The Gotthard railway in literature

PR from an illustrious source
PR from an illustrious source

In 1897, before achieving his breakthrough as a writer (winning the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1919), Carl Spitteler publishes the travel guide «The Gotthard», commissioned by the Gotthard Railway Company. He is paid handsomely for the book, which he initially plans to publish anonymously. (undated, Keystone)

The Gotthard railway is a popular literary theme. In 1897, in an article commissioned by the Gotthard Railway Company, Carl Spitteler describes a train journey through the Gotthard and its history. 1947 sees the publication of Felix Moeschlin's historical novel «Wir durchbohren den Gotthard» («Drilling Through the Gotthard»). Moeschlin is an influential advocate of national spiritual defence, which promotes distinctively Swiss values and customs. The literature of the period shapes Swiss perceptions of the Alpine railways: they - and especially the Gotthard - are held up as a feat of engineering and a demonstration of what Switzerland, a nation united by choice, is capable of. The episode of the syrup bottle in the spiral tunnel in Klaus Schädelin's book for young people «Mein Name ist Eugen» («My Name is Eugen», 1955) continues to charm readers. It was filmed in 2005.

« Since a night in even the most prestigious tunnel is no different to a night in a common cellar, the excitement fades very quickly in the absence of nourishment. »

Carl Spitteler, The Gotthard, Frauenfeld 1897, p. 53

Relative frequencies of keywords in publications since the 19th century, according to Google Ngram, by language area

7'000 Swiss francs

the fee paid to Carl Spitteler for his travel guide, equivalent to around 40 months' wages for a tunnel worker; Spitteler also receives a 12-year free pass to travel in first class on the Gotthard line.

1899 year

Karl May writes his poem «On the Gotthardt», containing the line: «[...] And do you not know the strip of iron that pierces its breast of 'hard' rock? [...]».

1023 pages

(496 in volume 1, 527 in volume 2) in Felix Moeschlin’s novel «Drilling Through the Gotthard».

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