Padraig Rooney is an award-winning Irish poet and journalist. The Gilded Chalet: Off-piste in Literary Switzerland (Nicholas Brealey, 2015) was described by Edmund White as “a superbly amusing guide to all the writers who’ve been drawn to or emerged from Switzerland.” Hugh MacDonald in The Herald praised Rooney as “astute, properly provocative and often brilliant.” The Tablet described The Gilded Chalet as “a lively and entertaining tour of literary Switzerland … informative and full of surprises, not least in the portrait of Switzerland as a hotbed of literature and revolution.” Padraig Rooney lives in Basel.
The Gilded Chalet: Off-piste in Literary Switzerland
In the summer of 1816 paparazzi trained their telescopes on the goings on of poets Byron and Shelley - and their womenfolk - across Lake Geneva. Mary Shelley babysat and wrote Frankenstein. Byron dieted and penned The Prisoner of Chillon. His doctor, Polidori, was dreaming up The Vampyre. Together they put Switzerland on the map.
Switzerland has always provided a refuge for writers attracted to it as an escape from world wars, oppression, tuberculosis... or marriage. While often for Swiss writers from Rousseau to Bouvier the country was like a gilded prison or sanatorium. The Romantics, the utopians (Wells, D. H. Lawrence) and other spiritual seekers (Hesse), viewed Switzerland as a land of milk and honey, as nature’s paradise. In the twentieth century, spying in neutral Switzerland, spawned espionage and detective fiction from Conan Doyle to Maugham, Fleming, and Le Carré.
Padraig Rooney finds the rooms crammed with curios: lederhosen and Lepidoptera, spas and spies, fool’s gold and numbered accounts. Literary detective work and treasure chest, history and scandal, The Gilded Chalet will make you strap on your skis and come off-piste to find out the real Swiss story.