DADA and others …
about friedrich glauser — collage: bernhard gaul

friedrich glauser’s novels, together with the ones by george simenon, initiated the tradition of the slow moving atmospheric crime novel in which an eccentric old detective and his whims take the lead…

 

Once, in the legion, did I fill my flask in a tepid stream. And when I then drank the water, all of a sudden the beach came back. The long trampoline which led far out into the lake, and I stand at its end. The principle throws me in with fervour, I sink, the taste of the tepid water disgusts me. I had to vomit afterwards. The method wasn’t good to learn swimming. It took me a year until I managed, and then it still went badly.

from: in the reform school

Einmal in der Legion, hatte ich meine Feldflasche in einem lauen Flüsschen gefüllt. Und als ich dann das Wasser trank, war plötzlich wieder der Badestrand da. Das lange Sprungbrett, das weit in den See hinausführte, und ich stehe am Ende. Mit Schwung schmeisst mich der Direktor hinein, ich sinke unter, der Geschmack des lauen Wassers ist widerlich. Nachher habe ich erbrechen müssen. Die Methode war nicht gut, um das Schwimmen zu erlernen. Ich brauchte ein Jahr, bis ich es konnte, und dann ging es noch schlecht.

aus: im landerziehungsheim

The afternoon is sunny and hot. Up in the branches of the high old trees occasionally a bird whistles in its sleep. I have a bit of a bad conscience, because I should be at a lecture about the Chanson de Roland. But the entertainment here, despite its tackiness, is undoubtedly better.

from: dada

Der Nachmittag ist sonnig und heiss. In den Zweigen der hohen alten Bäume pfeift manchmal ein Vogel im Schlaf. Ich habe ein wenig ein schlechtes Gewissen, denn ich sollte eigentlich an eine Vorlesung über das Rolandslied. Aber die Unterhaltung ist hier trotz ihrer Abgeschmacktheit unzweifelhaft interessanter.

aus: dada

To drink Patschuli leaned far back. With his plump lips he had sucked himself tight onto the tin rim of the cup and then, with his tongue, went on to mop up the bottom. He didn’t get up again, instead he left his head lying on Lös’ knees.
The weight of the head on his knees aroused Lös - And the warmth of the unfamiliar body tore cracks into his loneliness. He lifted the hand and stroked the short hair Patschuli’s. This touching, which was like laying a claim, lifted, from the depth, a forgotten memory.

from: gourrama

Um zu trinken, hatte sich Patschuli weit nach hinten gelehnt. Mit prallen Lippen hatte er sich am Blechrand der Tasse festgesaugt und dann mit der Zunge noch den Boden ausgeleckt. Er richtete sich nicht mehr auf, sondern blieb mit dem Kopf auf Lös Knien liegen.
Das Gewicht des Kopfes auf seinen Knien erregte Lös. Und die Wärme des fremden Körpers riss Sprünge in seine Einsamkeit. Er hob die Hand und streichelte die kurzen Haare Patschulis. Diese Berührung, die wie ein Besitzergreifen war, hob aus der Tiefe ein vergessenes Erlebnis.

aus: gourrama

friedrich glauser: born on february 4th 1896 in vienna. 4 years old his mother dies. he stays with relatives in florence and aussig/bohemia. leipzig. the father re-marries, after desperation and addiction (drink) runs a rigorous regime. again vienna. 1909: the father separates from his 2nd wife; glauser, accused of having stolen money, runs away to bratislava …

reform school glarisegg (switzerland), 1913 geneva, collège de genève, 1915 military school in thun and interlaken. glauser studies to become a petty officer, but will be dismissed soon (“sluggish”, “no energy”, “of bad influence on the people”). he moves to zurich, registers at the university. instead of studying he engages in the local bohemia. 1917: zurich is one of the centres of the european avant-garde, political refugees (lenin). glauser gets acquainted with the dadaists, performs with tristan tzara, hugo ball, emmy hennings, marcel janko and others. reads own poems. despite that glauser is, today, hardly associated with dada. he is at the centre of modernism, but his literary ambitions are little evolved. much talent, but “(…) he was more interested in living than writing. (…) He wrote as if playing, as pastime, just so on the side.“ (emmy ball-hennings)

the father doesn’t tolerate glauser’s life. he has him observed, police and solicitor survey him, his finances. personal talks are refused by the father.

zurich, too, is for glauser the definitive entry into addiction. attempted suicides. „The desire to escape the reality of daily life was, during the war, also in the neutral countries very strong.“ (glauser) first sniffing of chloroform and ether at the reform school, now morphium. in the course of medical treatment he receives the first shot, after that he obtains the “Mo” through thefts and prescription forgeries. he gets caught.

on january 18th 1918, shortly before his 22nd birthday, zurich county council declares glauser incompetent in absentia because of “his lewd and excessive life style.” his life thereafter: institutions, rehab, prison,… the declaration of incompetence never gets cinded for the rest of his life.


