The Gilded Chalet
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The Gilded Chalet : Off-Piste in Literary Switzerland

3.93 (15 ratings by Goodreads)
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Rainy summer of 1816. Paparazzi train their telescopes across Lake Geneva on the hanky-panky of Byron, Shelley and their womenfolk. Mary Shelley is inspired to write Frankenstein. Byron diets and dashes off The Prisoner of Chillon while his doctor, 'Pollydolly', gives birth to The Vampyre. Percy Shelley almost drowns in the lake. Together they put Switzerland on the literary map. From Caesar, Rousseau and the Romantics, from Conan Doyle to le Carre, Hesse and Highsmith writers have scratched their names on the Swiss chalet. In the nineteenth century they came for fresh air, fresh milk and the sublime scenery, escaping tuberculosis and smog. Switzerland became spa central, a place of health fads, luxury hotels and nude sunbathing. Sherlock Holmes fell to his death only to be resurrected. H. G. Wells thought he'd died and gone to heaven. Hermann Hesse had himself buried to the neck as a cure for alcoholism. Thomas Mann wrote The Magic Mountain and lusted after the sailor suits. Neutral Switzerland became a haven in the twentieth century for Borges, Joyce, Remarque, Hemingway, Fitzgerald, Nabokov and Highsmith.They wrote their classic works up some secluded valley, in a coldwater flat in Zurich or in a five-star hotel. The Gilded Chalet took them in and gave them a suite with a view. Anarchists, spies and detectives came too. Sherlock Holmes, Maugham's Ashenden, Fleming's Bond, le Carre's spooks and double agents. Glauser and Durrenmatt invented Swiss noir - not a chocolate but a style. Behind the squeaky-clean facade, Swiss and foreign writers often found something rotten in the state. Laundered art and money, the world's slush funds, daylight robbery. Switzerland's travel writers Maillart, Eberhardt, Schwarzenbach and Bouvier couldn't wait to make their escape to a bigger air and a warmer climate. The Gilded Chalet is crammed with old lederhosen and new butterflies, spas and spies, fool's gold and numbered accounts. Part detective work, part treasure chest, full of history and scandal, award-winning writer Padraig Rooney takes you on a grand tour of two centuries of great writing by both Swiss and foreign authors and shows how Switzerland has always been at the centre of literary Europe.show more

Product details

  • Hardback | 320 pages
  • 154 x 240 x 68mm | 630g
  • Hodder & Stoughton General Division
  • NICHOLAS BREALEY PUBLISHING
  • London, United Kingdom
  • English
  • 1857886364
  • 9781857886368
  • 232,646

Review quote

With a sharp eye for detail and a historian's capacious knowledge, Padraig Rooney has written a superbly amusing guide to all the writers who've been drawn to or emerged from Switzerland. This is a book that should be stuffed into every stocking - the perfect Christmas gift! -- Edmund White, author of The Flaneur Constantly engaging. and highly entertaining. Rooney is almost casually brilliant on Joyce, Nabokov and Mann, but revelatory on such as Durrenmatt and Frisch. He shows a deftness of touch but can, too, be powerful. A love letter to reading that does not shy away from the sins of reality. The Herald An enjoyable wander around literary Switzerland. The Gilded Chalet tracks the snow prints, shattered booze-glasses and missed spy drops of the likes of Rousseau, Byron, Hemingway and le Carre, sniffing the air of inspiration they found in the hills, huts and bars. Wanderlust A gossipy feel [with a] touch of Clive James in its humour. What has Switzerland ever done for us? Quite a bit. Irish Mail on Sunday 'A lively and entertaining tour of literary Switzerland. Rooney has an eye for a telling anecdote. Informative and full of surprises, not least the portrait of Switzerland as a hotbed of literature and revolution.' The Tablet A fascinating look behind the scenery at how Switzerland has influenced and affected some of the greatest authors and some of my favourite books. -- Diccon Bewes, author of Swiss Watching There is a mastery in his handling of prose-rhythm which I find exciting. It is in order for an ageing writer, in a valediction to Irish readers, to essay a prophecy about Irish letters. Mr. Rooney will be a credit to them. -- Anthony Burgess A fascinating account of how Switzerland has always provided something of a refuge for writers - from war, oppression, tuberculosis and even marriage - as well as an inspiration to them too. The Bookseller The Gilded Chalet entertains, informs and whets the appetite for more. And there are more discoveries in Rooney's tasty assortment of literary bonbons. Portland Book Reviewshow more

About Padraig Rooney

Padraig Rooney was born in Ireland and studied at Maynooth College and at the Sorbonne. When he was sixteen he first came to Switzerland, saw the Rolling Stones in Berne, and never looked back. He has lived in Switzerland for fifteen years, and teaches English at International School Basel. He worked as a freelance travel writer for many years, for the Irish Times, Irish Press, Sunday Tribune, Bangkok Post, and many Asian magazines. www.padraigrooney.comshow more

Review Text

With a sharp eye for detail and a historian's capacious knowledge, Padraig Rooney has written a superbly amusing guide to all the writers who've been drawn to or emerged from Switzerland. This is a book that should be stuffed into every stocking - the perfect Christmas gift! Edmund White, author of The Flâneurshow more

Rating details

15 ratings
3.93 out of 5 stars
5 20% (3)
4 53% (8)
3 27% (4)
2 0% (0)
1 0% (0)
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