Monday 13 October 2014


Alain Sulzer (author of The Perfect Waiter) grew up in Riehen, a sleepy suburb of Basel until 1997, when Ernst Beyerle gave his collection of modern art to the public museum designed by Renzo Piano. The Fondation Beyerle is Riehen’s major drawing card today, but for young Sulzer, its main attraction was the tram taking him to Basel when he spent a weekend with his grandmother.

The place where she lived, in a house with two turrets, held at least as much charm for me as the television set she owned, since we ourselves had none. I slept in the sewing room beside a futuristic knitting machine, which soon turned out to be an impractical oddity. Before falling asleep, I listened to the muted noise of the tram – only one block away – which ran to the centre of the city. It was a place I visited on rare occasions, such as the Autumn Fair or carnival or when I was taken to the zoo. The Zolli, as it was called, attracted the attention of the whole population when Goma was born in 1959 – the first female gorilla born in a zoo and still living there today, an aged lady in the best of health.
Goma at 50

The screeching of the trams – the first audible sign of the city – is as deeply etched on my brain as the taste of madeleines dipped in tea was etched on Proust’s.

At the age of nineteen, Sulzer moved from Riehen into the city. My flat consisted of a kitchen with a skylight (the only window), a bathroom (without window), and a living room with a view of an inner yard. The flat was above a garage. The level of noise it produced in the morning made an alarm clock superfluous.
But this was, finally, urban living.

(Trans. from A.C. Sulzer, Basel)

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