Like a play on words, the syllables of the Italian book title stand above the three chapters of this collection of stories. “Li” means “there” in English, “qui” means “here” and “liquida” translates as “fluid”, but can also mean “he liquidates” or the imperative form “liquidate!”. The feel for language, its sound and the desire to play with it typify all of the stories in Anna Felder’s book. Not until the final story does the author reveal the secret surrounding “Liquida”, leaving readers to ponder over “the intricacies of liquidity”.

The stories in the first part of the book are set in Switzerland. In “Merlot im Tarnmantel”, the author depicts a train journey through the Gotthard. The first-person narrator observes a woman who has poured Merlot into a water bottle. Perhaps she has done this to prevent her fellow passengers speculating about her wine drinking, or perhaps so that her memories of Ticino remain undisturbed.

“A play thing of the infinite ocean: at home, between the everyday objects and names which still float to the surface a bit, gently and inconspicuously. The telephone no longer rings impertinently...” This is the start of the story of “Madame Germaine”, in the third part, in which an ageing woman attempts to come to terms with her diminishing ability to hear. It is funny to read how switching the receiver from one ear to the other can trigger things and change perspectives. Here the sea symbolises the silence which increasingly surrounds Madame Germaine.

To mark her 80th birthday, Anna Felder collected unpublished and revised stories which are now also available in German translation. The author writes about a world that she is familiar with and observes keenly. Everyday events are reflected intricately and often figuratively in short texts into which subtle irony is always interwoven. Every story appears honed at length so that it finally sparkles in many ways. These are short stories which can be seen in a new light every time they are re-read.

Anna Felder, born in 1937, grew up in Lugano and had a German-speaking Swiss father and an Italian mother. She studied literature in Zurich and Paris. She then taught Italian at the old cantonal school in Aarau. Today, the author lives in Aarau and Lugano. In February 2018, she was awarded the Swiss Grand Prix for Literature by the Swiss Confederation for her lifetime’s work.

Ruth von Gunten


Anna Felder: “Liquida”; Edizioni Opera Nuova 2017; 110 pages; CHF 20

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