Adolf Muschg

Portrait Adolf Muschg
© Atsuko Muschg

Adolf Muschg was born in Zollikon in the canton of Zurich in 1934. He studied German, English, and psychology at the University of Zurich and in Cambridge and completed a doctorate on Ernst Barlach. Together with Peter Bichsel, Friedrich Dürrenmatt, and Max Frisch, he was one of the secessionists who founded the Olten Group in 1969 after leaving the Swiss Writers’ Union. After guest lectureships in Japan and the USA, he was Professor of German Language and Literature at the ETH Zurich between 1970 and 1999. In 1997, he became the first director of the Collegium Helveticum at the Semper Observatory.
His first novel, »Im Sommer des Hasen« (tr: In the Summer of the Rabbit), was published in 1965, which was followed by numerous stories, plays, radio plays, screenplays, and novels such as »Sutters Glück« (2001; tr: Sutter’s Luck), »Eikan, du bist spät« (2005; tr: Eikan, You’re Late), and »Kinderhochzeit« (2008; tr: Kids Wedding). His texts often tell of searchers and stumblers and explore the question of how a person might free oneself from the influences of origin, society, and family. »Der Rote Ritter. Eine Geschichte von Parzivâl« (1993; tr: The Red Knight: The Story of Parzival) is a new interpretation of the verse novel by Wolfram von Eschenbach and is considered Adolf Muschg’s main literary work. The reference to the present is established, as so often in his works, through the narrative of a historical material. Another central theme of his literary œuvre is the exploration of foreign lands, in Muschg’s case quite specifically the mysteries of Japan, which he traveled to and explored throughout his life. With his political essays »Wenn Auschwitz in der Schweiz liegt« (1997; tr: When Auschwitz is in Switzerland) and »Was ist europäisch? Reden für einen gastlichen Erdteil« (2005; tr: What is European? Speeches for a Hospitable Continent), he took a stand on Switzerland’s coming to terms with the past and its everyday politics, thus showing himself to be involved in European political discourse. His novel »Heimkehr nach Fukushima« (2018; tr: Return to Fukushima), in which he addresses the complicated relationship between Europe and Japan and the problem of nuclear energy, also bears witness to this. Most recently, he published the novel »Aberleben« (2021). The novel follows the story of a writer suffering from cancer who leaves his marriage and Switzerland at the age of seventy to write a new book in Berlin in which he gives new life to a character he let die in the previous work.
Muschg has been honoured with numerous awards, including the Hermann Hesse Prize, the Georg Büchner Prize, the Gottfried Keller Prize, the Grimmelshausen Prize, and the Grand Prix de Littérature of Switzerland for his life’s work. He is a member of the Academy of Arts in Berlin, of which he was president from 2003 to 2006, the Academy of Sciences and Literature in Mainz, and the German Academy for Language and Poetry in Darmstadt, among others. Adolf Muschg lives near Zurich.