My favorite things Swiss

I am here only briefly, to talk about how America funds the arts.  Of course my favorite thing Swiss is Switzerland itself; in that sense I agree with the natives.  But to get more specific:

1. Sculptor: Alberto Giacometti is the obvious choice, runner-up is Jean Arp.  The smaller the Giaocometti sculpture, the better it is likely to be.  You could say the same for Calder.

2. Drama: I’ll opt for Durrenmatt’s The Visit of the Old Lady or The Physicians, or Max Frisch’s Don Juan, or the Love of Geometry.  I like these better than any Swiss novel.

3. Painter: These days I find Paul Klee repetitive.  Arnold Boecklin and Ferdinand Hodler are both consistently interesting, if not always consistent.  Try this Hodler.  Here is the most famous BoecklinHenry Fuseli, who moved to England and became a perverse quasi-Romantic, remains underrated.

4. Novel: I don’t know of a great Swiss novel, unless you count Rousseau’s Heloise for its historical value.  Max Frisch’s Gantenbein is one runner-up.  Robert Walser has his moments.

5. Music: This one gets tough.  Honegger bores me.  I will listen to Frank Martin, though he is not a favorite.  Paul Hindemith was of Swiss-German extraction but born in Germany.  He would otherwise win hands down.  Edwin Fischer was a wonderful Bach pianist.  Swiss popular music is too ghastly to contemplate, as is the folk music.

6. Actress: Can I say Ursula Andress?

7. Movie, set in: I still like George Lazenby’s Bond movie, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service.

Extra: You’ve also got Saussure, the Bernoullis, and the Eulers, not to mention Le Corbusier.  There is an overall inclination toward the mechanical, the scientific, and the systematizing.  Perhaps that is why music is so weak.

The bottom line: It is not just cuckoo clocks (as Orson Welles had suggested), which in any case do not originate in Switzerland. 


Cheese Fondue:-)

Cuckoo clocks? That's Schwarzwald in Germany (Black Forest) :)

If systematizing ruined a countries capability for music, then Germany hadn't created some beautiful musicians (J.S. Bach), because we also had some great engineers. I think that systematizing and an understanding of mechanics is (as is creativity a huge part of engineering!) essential to classic music, because it is more complex in structure and harder to understand than modern pop music.

While anybody can see the structure of let's say a Beatles song (Repetitve chorus pairs with stanzas and perhaps some solos), it is very much different with say Mozart's Requiem or Vivaldi's Four Seasons or Beethoven's Symphonies.
They are often multi-layered and very sensitive to themes and rearrangements, which makes them harder to listen to for some people.

For painter, how about Ernst Ludwig Kirchner. Born in Germany, but spent last 20 or so years of his life in Davos.

Athlete: Martina Hingis

- Josh

"Heidi" was like chicken noodle soup for me.

Many different Swiss mechanical watches for me: Omega, Rolex, Dufour, Patek, JLC, etc.

For composers how about Ernest Bloch or Heinz Holliger?

Fondue is not the Swiss national dish. Rösti is, a very fine simple dish is.

I'm surprised that you didn't mention that the World Wide Web was invented there.

"Ulysses" was largely written in Zurich.

"Cuckoo clocks? That's Schwarzwald in Germany (Black Forest)"

In my days of selling cuckoo clocks in the Black Forest, I learned to distinguish between the Swiss-style cuckoo clock (painted in peasant motifs) and the Black Forest-style cuckoo clock (heavily carved and varnished). That is all I know about cuckoo clocks, then or now. I don't know which type is older.

On whether fondue or rösti is the national dish, in Switzerland they talk about the rösti line: the border that runs between the German-speaking cantons and the French-speaking cantons (people don't usually talk about the Italian-speaking canton). Rösti on one side, fondue on the other.

For architects, Herzog and de Meuron are doing a lot of wonderful work these days. I think Mario Botta has gone off the boil a bit. And on writing Voltaire wrote Candide while he was living in Geneva. (And, come to think of it, Graham Greene's late stuff was written when he lived in Vevey.)

The "Physicians"? Shame on you, Prof. Cowen, that there was another Durrenmatt play with which I was unfamiliar, even if it was only for the second it took to click the link!

Movie, set in:

Trois couleurs: Rouge

I would add Philippe Dufour, Rolex, Omega.

Congratulations on your alertness, Johan Richter. There has indeed been only one Euler: Leonhard.

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