Building bridges between Vilnius and Zurich

  • 2000-11-30
  • Rokas M. Tracevskis
VILNIUS - A literature bridge has been built between the Baltics and Switzerland. This month the Swiss Reading Room in the Vilnius Adomas Mickevicius Public Library opened its doors to anybody who is interested in the German-language literature of Switzerland.

The Swiss Reading Room was established on the initiative of Max Schweizer, the delegate of the Gebert Ruf Foundation to the Baltic countries. The foundation began promoting Swiss culture in the Baltics last year. The Swiss Reading Room shares space with the Austrian Reading Room that was already functioning in the Adomas Mickevicius Library.

Schweizer says that close scientific and cultural ties between Lithuania and Switzerland inspired his idea. Before 1940 many Lithuanians were studying in Swiss universities and Lithuania's most famous poet, Maironis, wrote nice verse about the beautiful Swiss landscape. According to Schweizer, another reason for interest in the Baltics is the Swiss' natural interest in small countries. The territory of Switzerland is smaller than that of Estonia, the smallest Baltic state.

"The best Swiss literature by German-speaking writers is present in this room. There are already 600 books," said Karmela Rudaitiene, librarian at the newly established reading room.

"Ten students are studying Swiss literature and the art of translation from German at Vilnius University. The Gebert Ruf Foundation finances six of them. They are the most faithful readers," said Rasa Mazelyte, head of the Swiss and Austrian reading rooms in the Adomas Mickevicius Library.

It is not one-way cultural traffic, says Hermann Kostler, director of the Zurich Central Library, who attended the opening ceremony of the Swiss Reading Room. The Zurich Central Library, which already specializes in Finnish and Scandinavian literature, is establishing a basic core of literature from the Baltic states, both in their own and in western languages.