Leo Tuor was born in Rabius in the Swiss canton Graubünden in 1959. The native Rhaetian attended a German Benedictine boarding school in Disentis and later studied Philosophy, History and Literature in Zurich, Fribourg and Berlin. Tuor trained to be a secondary school teacher but is more active as a critic and editor. From 1981 to 1985 he edited the Rhaeto-Romance student newspaper ‘la Talina’ and was already making life uncomfortable for local dignitaries. For 17 years the author has spent the summer months as cowherd and later shepherd in the Alps. He spends the remainder of his time in Val, Graubünden, where he publishes prose, poetry and essays in newspapers, journals, anthologies and non-fiction books. He also works as a translator. From 1989 to 2000 Tuor worked with Iso Camartin on a six-volume annotated edition of the works of the Rhaetian poet and historian Giacun Hasper Muoth (1844-1906).
In 1988 Tuor published his extensive volume of poetry to date, ‘Giacumbert Nau’. The story of an Alpine shepherd, originally written Rhaeto-Tomance, appeared in German and French translations soon afterwards, and in 1998 a musical version with saxophone accompaniment was recorded. The author was awarded the Swiss Schiller Foundation Prize for his work, which employs the pastoral tradition in a new and unusual way. In 2004 he received the Hermann Lenz additional Prize; the same year his volume of prose “Onna Maria Tumera oder die Vorfahren” (t: Anna Maria Tumera or the ancestors) appeared which deals with the past forty years of the county of “Bünder Oberland”. Tuor poetically and critically portrays the social structure of the nonconformist, bizarre and exceptional characters. His fierce attacks on the spiritual and secular authorities in Alpine regions, which target both priests and hotel owners, distance Tuor from his homeland, ton which he is otherwise strongly attached in an almost nostalgic way. He makes full use of his poetic licence with regard to the grammar, syntax and spelling of his native language and often includes German or colloquial expressions in his works. On the other hand he pursues the ideal of simple language which he learned from the Rheatian writers.
Tuor is something of an outsider. Rheatian intellectuals from upon his summer occupation, and the people in his village feel that neither shepherding nor writing are occupations to be taken seriously. “The important thing in my world is knowing how to safely lead a herd of sheep down a dangerous incline”, is how the author evaluates his interests. “For me writing is an almost unbearable torture, like being in labour. […] If I had to choose, I would opt for the Alpine pastures.
© international literature festival berlin