Jo Van Gogh-Bonger, the widow of Vincent van Gogh’s brother Theo decides to make Vincent world famous, using the many paintings she has left after her husband died. In this day and age Gina, a student, traces her work and story. A calmly paced story, so calm it felt as if the first two thirds were an introduction to the actual story. Yet a story that gets stronger towards the end. Read with much pleasure.

I bought this book by Swiss author Simone Meier last month in Zürich, when it had just been published.

Les pissenlits, Vincent van Gogh 1889, as we saw it in Winterthur the week I bought Die Entflammten about how Jo Van Gogh-Bonger shaped his legacy.

Swiss author and playwright, picked the book up in Zurich in 2024. I thoroughly enjoyed Die Erfindung des Ungehorsams (2021), the invention of disobedience, and read it in one sitting. Well told, many beautiful sentences. Three women in NYC, China and England are followed as they try to understand the world. Their stories are interwoven through the emergence of AI driven automatons grasping their true autonomy. One because she sees the future in Babbage’s machinery and determines how to program them, one making sex dolls in China that get fitted with AI, one hosting Manhattan dinner parties where she tells, invents?, a story and only the others eat. All three finding a way to break their constraints, and become disobedient to their surroundings. A multilayered work, as one critic Daniela Janser wrote, a poetic homage to the oldest programming language of all, imagination. I will probably buy her more recent work Vor aller Augen, before all eyes, soon.

Teenage boy lost connection to his world and starts blogging as a school project, or rather journal writing because he never publishes a thing. The reader spends 142 pages inside the teenagers journal and head. This being a teenager’s head there’s no narrative arc really, just teenage slang, angst and endless second-guessing of themself and others. This novella (billed as a novel) was originally published in 2017, I read the 2024 pocket version. I picked this book in German up in a Zürich book store this week from the Swiss literature section, where it was hailed as a recent ‘classic’. It was ok, mostly because it was short anyway, but not recommended. Had it been longer I probably would have left it unfinished. The reason it gained attention in Switzerland seems to be its use of teenage and informal language as an apparant novelty. I think in other languages that sort of thing is decades old, no?

It was like spring this week in Switzerland, and it was very pleasant to be outside. Wednesday we went to see the Rhine falls near Schaffhausen. There weren’t many people around. We walked across the railwaybridge to the other riverside for lunch in Neuenhausen. Along the right bank is a footpath with nice views of the falls. On the left bank, where we parked, the access to the viewpoints requires buying tickets. Looking around on the map where to explore next we spotted a photo museum in nearby Winterthur but it was between expositions. Instead we decided on visiting the Beim Stadthaus location of the Winterthur Kunstmuseum which has a collection of 20th century art.

We had the museum entirely to ourselves. We were the only three visitors. To enjoy at our leisure a wide range of works. It was great. In the 1916 museum building which also houses the natural museum, the halls are a bland beige and the works are presented without context, almost without information even. Just a name and a date. Being in there alone felt like discovering a forgotten wing of an old building that happened to have all these beautiful works of art in them. Or like being in a school building after hours when everyone else is gone. Being the only one in what is normally a frequented public building. Like you’re not supposed to be there, to have some personal time with all these works of art.

Van Gogh, Matisse, Monet, Giacometti, Calder, Arp, Mondriaan, Picasso, Braque and many more. Just us three to enjoy them, stand up close, talk about them. Walk away, come back to compare. Watch for a long time. No one also wanting their turn to look from the best angle, or trying to get a better picture.
Normally on public display, it became a fully private visit, which made it a very different quality of experience.
Who knew Winterthur held these unexpected treasures.

works by Van Gogh, Rodin, and Monet

Van Gogh and Rodin.

Painting by Leger, sculpture by Duchamp-Villon

Works by Mondriaan, Calder, Van Doesburg, Arp and Täuber-Arp

We spent this week in Switzerland, staying with friends. Tuesday the three of us went to Zürich, just strolling and exploring the city. Thoroughly enjoyed a pop-up art gallery with some graduation projects of the local art academy, at the Spiegelgasse square of Dada fame. Also spent quite some time exploring the Swiss literature section and their German language SF section in the Orell Füssli bookstore on Füsslistrasse, Switzerland’s largest bookstore so they claim. As a teenager in school I read quite a bit of Swiss author Max Frisch (1911-1991), whose 1957 Homo Faber made a deep impression on me. Later when E and I were in the alps of Wallis in 2005 we stumbled across a rich vein of original German SF in a book store in the old Brig post office (part of the Orell Füssli chain it turns out).

I ended up buying books from four Swiss authors and one German author:

Some links I thought worth reading the past few days