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Museum explores Dürrenmatt, Hesse and Rilke’s relationship to wine

The Museum Centre Dürrenmatt in Neuchâtel is showing the traveling exhibition "Dürrenmatt, Hesse, Rilke and Wine" from February 3 to May 19. The writers Friedrich Dürrenmatt, Hermann Hesse and Rainer Maria Rilke each had a special relationship with wine - and with Switzerland.

Each of the three authors had settled in a Swiss wine region in the 20th century: Friedrich Dürrenmatt in Neuchâtel, Hermann Hesse in Ticino and Rainer Maria Rilke in Valais. The exhibition uses photos, quotes and personal objects to show the relationship of each author to wine and their adopted home in the Swiss wine-growing regions.

Visitors learn, for example, that Hesse had already organized "drinking parties" as a teenager, of which he was ashamed. Rilke, on the other hand, swore at the age of 24 that he would never drink alcohol again, but enjoyed working in the vineyards of Valais. The third in the group, Dürrenmatt, loved to present himself as a "bon vivant" and owned a well-stocked wine cellar.

Omnipresent in Dürrenmatt

"Wine is omnipresent in Dürrenmatt's pictorial and literary works and is a symbol of conviviality and friendship," said Duc-Hanh Luong, research associate at the Centre Dürrenmatt. "You can find wine in his plays, but also in his autobiographical stories and in the portraits he painted of his relatives."

Although drinking is often celebrated in the texts shown in the exhibition, the darker sides such as alcohol abuse and the consequences for health are also addressed. Dürrenmatt, for example, suffered from diabetes for a large part of his life and always had to watch what he ate and drank. "Drinking too much again [...] I have to put the brakes on alcohol," the author is quoted as saying in the exhibition.

Not an easy relationship

"You can see that there is never a healthy relationship with wine," said Duc-Hanh Luong. "All three had a difficult relationship with it." Wine is not a harmless food; it can make you happy, but it can also have serious consequences.

Photographs by Valais artist Laurence Bonvin accompany the exhibition. The photographs created for the exhibition show elements of winegrowing and winemaking.

The exhibition is the result of a collaboration between the Dürrenmatt Center in Neuchâtel, the Museo Hermann Hesse in Montagnola, the Fondation Rilke in Sierre and the Wine Museum in Sierre and Salgesch.


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