Friday, July 17, 2020

Born Today July 17: Jakob Christoph Heer


Swiss novelist Jakob Christoph Heer was born on this date in Töss in the Kanton of Zurich (a village still located on the the outskirts of Zurich proper).  Heer was educated at Winterthur and became a teacher by profession. He had worked as a Vicar until 1897 when he obtained his teaching certificate and then worked in as an educator full time after 1882. All the while, he wrote novels in the romantic style, focusing on a sub-genre of "Domestic Romance." Writing in Swiss German, his theme heavily eschewed the increasing advance of technology and the increased removal of populations from rural life, focusing instead on the "idyllic" in living in natural settings surrounded by the pastoral rather than advances in technology (even in pursuits like farming).  In 1902 he was finally able to take up full time free lance writing. Heer's work has not been adapted for film often, but all the four films have been features; including the very first film made in 1929. This film was, though, was no small deal. It was a partial silent American production directed by none other than Ernst Lubitsch. Eternal Love would be the last "silent" film that he made (it actually featured sound effects by MovieTone).  It also starred Camilla Horn and John Barrymore in the leads and was based on Heer's novel Der Koenig der Bernina. The other three productions have all been German language films of Austria, Germany and his native Switzerland. The first full sound film made from his work was the 1932 German Sacred Waters; this was followed some 25 years later by the Austrian Der König der Bernina in 1957. The most recent use of his work for an adapted script came just three years later, way back in 1960 with the joint Swiss/West German production of Secred Waters. Though Heer is known as a novelist, he was also a prolific writer of short stories, poems and--not surprisingly--local travel literature (though he is said to have very much disliked the concept of tourism). Heer died in Zurich on the 20th of August, a little better than a month after his 66th birthday. A huge stone memorial was put up in his honor at Winterthur, the village where he recieved his education and began his writing career.


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