The Classic Writer Inspires Valais Students

A class in the Kollegium was recently asked: “Who is Rilke?” First there was silence and then, from the last row: “Isn’t he the one whose grave is next to the church in Raron?” This anecdote is not meant to spread cultural pessimism, but to show that we can no longer assume that this writer who chose to be Valaisian is recognized as classic in Valais—neither by children nor by adults. Being forgotten does have one advantage, however: forgotten authors can be rediscovered and, seen with fresh eyes, they can be reanimated.

One can rediscover Rilke the letter writer, for example, most particularly in his correspondence with Nanny Wunderly-Volkart. Rilke wrote approximately 470 letters or telegrams to his confidante in the last years of his life. These letters offer a kind of Valaisian diary, switching impulsively between perspectives and languages—an ideal source of inspiration to introduce young Valaisians to the many possibilities of literature ‘addressed’ to another. Within the scope of the 2018 workshop for young writers, two classes at the Kollegium Brig will write fictional letters under the guidance of Christine Pfammatter and André Vladimir Heiz.

This project is a cooperation between the Rilke Foundation, which is currently preparing an exhibition centered on the Rilke-Wunderly-Volklart correspondence, the ‘Lettres de soie.’ This festival of passionate correspondence will take place a second time this year: from 12 to 14 October in Mase ob Siders—within sight of the Rilke tower. A reading with the students and the two writing coaches is planned on the very first day of the festival.


The Valais writing workshops are conducted by Palais Valais, an association of literary organizers, to which the Leukerbad Literary Festival, the Schloss Leuk Foundation, and the Rilke Foundation belong. The Schulhausroman/ Roman d’école/ Schoolhouse novel project is also part of Palais Valais’ larger scope which will include projects in Vissole and Grône with authors Pierre-André Milhit and Coline Ladetto. There are still a few places available in the autumn 2018 for a one or two-day writing workshop.

Richard Reich (Palais Valais), reich@jull.ch

More information:

Support provided by Kulturfunken/Dienststelle für Kultur des Kantons Wallis; Romandy Lottery.