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TripFiction attends the 22nd Literature Festival Leukerbad

2nd July 2017

In its 22nd year, the Leukerbad Literature Festival  – #ILL17 – made for a great couple of days of author talks, literary chats, translation, writer debates and more, all in the beautiful village nestled among the vast mountains of the Valais. Coming up the hill – to 1400m where Leukerbad is located – you cannot but be impressed by the majestic setting.

Just up from the Rhone Valley, Leukerbad boasts the highest thermal baths complex in the Alps, with walks, hiking, and fabulous mountain vistas. It is a four season resort with plenty to do all year round, including skiing (both downhill and cross-country) in Winter. A delightful setting for a book festival.

This year the festival ran 30 June – 2 July 2017 and next year it is scheduled for the 6-8 July 2018. The number of people attending was in the region of 3,800, a slight increase compared with previous years. In total 37 authors attended from Europe, Asia, North and South America.

We visited several author readings, where there is an introduction and then the author goes on to read for about half an hour, extracts from his or her own work. Unlike in the UK no opportunity was offered for questions from the floor – which given, that as readers, we often want to find out more about the writing process and the thinking behind the storyline, seemed a bit of a shame. As readers we love to find out where the author will be going next with their writing, and have a level engagement that enhances understanding of the literary work.

American author John Wray, reading from his book in German

There were several top names from the literary world – a preponderance of course of authors from the German speaking world – but also international authors. In years past Paolo Coelho and Salman Rushdie have appeared.

From Lukas Bärfuss (we feature his novel set in Kigali here) on to John Wray, who is an American, living in Austria, who writes and reads in German; to Tim Parks, for whom we have a fondness because he was one of the first authors whom we added to our early database around 5 years ago (when we set up TripFiction). You can find his books on our database here – Italy is often gloriously writ large in his work! He was reading from his novel Tom and Mary, about relationship and family dynamics at which he excels.

22nd Literature Festival Leukerbad

Tim Parks reading from Tom and Mary

A rather wonderful event was held on the Gemmi Mountain at midnight. The gondolas started moving at 23.00 and visitors scaled 1000m to the Wildstrubel Hotel. There was a warming fire blazing on the mountainside to welcome the guests and the tunnel leading to the hotel was lit with atmospheric, flickering candles.

Franz Hohler reading from his memoir. Photo: Ali Ghandtschi

Here Alpinist Franz Hohler read from his memoirs to the accompaniment of Alphorn musicians Michael Büttler and Ulrich Haider. Hohler has had such a rich and varied life scaling some of the world’s highest mountains. In the background the musicians played at intervals, adding atmosphere and Swiss resonance to his storytelling.

Back down in the village over the weekend there were innumerable author events continuing around the village at a variety of selected venues. Some were held in hotels, others – like the Tim Parks event above – in the Walliser Alpentherme, a huge space which normally houses thermal pools, usually containing no doubt a gazillion litres of water. For the events, the water had been drained.The audience sat at little tables with candles, or on the steps of the jacuzzi… a really novel location (and no pun intended).

Urs Mannhart

Kathy Zarnegin

It has been a lovely way to spend a weekend in the company of authors and the literary community with international flair and culture.

Tina for the TripFiction Team

You can follow the International Literature Festival Leukerbad on Twitter and Facebook and via their website

And do come and join team TripFiction on Social Media:

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If you fancy a quick “trip” to Switzerland via a good book – #literarywanderlust – then just click here for our database!

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  1. User: Marina Sofia

    Posted on: 07/07/2017 at 8:17 am

    Sounds enchanting! Was there any translation or did you have to speak English/French/German to understand what was going on?


  2. User: JustRetiring

    Posted on: 02/07/2017 at 7:41 pm

    Thanks for the interesting summary of this alpine Literature Festival, Tina.

    Books, authors, mountains…what a seductive combination that all sounds.

    Are most of the talks in English, or in German?

    Thanks for tipping your TF hat in the direction of Tim Parks, too. What a talented, versatile writer he is, especially about all things Italian.


    1 Comment

    • User: tripfiction

      Posted on: 03/07/2017 at 11:18 am

      HI @Just Retiring – Thank you for dropping by! It was mostly in German, although there were English speaking authors – and they managed the multilingualism by having part of the session in one language, and then in another. Yes, after talking to Tim Parks I now feel inspired to return to Italy to get further into the culture of the wonderful country….