This article appeared first in UNITAT 5/93

The young man stares; his pupils are very big, so big, that the colour of the iris is unrecognizable. Also the features of his face are strangely stiff and without motion. And while constable Malan still considers whether the man might be drunk, he sways wilder, half undressed, grabs with his hand into the air, doesn’t find a hold and bangs with the back of his head onto the pavement. Then he lies still, only the rubber heels of his brown loafers drum a quiet march onto the asphalt. Malan leans over the young man and murmurs: “But he isn’t drunk, he doesn’t smell of wine, not of Schnaps.”

from: the tea oft the three old ladies

Der junge Mann glotzt; die Pupillen seiner Augen sind sehr gross, so gross, dass die Farbe der Iris gar nicht zu erkennen ist. Ausserdem sind die Züge des Gesichts merkwürdig starr und unbewegt. Und während Polizist Malan noch überlegt, ob der Mann eigentlich besoffen ist, schwankt der Halbendkleidete stärker, greift mit den Händen in die Luft, findet keinen Halt und knallt mit dem Hinterkopf aufs Pflaster. Dann liegt er ruhig, nur die Gummiabsätze seiner braunen Halbschuhe trommeln einen leisen Marsch auf den Asphalt. Malan beugt sich über den jungen Mann und murmelt : „Der ist ja gar nicht betrunken, er riecht nicht nach Wein, nicht nach Schnaps.“

aus: der tee der drei alten damen

With that the topic was exhausted. Next were the associations. If the ps(ychiatirsts) would just be smarter. Theft (I associate): regret, compulsion, hunger.
Father: punishment, hate useless. To hate: blows, mercy, tears, useless, hate, literature.
The poor man.

from: diary from the asylum

Damit war das Thema erschöpft. Es kamen die Assoziationen an die Reihe. Wenn die Ps(ychiater) doch raffinierter wären. Diebstahl (assoziiere ich): Reue, Zwang, Hunger.
Vater: Strafe, Hass nutzlos. Auf Hass: Vater, Schläge, Mitleid, Tränen, nutzlos, Hass, Literatur.
Der arme Herr.

aus: tagebuch aus dem irrenhaus

may 1935: a turning point in glauser’s life, the work on his first seargent studer novel. the first sentence: “One doesn’t want to take part anymore.” (“Studer remained a moment in the door frame. Two horizontal, two vertical iron bars crossed the window high above. The gable of a house could be seen – with old black bricks – and above it fluttered, as a blinding blue cloth, the sky.// But someone was hanging from the lower bar! The leather belt was tied strongly and formed a knot. A skewed body formed a dark contrast against the whitewashed wall. The feet rested strangely twisted on the bed. And at the neck of the hanged man glistened the belt buckle, because a ray of sunshine hit it from above.// ‘God in Heavens!’ exclaimed Studer, darted ahead, jumped onto the bed – astonishing the warden Liechti with his agility – grabbed the body with his right arm while the left hand untied the knot.”)
in-between lie 17 years of relapses into addiction, abrupt rehabs, psychiatric asylum burghölzli, 1921: two years foreign legion in morocco which belong to the richest as far as material and experience for his later literature is concerned. dismissed because of a weak heart, cities: paris, ascona, work as dishwasher, work as coalminer in the region charleroi/belgium, forced labour institution witzwil,… over and again asylum münsingen, a diploma as gardener from the gardening school oeschberg-koppingen near bern. asylum waldau, open colony schönbrunn. friendship with the dancer beatrix gutekunst. 1933 he wrote guarrama, the later famous novel from the foreign legion (published 1937/38).

„Einer will nicht mehr mitmachen.“ (“Studer blieb einen Augenblick auf der Schwelle stehen. Zwei waagrechte, zwei senkrechte Eisenstangen durchkreuzten das Fenster, das hoch oben lag. Der Dachfirst eines Hauses war zu sehen – mit alten, schwarzen Ziegeln – und über ihm wehte als blendend blaues Tuch der Himmel.// Aber an der unteren Eisenstange hing einer! Der Ledergürtel war fest verknüpft und bildete einen Knoten. Dunkel hob sich ein schiefer Körper von der weissgekalkten Wand ab. Die Füsse ruhten merkwürdig verdreht auf dem Bett. Und im Nacken des Erhängten glänzte die Gürtelschnalle, weil ein Sonnenstrahl sie von oben traf. // ‚Herrgott!‘ sagte Studer, schoss vor, sprang aufs Bett – und der Wärter Liechti wunderte sich über die Beweglichkeit des älteren Mannes – packte den Körper mit dem rechten Arm während die linke Hand den Knoten aufknüpfte.“)

