Charles-Ferdinand Ramuz: Derborence (When the Mountain Fell)


The latest addition to my website is Charles-Ferdinand Ramuz‘s Derborence (When the Mountain Fell). This novel is based on an actual historical event. In 1714 a large part of the Diabelerets mountain in Switzerland sheered off and fell on the village of Derborence. Twenty people and numerous animals were killed. There was a further fall thirty years later. This fictitious story is about Antoine Point. With his colleague Séraphin, he had gone up the mountain to the fine pasture lands to look after their animals. They stayed in a chalet built for that purpose. One night, there was an almighty crash. The villagers thought it was just a storm. However, the next morning a dust cloud covered the area. Eventually they realised what has happened and the dead, including Séraphin and Antoine were mourned. Ramuz gives an excellent description of both the landscape and the reaction of the local villagers. Two months later a man crawls out of a hole and descends to the village. It is, by all appearances, Antoine but he is pale and seems smaller. Many of the villagers think he is a ghost, particularly when he is eager to return to the mountain. Even his wife has her doubts. This is another excellent story by Ramuz, about the power of the mountains and the fear they inspire in those who live on or near them.

5 thoughts on “Charles-Ferdinand Ramuz: Derborence (When the Mountain Fell)”

  1. This is such a fine novel, one of my favorites. If I were a writer of fiction, it’s one of the novels I would choose to study carefully, as Ramuz does remarkable things with perspective, tense, color, space, silence. I’ve read several other novels by him, but this is the one to which I keep coming back. I’ve read it in both the French original and in the English translation – When the Mountain Fell – by Sarah Fisher Scott. Scott takes some liberties, but I almost like her translation better than the original.

    • I read it in French so cannot comment on the translation but, I agree with you, it certainly is a fine novel and deserves to be better known.

  2. This was the first novel I ever read. I might have been seven or eight. I chose it from my mothers library because it was small. It has been with me all of my life.i reread it in my sixties and was filled with joy to realize where my hope came from during difficult times. Read it and see why a little girl who was afraid of the dark lost her fear.

  3. Great Novel indeed. I especially like the description of silence at the beginning of the novel. Now, you should visit Derborence. It is a magical place and if you’re lucky you will even see the rare lammergeier. The following photos and videos of lammergeiers were taken above Derborence. NB: “Bibou” is the strange nickname the author gives to lammergeiers. Enjoy:



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