Charles-Ferdinand Ramuz: La Grande Peur dans la montagne (Terror on the Mountain)


The latest addition to my website is Charles-Ferdinand Ramuz‘s La Grande Peur dans la montagne (Terror on the Mountain). This is a first-class 1920s Swiss novel, which has been translated into English though is sadly long since out of print in English. It tells the story of a small Alpine community. There is some wonderful grazing land in the mountains. However, when it was used twenty years ago, something happened. What exactly happened is not clear but what is clear is that two people died, strange noises were heard and the remaining men were so terrified that they fled, never to return. However, there is now a new generation in charge and they plan on sending some of the communal cattle up to this grazing land. The older generation are totally opposed but they are outvoted. Seven men are, with difficulty, recruited for the task of looking after the cattle and making the cheese over the three month summer period, including one of the men who was there twenty years ago. He, however,is protected by a piece of paper with a blessing from Saint Maurice. However, when they get there, there are strange noises, the shadows from the setting sun give the impression of strange creatures and the glacier seems to be moving towards them. The youngest one flees and returns to his mother, in a state of absolute terror. The castle mysteriously contract foot and mouth disease, though none of the cattle in the valley get it. Gradually, the minds of the men start imagining more and more. This is a superb book about imagined fear. There are no monsters, at least none that we see, only the mountain having its way.

4 thoughts on “Charles-Ferdinand Ramuz: La Grande Peur dans la montagne (Terror on the Mountain)”

  1. I’ve been a big fan of C.-F. Ramuz since I read his Derborence (in translation as When the Mountain Fell), and while that still remains my favorite of the 4-5 novels I’ve read by him, I like this one a lot too. He has a great talent for taking regional writing and drawing universality out of it. Michelle Bailat-Jones has recently translated another of his works (Beauty on Earth in English), so hopefully we’ll be seeing more of them come back into print or get re-issued in new translations.

    • I shall be getting round to Derborence soon and, following your recommendation, shall look forward to it. I fear though, on the whole, he is relatively unknown in the English-speaking world.


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