The Swiss Times - Swiss News in English

“Ferymont” tells the story of work and life in the vegetable field

"Ferymont" is the first novel by the young Swiss author Lorena Simmel, who lives in Berlin. It tells the story of a summer in the Bernese Seeland, where farming dominates everyday life. A whimsical debut.

The first-person narrator has returned home from Berlin to Ferymont in Switzerland to earn some money for her studies by doing harvest work. She grew up here and is therefore familiar with the area between the three lakes.

This sets her apart from the helpers with whom she shares the work in the field or in the stuffy polytunnel. They form a community that helps each other out despite the piecework. Over the course of the seasons, they harvest asparagus, pick berries and bring in tobacco. On Sunday, they do housework and rest so that they are ready for work again on Monday morning.

The narrator willingly joins this cycle and gradually gains access to Daria, Konrad and Weronika, whose home is in Eastern Europe.

"Ferymont" is a whimsical debut in which nothing spectacular happens. The narrator records the day's work, pays attention to her work colleagues and takes a reserved interest in their lives. The physical exertion, the long working hours or the longing for home are only touched on without much ado.

Consideration and solidarity

The tragic death of Daria is mourned, but only hinted at as being the fault of the work. That may sound trivializing. However, the author seems to be concerned with something else. She paints a picture of a working community in which everyone carefully strives to create a good atmosphere. Work is life.

Trust here is not the result of personal intimacy, but of consideration and solidarity. Lorena Simmel describes it calmly and precisely. She focuses her attention on the matter-of-fact gestures, the casual gestures and the small embarrassments. From time to time, she lets her gaze wander over the Grosse Moos to readjust it. That's all it takes, and yet the book retains a subtle tension at all times.*

*This text by Beat Mazenauer, Keystone-SDA, was realized with the help of the Gottlieb and Hans Vogt Foundation.

©Keystone/SDA

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