About Martha Kennedy
Award winning author, Martha Kennedy has published three works of historical fiction. Her first novel, Martin of Gfenn, which tells the story of a young fresco painter living in 13th century Zürich, was awarded the Editor’s Choice by the Historical Novel Society Indie Review and the BRAG Medallion from IndieBRAG in 2015.
Her second novel, Savior, also an BRAG Medallion Honoree (2016), tells the story of a young man in the 13th century who fights depression by going on Crusade. Her newest novel, The Brothers Path, a loose sequel to Savior, looks at the same family three hundred years later as they find their way through the Protestant Reformation.
Kennedy has also published many short-stories and articles in a variety of publications from the Denver Post to the Business Communications Quarterly.
Kennedy was born in Denver, Colorado and earned her undergraduate degree in American Literature from University of Colorado, Boulder and her graduate degree in American Literature from the University of Denver. She has taught college and university writing at all levels, business communication, literature and English as a Second Language.
For many years she lived in the San Diego area, most recently in Descanso, a small town in the Cuyamaca Mountains. She has recently returned to Colorado to live in Monte Vista in the San Luis Valley.
To learn more about Kennedy’s award-winning novels, Martin of Gfenn and Savior, check out her Amazon author page: amazon.com/author/martha_ann_kennedy
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Swiss Literature in the Blink of an Eye
by Martha Kennedy
Switzerland: A small, land-locked, fantastically scenic, politically neutral, minor European country where the trains run on time and the banks keep secrets. The homeland of fondue, known for its incomparable chocolate, expensive watches and exclusive ski resorts — San Moritz and Zermatt. Some of its mountains mix notoriety with fame — Mt. Blanc, the highest in Europe, the iconic Matterhorn, the deadly Eiger North Face. Among well-known books set in Switzerland are; F. Scott Fitzgerald’s Tender is the Night, Ian Fleming’s Goldfinger, and Thomas Mann’s The Magic Mountain.
Throughout the middle ages and the early modern period, Swiss cities and families had an enormous impact on world events. The powerful Habsburg family began its ascent to power from the town of Habsburg in Switzerland. Calvinism — the foundation of many major Protestant sects — is named for a Swiss theologian, John Calvin, and is a direct offshoot of the Zürich Reformation led by Huldrych Zwingli. Anabaptist faiths — we now know as Amish and Mennonites — had their origins in the Zürich Reformation.
Some of our best loved books and most cherished ideas came to us from Swiss writers. Generations of seekers have been guided by the works of Hermann Hesse. The ideas of Johann Heinrich Pestalozzi, the “Father of Modern Education,” found their way into schools everywhere. Carl Jung gave the world psychological theories and methods that have helped many people and deepened our understanding of the human psyche. The philosophy behind the Declaration of Independence, the Bill of Rights, AND the French Revolution was influenced by Jean Jacques Rousseau’s The Social Contract — and Rousseau was Swiss.
Heidi is certainly the most famous and best-loved Swiss story. An important novel in Swiss literature is The Black Spider, or Die Schwarze Spinne, by Jeremias Gotthelf, published in 1842. The novel is a story within a story, a horror story, involving a pact with the devil. It’s scary and strange, beautifully written, and it offers a window into Swiss village life, which was more than a little xenophobic.
I enjoyed the autobiographical novel, Green Henry by Gottfried Keller, written in the middle of the 19th century. It is considered one of the most important “coming of age” works in the German language. The protagonist, Henry Lee, grows from his “green” youth (he also wears green clothing), idealistic, sensitive, artistic and romantic, to finding his place in the world. He makes a transition from a rather morose and self-indulgent boy into a socially well-adjusted man who is willing to wear the yoke of civil service cheerfully and well. While the novel is serious in its purpose, showing the transition in the zeitgeist of Keller’s time from romanticism to realism, it’s often very funny.
One of the most absurd scenes in Green Henry, in which a half-naked man emerges from a lake, covered with weeds and mud, and asks Henry for directions, happened in my own life. A friend and I had taken a hike in the mountains above the little town of Fluelen on the Lake of the Five Forest Cantons (Lake Lucerne). We were pondering whether to take the train or a ferry, when suddenly, out of the lake, came a man wearing only underwear, covered in mud and weeds. He asked if we could tell him where to find a phone.
One of my favorite Swiss books is also one of the great treasures of literature and art from the High Middle Ages, the Codex Manesse. It was compiled in the fourteenth century by a wealthy Zürich merchant, Rüdiger II Manesse, who wanted to collect and preserve the poetry and song of his time — Minnesangs — German lyric poetry, songs similar to those of the French troubadours. Besides being a compilation of lyrics, the Codex has beautifully painted illustrations, “portraits,” of the writers. Some are dressed in their heraldic or royal garb; some are engaged in a favorite pursuit (falconry, writing, chess, jousting); some of the illustrations make a visual pun on an individual poet’s name. The period of the Minnesangs lasted about two-hundred years, fading away at the end of the High Middle Ages.
Still and all, my favorite book set in the land of clocks, banks, and fondue is Asterix in Switzerland. Our heroes, Asterix, the Gaulish governor, his muscular side-kick, Obelix, and the great Druid healer, Getafix, search for an Alpine herb that is an antidote to poison. They find it, too.
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Teddy Rose Book Reviews Plus Oct 4 Kickoff & Giveaway
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Words and Peace Oct 6 Guest Post, Excerp, & Giveaway
Carole Rae’s Random Ramblings Oct 7 Review
SolaFide Book Club Oct 10 Guest Post
Serendipity Oct 11 Review & Interview
Books, books, and more books Oct 20 Review
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Deal Sharing Aunt Nov 3 Review & Giveaway
Broken Teepee Nov 4 Review, Excerpt, & Giveaway
Infinite House of Books Nov 8 Interview
Celticlady’s Reviews Nov 22 Excerpt
Teddy Rose Book Reviews Plus Nov 30 Review
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