Minoritized languages moodboard: Romansh

Romansh (Rumantsch, Rumàntsch, Romauntsch, or Romontsch)is a Romance language spoken in the Grisons canton in Switzerland.

HR Giger in his dining room in his home outside Zurich, where he sits with a burnt effigy of himself. From a 1986 issue of NewLook magazine, accompanied by the following text:

I find the macabre to be singularly exciting,” says Hans Rudi Giger. The winner of an Oscar for his creepy production design of Alien, Giger, a master of the horrific, has transformed his dining room into a mausoleum. Surrounded by his hideous creations, he likes to receive guests while wearing a mask.

Other designers have a tendency to envision interior architecture as a reflection of their innermost obsessions. It’s certainly evident in the case of Swiss artist Hans Rudi Giger, who won an Oscar for his production design of the sci-fi thriller Alien. Giger lives near Zurich, in a house whose shutters remain tightly closed. He wears only black, which matches the walls of his inner sanctum. The place has all the gaiety of a crypt.

Giving his grand tour, Giger displays a properly sepulchral comportment. He points out various skeletons, which seem to be the dominant decorative motif. “Oh, yes,” he remarks, “the market for morbidity has risen sharply.” Giger’s tastes have not always been shared by his romantic partners. One wife left him long ago.

Giger claims that ever since his childhood, when he was surrounded by skeletons in the family pharmacy, he has been hearing voices. He is used to them now and knows what precautions to take. Each room in his house has at least two emergency exits. The shower stall has three: one to the wine cellar, one to the basement, and one to the bedroom. The Giger bedroom is a sort of hermit’s cave lined with his books, drawings, and paintings against the blackness. Here he spends wakeful nights devouring macabre and grisly literature. Once he feels sufficiently disturbed, he seizes his airbrush and splatters his nightmares onto canvas. Such expulsions of his personal demons have made him wealthy indeed.

Speaking in the soft Grisons dialect, his face hidden behind a mask of perforated sheet metal, Giger calls his guests to the table. The table is made of glass and human skulls and is piled high with meat and bones for the snacking. One dines surrounded by the host’s original paintings: rotting corpses, gaping wounds, bloodied freaks, monsters, and scenes of unbearable agony. “Diabolical, isn’t it?” chuckles Giger. “Have some Chianti?”

Suisse, Schweiz, Svizzera

Je vais quitter la Suisse demain. Je le prends comme un pays d'accueil, parce que j'y ait déjà passé six semaines en moins d'un an ; que je vais y retourner encore prochainement : j'y mets un petit bout de cœur ici.
J'ai traversé beaucoup de canton, vu la campagne, la ville, à Saint Gall notemment ; j'ai eu le temps de découvrir et de penser. J'ai la chance d'y être pour raison professionnelle et de voir du concret, de rencontrer les gens dans mes actions professionnel ; et c'est des travailleurs de bases, des retraité.e.s que je côtoie. Dietikon, Lausanne, Thal, le Tessin et Losone, la mignonne Biasca, une traversée du Grison aussi quand j'ai rejoint Innsbruck en Autriche aussi. J'ai eu des péripéties que je n'ai pas eu envie de compter ici ; brefs diverses situations… et il en résulte que ni je l'aime, ni je le déteste, mais je connais la Suisse maintenant. Je la respecte et quand je suis revenue, j'avais ce sentiment de “Hum, ça m'avait manqué !”.
Je me suis intéressé à l'Histoire d'ici, notemment à la Bérézina ; et je n'emploirais pas, maintenant que je sais, cette expression au hasard comme l'on peu le faire en France (c'est la Bérézina ici !).
La Suisse ne montre pas forcément son meilleur visage dès l'entrée, et c'est procédurier, et on est dérouté des réactions différentes de chez les français.e.s et il y a quatre langues donc forcément les gens parle lentement parfois pour ce comprendre entre cantons.
M'enfin j'y suis attaché maintenant. Je fais dodo et, hop, à bientôt !

Portrait d'une artiste dessinant d'après une antiquité. Jean-François Sablet (French, 1745-1819). Oil on canvas.

Among Jean-François Sablet’s early portraits are those of Charles de Bourbon, Comte d'Artois, as Colonel General of the Swiss and Grison Guards (1774) and Charles-Henri, Comte d'Estaing. He also painted genre scenes and mythological scenes. In 1791 he left Paris for Rome to join his brother. While there he concentrated on landscapes, also depicting people in local costume.

From the 15th century to 1766, many famous confectioners can be traced back to Grisons as the canton had not only very few raw materials but was also unfit for enough agriculture to feed the population. While many young men joined foreign armies, others went to Venice to become either confectioners or to sell self made spirits to such an extent that 95 out of 105 confectioners in Venice where in fact from Grisons. All the confectioners and spirit sellers were expelled from the city in 1766 due to a trade dispute between Grisons and the Republic of Venice


Did you know there really WAS a chandelier that crashed during a performance inside the Paris Opera House in 1896? This was one of the many strange occurences that inspired Gaston Leroux to write the story of The Phantom of the Opera. Here is a translation of the article depicting the horrid, yet mysteriously occurring scene that convinced the world there really was an opera ghost.