first publications, 1934: first prize at the short story competition of the schweizer spiegel; glauser writes his first crime novel der tee der drei alten damen/the tea oft he three old ladies, still immature, reminiscent of the colportage novel. opium, petroleum, exotic people…

seargent studer is a counter conception (to the father, to glauser, his unruly life?). a seargent who can listen, who is persistent, stubborn, too (a “berner head”), demoted from commissar to simple seargent because of a financial affair of which he was made the culprit. still, it is he who gets called for the difficult cases.

schlumpf erwin murder, the original title of the first studer novel, later published as seargent studer [thumbprint], very soon made into a film. a provincial crime story set in a village (gerzenstein, the village of “shops and loudspeakers”), which studer moves into to “familiarize himself with the environment” – his forte which he relies on to solve his cases = glauser’s forte as author. glauser: “Not the crime cases as such, not the unmasking of the culprit and the solution are the main theme, but the people and the atmosphere in which they move.”

the mental asylum is for the third studer novel what swiss village life is for the first one. in matto’s realm: matto, lunacy. a patient has escaped from the institution ranslingen. again studer moves in to familiarize himself, takes a room in the asylum and discovers all sorts of things, not just a murder, but also a love story which reflects glauser’s own experience with his love to the nurse berthe bendel. with her help he gets finally out of the institution, out of switzerland even. he wants to marry her, later.

matto rules, but not just in institutions like the waldau in which glauser writes the novel, outside, too, in the world, in the radio, when the voice from germany announces: “Two thousand men and women have gathered to cheer me on (…)”.

 

... He doesn’t even need to be clever and skilful. It is enough if he has empathy and common sense. But most importantly: he must be brought close to us and not remain in those lofty heights, in which people stay dry after a heavy shower and in which all razor blades cut smoothly. He must get down from his pedestal, the smarty pants! He must react like you and me. Let’s give him a family, a wife, children – Why should he always be single? And should he indeed walk through life unmarried, his only concern to solve criminal mysteries, then at least he should have a girlfriend who gives him a hard time…

from: open letter about the “ten commandments for the crime novel”

… Er braucht gar nicht findig und geschickt zu sein. Es genügt, wenn er über Einfühlungsvermögen und einen gesunden Menschenverstand verfügt. Vor allem aber: er muss uns nahe gebracht werden und nicht mehr in jenen fernen Höhen, in denen man nach einem Regen trocken bleibt und in der alle Rasierklingen tadellos schneiden. Er muss herunter von seinem Sockel, der Schlaumeier! Er muss reagieren wie sie und ich. Versehen wir ihn mit diesen Reaktionen, geben wir ihm Familie, eine Frau, Kinder – Warum soll er immer Junggeselle sein? Und wenn er doch unbeweibt durchs Leben pilgern soll, einzig darauf bedacht, kriminelle Rätsel zu lösen , so soll er wenigstens eine Freundin haben, die ihm das Leben sauer macht…

aus: offener brief über die „zehn gebote fuer den kriminalroman“

glauser is successful. he can live from his work as an author. he moves to angles near charters with berthe bendel, to the sea, lives and writes there. later they move to brittany. 1937: glauser reads from gourrama on swiss radio. he creates 5 crime novels in 3 years, the manuscript of the last one, the chinaman, gets lost (stolen?) on a train journey. it’s december 1937, it should have been submitted for a competition by the end of the month. glauser is granted a month’s extension, dictates the novel in ten days. he relapses under the strain. again rehab.

glauser and berthe bendel want to marry: in italy, because berthe is german. in fascist italy, they think, it might be easier to get the required documents. bureaucracy takes its time, though, and burdens them. glauser initially writes steadily, but then appears to get more depressed than usual. fear not to measure up to new expectations? not to have anything to say anymore… ?

on december 6th, the day before the planned wedding, glauser collapses and doesn’t open his eyes again. for 30 hours he is still breathing. on december 8th he died.

 

 

 

 

 

 


the following crime novels are readily available in english: thumbprint (wachtmeister studer), in matto’s realm (matto regiert), spoke (die speiche), fever (die fieberkurve), the chinaman (der chinese).
gourrama was translated into french and italian but, unfortunately, doesn’t seem to have been published in english.
the biographical notes as well as many of the quotes are taken from frank göhre’s book: zeitgenosse glauser, which is itself a magnificent collage of photos, letters and texts by and about glauser with a very subtle interpretration by the author.
all translations bg.
 

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