Letter FromnSwitzerlandnby Geoffrey WagnernSnow and ChocolatesnI shall not easily forget my first visit tonSwitzerland. The end of the war left mynbattalion encamped north of Perugia.nLeave was suddenly generous, and ridesnin military transport easy to find, at leastnfor a young ensign in the Brigade ofnGuards. Hoping to flush a retired unclenin the Bernese Oberiand I somehow gotnonto Geneva’s railroad platform where Inspent some time gawking at the displaynof chocolates.and bananas (bananas!) innthe buffet, hints of a way of life unseennby us for years. For, basically, in NorthnAfrica my generation found what it hadnexpected, namely squalor and “wogs,”nas we fascist beasts termed those wenwere defending by treaty (though younwouldn’t have guessed it from the bartendersnin Cairo). But Italy, after all,nwas part of us, our cultural heritage, andnas we had fought up through its “softnunderbelly of the Axis” (thanks,nChurchill) many of us had done sonaghast at its pathetic chaos and misery,nprobably forgotten today. Read JohnnHome Burns’ The Gallery and bleed atna record of it all.nSo there I stood on that immaculatenstation platform without a plug nickelnof negotiable currency since GMFn(Central Mediterranean Forces) werenat that time paid with AMGOT (AlliednMilitary Government Tender). Inmentioned my ticketless predicamentnto a Swiss standing nearby, and withoutnquestion he immediately lent menthe wherewithal for my trip. SubsequentlynI stayed in Zurich at the excellentnZum Storchen hotel and ate thenfirst of many meals at the VeltlinernKeller around the corner. A waitressnremembered Joyce (as also preciselynwhat he owed them when he died).nRepeating the itinerary after manynvisits neady half a century later I stillnfound Zurich to be one of the mostnunderrated cities in Europe, with itsncharming Gasse, or alleys, and theirnCORRESPONDENCEnsplendid bookshops. The trams stillnhiss softly down the Bahnhofstrasse, offnwhich other vehicular traffic is kept,nconferring a spacious mall-like effectnon the city’s principal artery. ThenStorchen has slung a terrace out overnthe Limmat but otherwise is almostnexactly the same as when I first knew it,nespecially the swans. God bless Zurichnfor staying the same. Such certainlyncan’t be said for London, with its highnrises and traffic jams.nFor a New Yorker, Switzedand is anholiday in itself No one tells you inncontemptuous tones to check your bagnas you go in a store, panhandlers areninexistent (as are the police, come tonthat), there are no Gay Rights parades,nwomen vote not to vote, and of coursenyou miss the homeless. What druggiesnthere are seem to be sequestered in anNeedle Park north of the main stationn(now being tidily recreated underground),nand the opinion of one Swissnsocial worker involved with them,nwhom I saw on TV, was that thenquicker they kill themselves the better;nan American commentator on thensame program could hardly believe hisnears.nJoyce’s grave is in the egalitarianncemetery, only plain slabs in rowsnbeing permitted this homogeneous citizenry,nexcept for a very few notablesnburied to one side. Joyce is one ofnthese, his slab being adorned with annLIBERAL ARTSnALL’S HUNKY’-DORY NOWnugly sculpture. I have a vague feelingnthat Joyce, who did not live in Zurichnvery long, has been adopted by the citynin some sort of compensation for itsnlack of indigenous artists of consequence.nNew to me in the heart ofntown was the James Joyce pub, annextremely posh place of dimpled leathernbanquettes, oak tubs, coach horns,nand yard glasses, which Jimmy wouldnnever have been seen dead in. It servednto remind me that cliches are imagesnwe sell ourselves as insulation.nThe pride of these Swiss towns, likenZurich, Lucerne, Neuchatel, Bern, isnthat they weren’t bombed togethernwith the rest of Europe. They havenpreserved prewar standards in almostneverything, not excluding morality, ofnwhich cleanliness is an outward andnvisible symbol. More than once Infound myself, in common with thenhero of that amusing Italian movienBread and Chocolate, looking aroundndesperately guilty with a candy wrappernin my hand.nMy mission on this occasion, however,nwas different to that of the callownyoung officer of 1946. I was bookedninto the famous rejuvenation CliniquenLa Prairie (cellular therapy) at Clarens,nof Rousseauvian fame, on the LacnLeman facing towering snow-cladnAlps. There the erudite DoctornValente was my mentor, and on thenterrace of my room I reflected on mynArtist Luis Jimenez of Hondo, New Mexico, recentlynappeased the outraged citizens of Pittsburgh by offering tonchange the title of his 12-foot-tall fiberglass sculpture, HunkynSteelworker. Displayed at the Three Rivers Arts Festivalnfrom June 1 to June 17, the statue drew criticism fromnsteelworkers and Eastern European ethnic groups in westernnPennsylvania, who found the word “hunky” offensive.nAccording to Sarah Thomason, a professor of linguisticsnat the University of Pittsburgh, the term originated in thenlate 19th century to describe people of Hungarian descent,nbut its use quickly expanded as an insult toward anyone ofncentral European ancestry.nnnDECEMBER 1990/43n