Maurice Chappaz in the SLA

Black-and-white portrait of Maurice Chappaz.
© Peter Friedli

Born in 1916, Maurice Chappaz grows up between Martigny and Le Châble, and goes on to study at Saint-Maurice: “In this school […] only two vocations were permitted: one could be a priest or a writer.”

Called up during the Second World War, Chappaz travels around Switzerland – “going out on manoeuvres gave me a country”, he writes in 1977 – and meets Roud, Ramuz, Matthey and Crisinel. After contributing to various periodicals, in 1944 he publishes his first book, Les Grandes Journées de printemps. The post-war years are marked by drifting and financial difficulties. Chappaz manages a vineyard in Fully, then becomes an assistant surveyor on the building site of the Grande Dixence dam; the experience later forms the subject for a book, Chant de la Grande Dixence (1965). He marries S. Corinna Bille in 1947, and until her death in 1979 they are the most famous writing couple in Switzerland.

Rooted in its landscape yet aspiring to universality, Chappaz’s oeuvre is extremely diverse, encompassing poetry (Verdures de la nuit, 1945; Le Valais au gosier de grive, 1960), prose poems (Testament du Haut-Rhône, 1953), correspondence (La Tentation de l’Orient, with Jean-Marc Lovay, 1970), pamphlets and satires (Le Match Valais-Judée, 1969; Les Maquereaux des cimes blanches, 1976), and several hundred press articles.

The majority of his writings, which receive numerous literary awards, are published by Bertil Galland, whom he regards as “the editor of [his] life”. His Portrait des Valaisans en légende et en vérité (1965) earns him considerable fame; Chappaz, a writer of mountain life enriched by travel, remains a key figure in the literature of French-speaking Switzerland until his death in 2009.

Last modification 09.11.2020

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