Otto F. Walter in the SLA

In addition to his activities as a writer, Otto F. Walter (1928−1994) worked in publishing at Walter and Luchterhand. He wrote numerous novels, essays and plays. An engagement with social and political issues pervades his work. His magnum opus, Zeit des Fasans (Time of the Pheasant, 1988), is a portrait of Switzerland during the era of the Third Reich.

Portrait of Otto F. Walter wearing glasses, a dark pullover and a light-coloured shirt
Portrait of Otto F. Walter
© Peter Friedli, 1980s

Otto F. Walter grows up in Rickenbach near Olten; he is the ninth child and only son of the publisher and National Council member Otto Walter. After leaving school, he pursues an apprenticeship as a bookseller in Zurich. Between 1956 and 1966, Walter puts together a highly regarded programme of modern literature in his family’s Walter publishing house in Olten, including the first publications by Peter Bichsel and others. A rift opens up with the firm’s conservative management following the publication of a poem by Ernst Jandl.

Walter moves to Darmstadt, where he is in charge of the literature programme at the publisher Luchterhand from 1967 to 1973. After returning to Switzerland, he lives near Solothurn and works as a freelance writer. 

In 1959 Walter makes his début with the novel Der Stumme. He writes seven novels in all, the most important of which is Zeit des Fasans (Time of the Pheasant, 1988), a portrait of Switzerland during the Second World War. He also pens a number of plays. Moreover, he is a prolific writer of essays and is actively involved in party politics. 

The work of Otto F. Walter is marked by intense social criticism and a quest for new forms of coexistence. He increasingly develops new linguistic and stylistic forms in which to tackle his subjects, and makes the novel genre a fertile receptacle for the concerns of late 20th-century society. In the process, Walter employs the technique of the montage novel. The fictional town of Jammers at the southern end of the Jura mountain range is a recurrent setting for his narratives.

Last modification 17.12.2020

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