My interview with American author Alison Anderson is the fourth and final author profile in the swissinfo.ch series on English-language writers living in Switzerland. Of all the authors I interviewed, Alison is the one with the closest ties to Switzerland, having first come to the country as an eight-year-old to attend her sister’s wedding.
She came back to complete her schooling in Switzerland, studied at Lausanne University, and finally settled in the Lake Geneva area in 2008 after a long stay in California, including five years living on a wooden sailboat in San Francisco bay.
Alison’s new novel, The Summer Guest, is a delightful read that dips in and out of 1880s Ukraine and two present day settings – the French-Swiss border and London – before reintroducing us to present-day Ukraine. Although the storylines are all linked to Chekhov, the three female narrators are in the foreground.
It was a pleasure to share a pot of Irish tea with Alison and find out more about her life and work. Alison is also a leading translator of French literature. Her many translations include Muriel Barbery’s The Elegance of the Hedgehog, Ingrid Betancourt’s memoir, and the work of Nobel laureate JMG De Clézio.
Have a look back at the other Swiss-based novelists featured in this series: Jason Donald, author of Dalila, Anne Korkeakivi, author of Shining Sea, and Susan Jane Gilman, author of The Ice Cream Queen of Orchard Street and three nonfiction titles.
After the summer, swissinfo.ch will publish a literary podcast featuring audio material from these four interviews. With such different styles and publishing journeys represented, it promises to be very interesting!
In case you missed the link, the full interview with Alison Anderson is here.
There is a small but thriving English-language literary scene in Switzerland – workshops, retreats, writers’ groups and even an international festival. At the heart of that scene is the community of published and aspiring writers who live in Switzerland.
Recently, I had the wonderful opportunity to interview the leading lights of that community, four acclaimed authors with eleven books between them. Over the next few weeks, swissinfo.ch will publish these profiles as a series, beginning today with Scottish-born Jason Donald, author of the “beautifully observed” novel Dalila.
The list of places Jason has lived hints at some intriguing plot twists in the story of his life: Pretoria under apartheid, the deprived Glaswegian district of Govan, and, most recently, the luxury Swiss resort of Gstaad.
I made the trek (three trains and a bus journey) to the Bernese Oberland to meet the self-described nomad and economic migrant. You can read the full story here.
My Swiss book has a title – and a cover! It has an author’s note, an afterword, and ten action-packed chapters in between. Now that the book has start to pop up on book retailers’ websites, I wanted to share the news here.
I am at the stage of dotting the i’s and crossing the t’s, and by the end of the week my work on the manuscript itself will finally be done. What a year it’s been. This time last year I had just arrived in Ireland by ferry for my annual summer holiday. I had the task of reworking the concept for the book I had pitched to Bergli Books two months beforehand, plus a new sample chapter to write.
The starting point for me was that I felt the Swiss were poorly served by the clichés – some flattering, many negative – that had crystallised around them. Their true nature was obscured by false assumptions and fixed ideas. To paint an accurate picture, I wanted to go through the dirty laundry and great achievements, and get close to the Swiss at their best and at their worst.
Did the Swiss really help the Nazis? Are Swiss women stuck in the past? Are the Swiss xenophobic? Is there even such as thing as a real Swiss person? How did these people get so rich? And what’s going on with the banks?
This book introduces an engaging cast of Swiss characters – refugees from Stalin’s Soviet Union, one of the country’s last surviving suffragettes, a street-sweeper philosopher, a pragmatic private banker and a president with no regrets, to name but a few. It also provides all the context you need to make your mind up about this complex and dynamic land.
Have a look at the Bergli Books catalogue for autumn 2016 (The Naked Swiss is on page 6) for the full list of chapters. If you are a long-term planner, you can pre-order the book here. So far it’s only available to pre-order on German-language websites (although the book is in English) but I’ll let you know as soon as the English-language Bergli website has the book for sale.
If you are interested in keeping up to date on The Naked Swiss, I’ve just started a Facebook page which will be a good source of book news and related events over the next three months ahead of publication in October. Now that we’re on the subject of non-fiction, what is your favourite non-fiction book?