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The Brothers Path: excerpt and giveaway

Swiss Literature In The Blink Of An Eye

By Martha Kennedy

Switzerland: A small, land-locked, fantastically scenic, politically neutral, minor European country where the trains run on time and the banks keep secrets. The homeland of fondue, known for its incomparable chocolate, expensive watches and exclusive ski resorts — San Moritz and Zermatt. Some of its mountains mix notoriety with fame — Mt. Blanc, the highest in Europe, the iconic Matterhorn, the deadly Eiger North Face. Among well-known books set in Switzerland are; F. Scott Fitzgerald’s Tender is the Night, Ian Fleming’sGoldfinger, and Thomas Mann’s The Magic Mountain.

Throughout the middle ages and the early modern period, Swiss cities and families had an enormous impact on world events. The powerful Habsburg family began its ascent to power from the town of Habsburg in Switzerland. Calvinism — the foundation of many major Protestant sects — is named for a Swiss theologian, John Calvin, and is a direct offshoot of the Zürich Reformation led by Huldrych Zwingli. Anabaptist faiths — we now know as Amish and Mennonites — had their origins in the Zürich Reformation.

Some of our best loved books and most cherished ideas came to us from Swiss writers. Generations of seekers have been guided by the works of Hermann Hesse. The ideas of Johann Heinrich Pestalozzi, the “Father of Modern Education,” found their way into schools everywhere. Carl Jung gave the world psychological theories and methods that have helped many people and deepened our understanding of the human psyche. The philosophy behind the Declaration of Independence, the Bill of Rights, AND the French Revolution was influenced by Jean Jacques Rousseau’s The Social Contract — and Rousseau was Swiss.

Heidi is certainly the most famous and best-loved Swiss story. An important novel in Swiss literature is The Black Spider, or Die Schwarze Spinne, by Jeremias Gotthelf, published in 1842. The novel is a story within a story, a horror story, involving a pact with the devil. It’s scary and strange, beautifully written, and it offers a window into Swiss village life, which was more than a little xenophobic.

I enjoyed the autobiographical novel, Green Henry by Gottfried Keller, written in the middle of the 19th century. It is considered one of the most important “coming of age” works in the German language. The protagonist, Henry Lee, grows from his “green” youth (he also wears green clothing), idealistic, sensitive, artistic and romantic, to finding his place in the world. He makes a transition from a rather morose and self-indulgent boy into a socially well-adjusted man who is willing to wear the yoke of civil service cheerfully and well. While the novel is serious in its purpose, showing the transition in the zeitgeist of Keller’s time from romanticism to realism, it’s often very funny.

One of the most absurd scenes in Green Henry, in which a half-naked man emerges from a lake, covered with weeds and mud, and asks Henry for directions, happened in my own life. A friend and I had taken a hike in the mountains above the little town of Fluelen on the Lake of the Five Forest Cantons (Lake Lucerne). We were pondering whether to take the train or a ferry, when suddenly, out of the lake, came a man wearing only underwear, covered in mud and weeds. He asked if we could tell him where to find a phone.

One of my favorite Swiss books is also one of the great treasures of literature and art from the High Middle Ages, the Codex Manesse. It was compiled in the fourteenth century by a wealthy Zürich merchant, Rüdiger II Manesse, who wanted to collect and preserve the poetry and song of his time — Minnesangs — German lyric poetry, songs similar to those of the French troubadours. Besides being a compilation of lyrics, the Codex has beautifully painted illustrations, “portraits,” of the writers. Some are dressed in their heraldic or royal garb; some are engaged in a favorite pursuit (falconry, writing, chess, jousting); some of the illustrations make a visual pun on an individual poet’s name. The period of the Minnesangs lasted about two-hundred years, fading away at the end of the High Middle Ages.

Still and all, my favorite book set in the land of clocks, banks, and fondue is Asterix in Switzerland. Our heroes, Asterix, the Gaulish governor, his muscular side-kick, Obelix, and the great Druid healer, Getafix, search for an Alpine herb that is an antidote to poison. They find it, too.

Excerpt and chance to win a free book!

Words And Peace

Brothers Path by Martha KennedyThe Brothers Path
by Martha Kennedy

Publisher: Free Magic Show Productions (July  4, 2016)
Category: Historical Fiction
Tour Dates: Oct/Nov, 2016
ISBN: 978-1535101295
ASIN:  B01HSDYD04
Available in: Print & ebook,  276 PagesThe Brothers Path

By award winning author, Martha Kennedy.

The world-shattering tumult of the Protestant Reformation enters the Schneebeli household when Rudolf Schneebeli is born two months early and dies a few minutes later without being baptized. Named for the well trodden track linking the Schneebeli farmhouse to the old Lunkhofen castle, The Brothers Path is set in a Swiss village near Zürich, between 1524 and 1531. It chronicles the lives of the six Schneebeli brothers, Heinrich, Hannes, Peter, Conrad, Thomann and Andreas. Each brother navigates his own path through, around or directly into the deadly drama of the Protestant reformation.

Two hundred years after the events recounted in The Brothers’ Path, thousands of immigrants, mostly Mennonites and Amish, left Switzerland…

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Blog Tour for The Brothers Path — Giveaways and More!

