Zurich the opposite pole of attraction for those who on their tracks they identified and favored the emotional and imaginative element in poetry. Among their direct followers is JG Sulzer, who contributed to establishing the nascent aesthetics in the scientific discipline. A very different personality, however, was A. von Haller, an illustrious physician and scientist, but also a poet appreciated above all in the idyllic-descriptive genre; his masterpiece is the youthful poem, in Alexandrian verse, Die Alpen (1729), a large picture of alpine nature with exaltation of the beautiful and the sublime. U. Braker, by China Gessner, a painter as well as a poet and, now in a romantic atmosphere, by JP Hebel. Meanwhile, JK Lavater, a man of multiple interests and incredibly fruitful polygraph, had exhausted his exceptional experience. Another Swiss whose activity achieved European resonance was the great pedagogist JH Pestalozzi, who in some works reveals a pleasant joy of narrating. With HD Zoschokke, a very prolific narrator, we reach a full phase of Romanticism, which becomes, in average personalities like his, at least in part. ● Notable narrator, in the 19th century, was J. Gotthelf, with which the series of great nineteenth-century Swiss writers began, which emerged precisely in coincidence with a general decline in Germany, largely motivated by the contrasting evolution of political events. Champion of realism in the German language was G. Keller, educated in Germany but who found the most fertile ground for his vocation in the Swiss provincial environment. Aristocratic and exclusive, in sharp contrast with Keller, was the third of the major, CF Meyer, who gave lyrics of unusual density, in a cult of aesthetics that will later find further developments at China George in Germany and at RM Rilke in Austria, and who in the works of fiction, also inspired by the same cult of beauty, was affected by the reading of the basic writings on the Italian Renaissance of his compatriot J. Burckhardt. Following Burckhardt himself, H. Leuthold was also placed, a lyricist in which, however, compared to Meyer, the formal expertise yields at least in part to virtuosity. More complex, and above all more fortunate, was the experience, shortly thereafter, of CFG Spitteler, the first Swiss to obtain the Nobel Prize in 1919.for literature, a large block that disdainfully contrasted itself with the general process of massification involving also cultural phenomena. Keller’s followers can be considered among others, well into the new century, the casual storytellers JC Heer, E. Zahn and even the Catholic priest H. Federer. J. Schaffner, a rather unequal author, is also linked to the same Kellerian matrix in his less ambitious production. With H. Hesse, Swiss by choice, we enter a completely different climate, that of the radical crisis of values and, consequently, of the utopian references to a different ethical and social positivity, yet to be verified at least in Europe. More detailed, but no less erosive, R. Walser, which in the relativity of judgment affects the heart of a culture revealed to be laden with hypocrisy. ● Between the two great wars, the novel remained the favorite genre, cultivated by many even if rarely with conspicuous results; of note: J. Bührer, R. Faesi, C. Lauber, M. Inglin, RJ Humm, and A. Zollinger, best known as a lyricist. At the highest levels we find M. Frisch, novelist and playwright of marked critical intelligence, ultimately capable of elegant desecration even with respect to the most jealously preserved national traditions, and F. Dürrenmatt, who established himself above all with his icastically corrosive theatrical work. These were the writers who in the immediate postwar period provided the first and for a time the only German testimony in the bewilderment that followed the catastrophe caused by Nazi Germany. Even on their example, the need for a critique rooted in time has become more alive, and a process of de-provincialization has begun, well represented by the work of OF Walter, H. Meier, P. Nizon, H. Loetscher, J. Federspiel, and above all from that of A. Muschg, who combines social commitment with an acute perception of the finitude of human things, and of P. Bichsel, a figure of great moral prestige. Still in the field of fiction, in which WM Diggelmann, author of energetic reportages, and W. Kraner are placed in a more autonomous position, we should also mention H. Burger, G. Leutenegger, C. Geiser, F. Böni. ● In opera, interesting voices are those of some poetesses, such as E. Burkart and the nun China Walter, sister of OF Walter. In the area of experimentation, which in China does not seem to have recorded peaks of excess, M. Matter stands out among the lyrics; among the prose writers, FP Ingold, influenced by structuralism, and J. Laederach, linked to musical experiences; among the playwrights, U. Widmer and T. Hürlimann. On a line closer to Dürrenmatt, the narrators G. Späth, for the baroque thematic artificiality, and M. Werner, for the tragicomic violence of his clear writing move, while opening towards the world of work China Blatter and goes back to Kafkaesque suggestions and Walserian F. Hohler. Female themes have found an echo species in M. Schriber and V. Stefan.