Tuesday 11 October 2016

Villette and The Professor in German and French. Part two - Switzerland


The story of Villette in Switzerland begins in April 1856, with an ad for La Maitresse d'Anglais, the Belgian-French (abridged) translation published in 1855. It’s just an internet find but it helps to give an idea about how the novel spread around Europe. In this case to the French speaking part of Switzerland.

Head of the Feuille d’avis de Neuchatel
 of 19 April 1856

Part of page 2 of the Feuille d’avis
de Neuchatel of 19 April 1856

The German speaking part of the country will have learnt about the novel earlier, in view of the 1853 German translations. The first new German translation of Villette came in 1947. It was published in
Zürich, Switzerland, by Manesse (584 pp.). As far as is known this is the oldest illustrated Villette cover of a translation. It took until 1971 before Germany had its first new translation. Switzerland also has French translations, and it’s even got a Swiss-Italian Jane Eyre.

The 1947 Swiss Villette was translated by Paola Meister-Calvino. She also translated Jane Eyre, published in 1945, wrote a novel herself. She seems to be an intriguing person. She will have been of Italian-Swiss origin – she also translated from Italian. She will have married a German-Swiss man. But unfortunately no biographical information can be found on the internet. The translated novel had at the end a piece (‘Nachwort’) about the novel written by Mary Hottinger. She was born in Liverpool in 1893 of Scottish parents and had married a Swiss man, and was living in Zürich.

Cover of the 1947 Swiss-German

This translation had one reprint, in 1957, by Büchergilde Gutenberg from Zürich. A picture of the cover cannot be found unfortunately. With only 375 pages it is an abridged edition. It says it was “bearbeitet” by Meister-Calvino, which means revised, or edited.

A new Swiss translation, by Ilse Leisli, was published in Zürich by Manesse, firstly in 1984. Ilse Leisi-Gugler (1913-1999) has also translated Jane Austen novels, Middlemarch, and Washington Irving’s Rip van Winkle. The second edition was published in 1986, the third in 1991. They all have the same cover, and 846 pages, and an afterword by Leisli too.

Cover of the 1984, 1986 and 1991
Manesse Villette


The first Swiss-French Villette, of 1950, we have already seen in the cover top 6 article, on number three. It was translated by Roger Villemin.

Cover of the 1950 Swiss-French

It had a reprint, by the same publisher, Montaudon from Lausanne, in 1963. Unfortunately the cover of that edition cannot be found.

Le Professeur

A Swiss-French translation of The Professor was published in 1971 in Lausanne, a translation by Janine Rebersat et Jacques Papy

Cover of the 1971 Swiss-French
The Professor

Apart from the above mentioned 1945 Meister-Calvino Jane Eyre there are also an adapted 1944 Jane Eyre and an adapted Shirley in Swiss-French.

In the first Dutch translations article we saw the Swiss artist André Nicolas Suter who had illustrated the first Dutch 1968 Villette. He made more illustrations for this book, of which the following picture is one, of the last but one chapter. It is quite remarkable that no Villettes with these illustrations in other countries have been found.

Illustration for the first 1958 Dutch Villette


Villette is a former municipality in the Swiss canton of Vaud. There is a Hotel Villette in Zürich. And MS Emily Brontë is a Swiss operated river cruise ship , newly built, offering trips in several European countries.

Switzerland is a great contrast to its neighbouring (German speaking) country, Austria. That is a country about which, in this regard, nothing can be said.

Eric Ruijssenaars

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