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Teddy Rose Book Reviews Plus Oct 4 Kickoff & Giveaway

Rockin’ Book Reviews Oct 5 Review & Giveaway

Words and Peace Oct 6 Guest Post, Excerp, & Giveaway

Carole Rae’s Random Ramblings Oct 7 Review

SolaFide Book Club Oct 10 Guest Post

Serendipity Oct 11 Review & Interview

Books, books, and more books Oct 20 Review

StoreyBook Reviews Oct 25 Excerpt & Giveaway

Lisa’s Writopia Oct 28 Review & Guest Post

Deal Sharing Aunt Nov 3 Review & Giveaway

Broken Teepee Nov 4 Review, Excerpt, & Giveaway

Infinite House of Books Nov 8 Interview

Celticlady’s Reviews Nov 22 Excerpt

Teddy Rose Book Reviews Plus Nov 30 Review

Non-Fiction in My Fiction

IndieBRAG has invited me to write several posts on their blog. Here is the second which relates my experiences researching the Schneebeli family (my ancestors!) and how what I learned evolved into a novel:

“Non-Fiction and the Brothers Path”

My consuming interest as a writer of historical fiction is to get as close as I can to the daily life of my characters who are, usually, just ordinary people. I’m most interested in how these sweeping events that are sketched for us in “history” were in their lives. With The Brothers Path I had some very intriguing facts on which to hang the story.

 

“Real” History and The Brothers Path

 

Though actual historical figures feature in The Brothers Path, the novel is about the Schneebelis, “ordinary” people, whose beliefs are shaken and whose lives are threatened by the rapid, cataclysmic, changes.

But the Schneebelis were real — I can’t say more because it would spoil the story.

The Brothers’ Path, set in Affoltern am Albis, a Swiss village near Zürich, between 1524 and 1531 chronicles the lives of the six Schneebeli brothers, Heinrich, Hannes, Peter, Conrad, Thomann and Andreas. Each brother navigates his own path through, around or directly into the deadly drama of Huldrych Zwingli’s reformation.

Heinrich, the oldest brother, keeps the family mill going, fearing for the safety of his brothers and his children.

Hannes, the second brother, given as a child to the nearby Cistercian Abbey, falls in love.

The third brother, Peter, trades the trappings of military leadership for the robes of a Dominican.

Conrad, the fourth brother can no longer ignore the violent changes all around him when his livelihood is stolen.

Thomann, the fifth brother, flees to Strasbourg after the Diet of Speyer makes Anabaptism punishable by death.

The youngest, Andreas, is disappointed in love with tragic results.

The story climaxes on October 11, 1531 at the Second War of Kappel, a brief, ill-fated battle between Zwingli’s army of 2000 men and the 7000 troops of the Catholic cantons — a major turning point in the Zürich Reformation.

***

Excerpt: Andreas, January 1527

The long disputations had turned to exile, exile to incarceration. The incarceration had turned not to liberty, but to a street riot. Felix Manz had been taken from his cell in the Hexenturm, a prison in one of the towers on Zürich’s wall, to meet Zwingli, Jud and the magistrates one more time.

“Will you now forsake your foolishness and obey the law?” asked Zwingli.

“Whose law? The law of the City of Zürich? Or God’s law?” Manz asked. “When man’s law conflicts with God’s law, I follow God’s law. I will not renounce the true Christian baptism in good conscience and confessed faith, in union with God, the rightness of which you yourself have testified, Brother Zwingli. Children who have not yet come to understand the knowledge of good and evil, and have not eaten of the tree of knowledge, they are surely saved by the suffering of Christ unless it can be proved that Christ did not suffer for children. From Scripture we have concluded that infant baptism is a senseless, blasphemous abomination contrary to all Scripture. You have not disproved that yet, Brother Zwingli. Your response has only been to imprison and exile us. That is no argument. You will not silence me by putting me to death.”

Thomann whispered to Andreas, “Manz will be killed.”

“I am very sorry for you, Brother Felix,” said Zwingli as the guards pulled Manz forward and tied him up.

Manz was taken from the Rathaus. Crowds of Zürchers, those in support of Manz and his followers and those against him, surrounded Manz and his jailers, pressing against each other, shoving their way along the street beside the Limmat River.

Thomann saw Zwingli’s men going through the crowd, seeking information. Fear could turn the faithful faithless, and so it was happening this day, this moment. Many Brethren turned informers, pointing out their brothers and sisters, hoping from this to save their own lives. The dark extreme of faith’s ecstasy was dread’s misery. “What doth it booteth a man to gain his life but lose his soul?” in this desperate moment.

“Andreas, let’s get out of here,” said Thomann. “This…”

“What?”

“Look around you! We will be trapped by those we thought were friends.” Thomann was grateful to be on the fringes of the crowd. He grabbed his brother’s arm. “Run, Andreas! RUN!”

Without thinking, Andreas ran, his feet slipping on the icy cobblestones.

“We must separate, brother. Meet me in the Ketzistürli.”

Each turned into a different narrow lane, both aiming for the gate on the other side of the river, the gate that led left to The Brothers and to their home.

Away from the Grossmünster, the streets were nearly empty. Behind them, now far away, the people of Zürich stood beside the river and yelled, “Baptize him!” forcing Zürich to write history in the river with Felix Manz’ life.

Andreas and Thomann reached the gate at the same time, much to Thomann’s relief. “Come, brother,” his breath white in the January air. “Zürich is no place to wait.”

“I am not coming with you. My place is here, with the others. If I run, I have no faith. I am no better than the informers in the crowd.”

“What? It is nothing like informing to get away, to save our lives, to preserve the Good News. What good are you dead or locked up in the Hexenturm? How will the truth endure if all who know it are silenced?”

“There’s something in that. But how do you know you are not just saving your hide under a pretty rationale?”

“I will not even answer that, Andreas. Come. Katarina will be waiting for you, worried for you.”

Andreas shook his head. “I must go back, Thomann. It is in my soul, my conscience, to join them and take whatever comes to them, to stand up for the truth.”

“Andreas, you’re about to be a father!”

***

The Brothers Path is a loose sequel to Savior; same family, three hundred years later.