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Tracing the dependence of Swiss authors on French publishers

The shortest route between Switzerland's German-language and French-speaking regions is via Paris - at least where publishing is concerned. An exhibition in the city's Swiss Cultural Centre traces the 100-year history of that route.

It tells the story of the relationship between Swiss authors and the Paris publishing house, Gallimard, which organised the exhibition in collaboration with the Swiss National Library.

"Gallimard is unique," says library director Jean-Frédéric Jauslin, "in the sense of the high number of famous authors whose works are published by it, and also because of the high quality of its publications."

A century ago Swiss-French authors turned to Gallimard because the market for their books in Switzerland was too small. The result was that works by many of them, including Albert Cohen and Denis de Rougemont, became so widely-read in France that many people thought the authors were French.

Similarly, works by such Swiss writers as Friedrich Dürrenmatt were translated from German into French and reached a wide readership in France after being published by Gallimard.

The exhibition draws attention to the high quality of work by Swiss translators, which Jean-Frédéric Jauslin says continues to this day.

But its main focus is on the relationship between a family publishing firm and many of Switzerland's leading literary lights, with photographs, original manuscripts, first editions and letters from the archives of Gallimard and the Swiss National Library.

by Richard Dawson


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