Waxing lyrical in Solothurn

Authors writing in all four of Switzerland's national languages will be represented at the festival.

The small city of Solothurn was under the literary spotlight at the weekend as it staged its annual writers' festival.

This content was published on May 29, 2003 - 10:05

For three days, streets, churches, theatres and galleries were awash with verse and prose as authors presented their latest books.

Around 100 events catering for every literary taste were held in venues dotted around the city, showcasing the latest novels, poetry, theatre and children's books.

Authors writing in all four of Switzerland's national languages were joined by writers from Italy, France, Belgium, Canada and Russia.

A highlight of this year's event was an exhibition reviewing Switzerland's great travel writers, Nicolas Bouvier, Ella Maillart and Annemarie Schwarzenbach.

At the other end of the spectrum, Middle Eastern literature was also featured, with two exiles from Iran and Iraq, Navid Kermani and Mona Yahia, discussing clashes between different cultures.

German bias

A close reading of the rundown of events, however, showed that the overwhelming majority of participants were German-speaking - to the dismay of a number of Swiss writers from other language groups.

Anne Cunéo, a French-speaking novelist, told swissinfo that this made the event extremely one-sided.

"The organisers dedicated a large proportion of the programme to German-speaking Switzerland, which does not correspond to the percentage of authors who come from the French-speaking parts of the country."

"If I try and put myself in the place of someone who does not speak German, it would be mortifying to go there! It's very discouraging," she added.

But fellow French-speaking writer, Ivan Farron, a member of the organising committee, took a different view.

"That fact corresponds to the reality in this country, which is that there are more German-speaking authors than French, simply because there are more Swiss Germans," Farron said. "There is no injustice in that."

New talent

Despite the predominance of the German language, organisers say French, Rumantsch and Italian-speaking authors also had the chance to show off their wares at the festival.

An exhibition put the spotlight on a Swiss specificity - the need to translate literary texts into four different languages. According to the organisers, these translations serve as a bridge between the country's four language communities.

Amateur writers were given their chance to shine, too.

The festival has put all the manuscripts submitted for its 2003 Opennet competition online, and this year's eight winners had public readings of their texts.

swissinfo, Scott Capper and Vanessa Mock

In brief

The 25th Solothurn writers' festival will take place from May 30 to June 1.

Around 100 events will be held in 12 different locations in the city.

Authors presenting their work will include Lydie Salvayre, Catherine Safonoff, Adolf Mushg and Urs Widmer.

An exhibition will take a look at Switzerland's famous travel writers, Nicolas Bouvier, Ella Maillart and Annemarie Schwarzenbach.

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