"Histoire du Soldat (The soldier's story), art, C.F.Ramuz author, Canton Valais, Charles-Ferdinand Ramuz author, culture, Derborence book title, economics, Editions Plaisir de Lire, education, environment, family, Fondation Ramuz, Graphic design, history, Igor Stravinsky, La Suisse Romande, Literature francais, Mc Knight Kauffer illustrator, Mountains, Nature, Pantheon books, Stephane Petermann, Switzerland, Video, When the Mountain Fell book title, writers, YouTube, Youtube video
Have you ever wondered what the phrase “being on the money” meant? Is it a sinister plot or does it mean you won a lottery? Some countries have abstract designs on their banknotes, others feature dead presidents, pyramids, masonic symbols, and whatever else you could imagine.
In the land of great mountains and grated or holed-cheese, where they still yodel in some parts, and count gold in other parts, landlocked away from invaders, there is a different attitude. Culture is honored here. Just look at the colorful amazing banknote shown below.
In the Swiss Patria where they honor ancient legends like Wilhelm Tell and his crossbow, there are also honored writers, poets who write about the snow landscape and the mountains and expose the harsh village realities of past centuries, as well as, the inevitable faith of those living below those majestic rocks. They bring us back to another “reality“.
Charles-Ferdinand Ramuz (1878-1947) whose portrait is on the top (from the foundation website) was one of those authors. His dramatic novel with the French title DERBORENCE is shown here in a first American Edition published in 1947 with the title When the Mountain Fell.
Mountains in literature, real or imagined mountains, have occupied man’s mind, and have been equated by those living near them at times as “created by the Gods” or the “staircase to heaven“. Famous authors of drama in literature like Ernest Hemingway wrote about a mountain in his short story The Snows of Kilimanjaro published first in 1934 in Esquire.
So what about the French original title Derborence ? What or where is it? The town of Derborence is located in Switzerland in a wonderful setting near a natural lake formed a century and a half ago, when an entire mountain top came down, and that is the setting of Ramuz’s novel full of human drama.
The valley pictured here in a wonderful photo by Clare 66 (wikipedia) is on the south side of the mountain range which divides the Vaud Canton from the Valais Canton. The mountain range called the Diablerets seen here from the Valais side (in a photograph by Cable1 on wiki)
The book in this American edition, the only one until a few years ago, has a dust jacket designed by the Avant garde graphic designer McKnight Kauffer (1890-1954), better known in Europe, for the posters he designed among other work, for the London underground.
His almost trademark design, the use of the simple line and sparse color makes a direct impact on the eye, in the case of our book, where the black color emphasizes death and drama while in the sample below of an earlier date and by us covered in an earlier post, the simple line illustrates the “eye“, the camera used to make movies and the white outline, the movie screen.
Who was the writer Charles-Ferdinand Ramuz whose signature is on the hardcover of our book?Besides being the author of this, his 19th novel, he was acquainted with the Avant garde personified by Jean Cocteau.
He wrote the libretto of “Histoire du Soldat (The soldier’s story).
For Igor Stravinsky, Ramuz was a staunch defender of the French language spoken in the Canton Valais versus the German spoken in the Eastern part of this Canton. Earlier in his life, in Paris, he had edited and contributed to a short lived magazine “La Voile Latine” that defended the Latin roots of the French language spoken in the Swiss side bordering France.
The Valais Canton is primarily Catholic and perhaps this explains, in part, the flattering words by Paul Claudel, the French diplomat and controversial writer, a converted devout Catholic, on the jacket of our American edition below.
The work, in its recognizable original title, is considered one of the greatest novels in the French speaking Suisse Romande (Romand Switzerland). A movie was made in 1985 after the book by Francis Reusser.
The important literary Cahiers Vaudois published Swiss authors like Ramuz, but also important French authors like Paul Claudel, Andre Suarez and Romain Rolland. Currently the novel is in print in one American edition and a few French editions, shown here.
I especially like the edition by Plaisir de Lire, a smaller Swiss publishing house whose short introduction by Stephane Petermann in the French language sounds wonderful, and the simple cover of the book approaches the design in the American edition by McKnight Kauffer.
In Ramuz’s own words on the last page of the book below.