Erhard von Büren: Wespenzeit (Wasp Days)


The latest addition to my website is Erhard von Büren‘s Wespenzeit (Wasp Days). This is the second novel I have read by this Swiss author and I must say that I enjoyed it more than his first one. Like that novel, this is the story of an ordinary man, in this case a municipal librarian in a small Swiss town. It is summer. His wife and two daughters are away on holiday and he is standing in for his boss, so cannot accompany his family. Instead of doing the extra work needed, he spends his time daydreaming, primarily about his past life. His past life includes his various romances – he examines each one in detail – but also his time in Paris, with pregnant wife, daughter and mistress and his learned Swiss friends, fellow sociology students. Sex is a key part but by no means the only part, as he skilfully, wittily and at times cynically dissects his own life and the life of those around him. It is very well done, telling of a fairly ordinary life with great humour, careful observation and at times considerable self-knowledge. Fortunately, the book has been translated into English and should appear late next month (August).

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  1. Heidi Inman

    A great read for Book Clubs.
    I read this book in one go. Somehow you just get carried along in the flow. Nothing really dramatic happens but you’re captivated by the different personalities the narrator engages with – in the small Swiss town where he now works as a librarian, in Zurich where he went to university, in Paris where he lived for a couple of years with his wife and little daughter. I liked his reminiscences about all the love affairs and almost-love affairs in his youth – a kind of coming of age story. His description of how he came to have an academic career in Zurich and Paris is particularly amusing. In fact the whole story is told with a great deal of humour. There are descriptions of family life with his wife and two daughters, and we also get a good idea of what life is like in a small Swiss provincial town. The book ends with a journey to China, in a lyrical stream-of-consciousness account by the narrator on his the flight back to Zurich.
    And now I want to reread the book – I read it so fast and it is so many-layered that I’m sure a second reading would be worthwhile.

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