German-born Swiss poet, novelist, and painter Hermann Hesse received the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1946. He explored individuals’ search for authenticity, self-knowledge, and spirituality in his works. An intense and headstrong person from childhood, he developed an early interest in reading. He started writing as a young man and became an influential author in the German-speaking world.
Initially an academic who studied subjects such as philology, literature, and natural sciences, Friedrich Dürrenmatt later decided to start a career as a full-time author. Part of the post-war revival of German theater, his tragicomic plays, such as The Physicists and The Visit, had a satiric flavor.
Johanna Spyri made a significant contribution to children’s literature with her novel Heidi. After the death of her husband and her child, the Swiss author focused on charitable causes. A professor later claimed Heidi had been plagiarized by Spyri, though later studies proved the claim was baseless.
Jerusalem Prize-winning Swiss playwright and novelist Max Frisch had initially quit his studies in literature to become a journalist. He later also worked as an architect, before taking to writing full-time. He is known for his works such as Andorra and Santa Cruz and his frequent use of irony.
Swiss-French activist and author Benjamin Constant is best remembered for penning the classic French novel Adolphe, which was one of the earliest psychological novels. Initially the chamberlain to the duke of Brunswick, he later supported the French Revolution and became a Member of the Chamber of Deputies.
Apart from being a renowned psychologist, Alice Miller became an international sensation with her debut book, The Drama of the Gifted Child, a bestseller. A Holocaust survivor, who had lost her father in a Jewish ghetto, she analyzed child abuse, including education, violence, and parental abuse.
Though a qualified lawyer, Joel Dicker soared to fame with his French thriller novel La Vérité sur l’Affaire Harry Quebert, which became a bestseller and was translated into over 30 languages. The novel later won him awards such as the Grand Prix du Roman and was made into a TV mini-series.
A Swiss cultural icon, journalist and photographer Annemarie Schwarzenbach was raised by a bisexual mother, who was an Olympic equestrian. Known for her signature androgynous style of dressing up, Annemarie was herself openly lesbian. She traveled the world, clicking major events but died in a bicycle accident at 34.
French-speaking Swiss poet Blaise Cendrars was a regular at the artists’ colony known as The Beehive. Remembered for his novels such as Bourlinguer and his poems such as Pâques à New York, he mostly included autobiographical elements in his works, such as his experiences at the front lines for the French army.
Swiss-born Cuban author Alejo Carpentier is regarded as one of the greatest Latin American literary personalities. The Cervantes Prize-winning writer was one of the pioneers of magic realism. Known for novels such as The Lost Steps, he also contributed to the Afro-Cuban movement and was the Cuban ambassador to France.
Best known for his classic The Swiss Family Robinson, originally written in German, Swiss author and pastor Johann David Wyss was apparently inspired by Defoe's Robinson Crusoe and decided to write a tale for his sons. The book was later edited and illustrated by 2 of his sons.
Born to a father who worked for a publishing company, Christian Kracht grew up to become a journalist. His work took him to places such as India and Thailand, and he later included the theme of travel in his books such as Faserland. He is married to German director Frauke Finsterwalder.
Swiss author and poet Gottfried Keller remains one of the most significant contributors to German literature. After devoting his initial years to landscape painting, he focused on poetry and eventually became a pioneer of poetic realism. He also penned novels such as Green Henry and several short story collections.
Though he initially studied law, German-Swiss author Emil Ludwig later devoted himself to writing biographies, mostly of historical personalities, such as Cleopatra, Hitler, and Napoleon. He had also been a journalist in Germany. He later theorized that Hitler may have survived by having someone else killed in his place.
Swiss cartoonist Rodolphe Topffer is remembered as the pioneer of comic strips. The son of a caricaturist, he initially taught at and ran a boarding school, where he first began drawing caricatures to attract his students’ attention. He also taught literature at the University of Geneva.
One of the best-known authors of Iran from the 20th century, Muhammad ʿAli Jamalzadah was born to a Muslim cleric and had initially studied law in France. He also taught Persian and was associated with the ILO, but is best remembered for his Persian short stories.
Isabelle de Charrière was born to a Dutch noble family but later married her brother’s Swiss teacher and settled in Switzerland. A fine novelist, known for works such as Trois Femmes and Caliste; ou, lettres écrites de Lausanne, she critiqued social conventions and aristocratic privilege.
Swiss author Albert Bitzius, best known by his pseudonym, Jeremias Gotthelf, initially followed in his father’s footsteps to become a pastor. He later came to be known for his semi-allegorical short novel The Black Spider and for his depictions of the poor rural masses of his country.
Swiss author Charles-Ferdinand Ramuz is remembered for his simple language and allegorical elements. Known for his iconic works such as Terror on the Mountain and Beauty on Earth, he narrated stories of rural people. He also taught in Germany and Switzerland and spent a considerable part of his life in Paris.
Born to a goldsmith and watchmaker, Meinrad Inglin struggled to balance his studies and work after being orphaned at 17. He later served the army and also worked as a journalist, before devoting himself to writing full-time. His works, such as Grand Hotel Excelsior, depict the realism of rural life.
Swiss folklorist and writer Johann Rudolf Wyss is best remembered for editing his father’s 1812 novel The Swiss Family Robinson. While he initially taught philosophy and then worked as a librarian, he later devoted himself to collecting folk tales. He also penned Rufst du, mein Vaterland, the previous Swiss national anthem.
One of the major figures of Rudolf Steiner’s anthroposophical movement, Albert Steffen was not just a renowned dramatist, poet, and novelist, but also a talented painter. He also headed the Anthroposophical Society and edited its review, Das Goetheanum. His plays such as Hieram und Salomo and Barrabas, remain his best-known works.
Raised in an orphanage, Jakob Schaffner initially worked as a shoemaker and later penned his journey in the novel Johannes and his subsequent 3 autobiographical novels. He later became part of a pro-Nazi group and eventually joined the Nazi Party. He was killed in an air raid on Strasbourg.
Initially a priest, Heinrich Federer decided to switch to journalism when his church career came to halt due to his asthma attacks. He later took to writing on religious themes. Saint Francis of Assisi and Mountains and Men remain two of his most notable works.
Swiss-born German-speaking author Ulrich Boner printed one of the first German-language books, The Precious Stone, a collection of fables written by him in verse. He was inspired by old sources such as Aesop’s Fables. A Bernese monk, he seems to have returned to normal life later and married a woman, too.
Swiss-born French-speaking novelist Édouard Rod is best remembered for his psychological novels such as La Course à la Mort and Le Silence. He is also considered one of the pioneers of modern comparative literary study, with works such as De la Littérature Compare. He was initially inspired by Émile Zola.
Born to a mechanic in Zurich, Albin Zollinger grew up in Switzerland and Argentina. Known for his novels such as The Thunderstorm and his poem collections such as Autumn Tranquility, he later became popular for his signature descriptions of landscapes. Apart from writing, he also worked for a Swiss engineering firm.