Hans Walter was born in Biel in 1912. He broke off his art history studies to work as a columnist and reviewer. During the 1930s he often travelled to Italy and Paris. In 1950 he settled by Lake Geneva with his partner, the sculptor Hans Gerber (1910−1978), and remained there, working as a freelance writer, until his death in 1992.
Walter initially wavered between painting and writing. With his twin talents for literature and art, he did not feel drawn to journalism and found support from Hermann Hesse, who saw the young writer more as a watercolourist. The early documentation of Walter’s work reflects his search for a vocation: up until the mid-1930s he wrote numerous poems – which he never returned to after 1944 – a few drafts of plays that have never been published, and the novel Christoph. In the end, it was in the “terse, pithy narrative” that Walter found the literary form with which he made his 1933 début with the private publishers Joachim Goldstein in Berlin. Glückliches Land. Ein Bilderbogen (1941), Das alte Fräulein, Der törichte Schatten (both 1942), Kleiner Alltag (1943) and other stories appeared in rapid succession; in them, Walter describes tragedies that mostly occur unnoticed, and in which he exposes the illusions and routines of self-deception that often give people a sense of stability amidst everyday life. He did not begin publishing novels until 1953. He wrote the continuation of his first such work, Güter dieses Lebens (1953), more than twenty years after it first appeared, publishing it under the title Mitläufer (1977).
Walter’s works, especially his novels, earned him awards and sponsorship from the Gutenberg Book Guild, the Swiss Schiller Foundation and the Swiss arts council Pro Helvetia, among others.