Article from Le Figaro, dated Thursday 21st May 1896

“A terrible accident occurred yesterday evening, at the Opera, during the performance of Helle. It was exactly three minutes to nine in the evening. The first act was ending. Mme Caron had just sung an encore, when a tremendous noise was heard. At the same time, a bright light appeared, like a flash of lightning and a cloud of dust rose from the top of the room to the flies. 

First, the explosion was believed to be some anarchist attack. Spectators rushed to the exit doors. But with admirable coolness, Delmas, Mme. Caron and chorus members who were on the stage remained in place, hoping by their calm to reassure the public. They succeeded to calm the spectators in the pit (orchestra) and on the first two tiers. But, above, at the fourth level amphitheatere which was nearest to the supposed explosion, the panic was considerable. The spectators were jostling each other even trying to climb over the balustrade to jump into the pit. Police officer Guida, no 158 of the ninth arrondissement, Brigadier Grimaldi of the municipal guards, the two guards Levesque and Durand, and the caretaker of the auditorium, M. Vallerand, prevented them and guided them to the exit door. Thanks to them no new accident occurred.

Meanwhile, M. Lapissida, stage manager of the Opera had very calmly withdrawn the personnel from the stage. After that he said to the public that they had nothing to fear, and then brought down the curtain. 

The evacuation of the amphitheatre (Jennie’s comment: the fourth level of balconies facing the stage) took no more than two or three minutes, and once this was completed, the wounded were taken care of, for there people who had been injured. First it was found that five or six people complained only of bruises and severe concussion. They could leave the room to receive medical treatment. Hopes were rising that the consequences of the accident had not been too severe, when cries attracted the attention of one of municipal guards. He retraced his steps and found a woman under a beam/girder. It was Mme. Senot, grocer, who lived at Rue de l’Arcade no 12. She had been injured in the leg and the right eye from the breaking of the beam/girder, under which she was trapped. 

At the same time, a young girl, her face all covered with blood, began crying for her mother, who she said was under the rubble. The search revealed the horribly mutilated corpse of an elderly woman lying in a hole in the floor of the gallery, covered by blocks of cast iron.
It was the woman that the young girl was crying out for, Mme. Chomette, aged fifty-six, a concierge at 12 Impasse Briare, 7 Rue Rochechouart. 

While officers were searching to see if there were any other bodies, a fire was seen to have started in the roof. The firemen on duty, promptly assisted by the firemen from Rue Blanche soon overcome the fire. 

Until now, no one knew what had happened and the cause of the accident. By removing the body of Mme Chomette *TEXT MISSING* (probably “on s’en”) this was discovered. It had been caused *TEXT MISSING* (prob: “par la chute”) by the fall of one of the counterweights of *TEXT MISSING* (probably ‘chandelier’). 

*TEXT MISSING* in the central hall is supported by eight iron wires, each one the thickness of a wrist, and each attached to a counterweight weighing about 700 kilos. Each counterweight weighs this much so that if one or several of the wires break, the chandelier will stay suspended.

Now apparently, along one of these wires, running in a flue or shaft, was a cable for the electric light. Probably through wear and tear, a contact between the wire and the electric cable started a fire, and this fierce spark melted the wire holding the counterweight. 

The huge mass, tumbled through the shaft, first smashing through the ceiling, then the floor of the fifth gallery, fortunately in a place where no one was sitting, and finally crushed seats 11 and 13 of fourth gallery occupied by Mme. Chomette and her daughter. It even demolished the parquet floor underneath them before it stopped. 

It was also the fall of the counterweight that pulled the circuit breaker, and caused the outbreak of fire. 

Mme. Chomette’s skull was completely crushed, her right hand and leg torn apart. Her body was carried on a stretcher by municipal guards preceded by the doorkeeper with his lantern to the Opera stop/station (for carriages), where a town ambulance waited, to drive her home.

Her daughter, who works in a restaurant (“bouillon” in the article also means broth, but in this context it’s a simple restaurant catering for the masses) was injured in the face, but her condition is not serious. 

Sitting beside these two ladies, in seats number 7 and 9, were M. Guillaume Murvoy and one of his friends. M. Murvoy received a severe electric shock and fainted. He complained of severe pain in his right leg. When he regained consciousness, his friend had disappeared. 

The other injured people, as we have said, had only contusions.

The news of this accident and the arrival of the undertakers (“pompes”) , called upon from all sides, had caused great emotion. The public were exaggerating the seriousness of what was already being called a catastrophe. A large crowd besieged the outskirts of the Opera and M. Nadeaud, peace officer of the district, had to organize a special group to deal with it. The crowd did not disperse until an hour later, when was learned that the accident was less severe and certainly less comprehensive/general than previously thought. 

M. Lepine, Head of the Police, accompanied by M. Gaillot, director of the municipal police, arrived at half past nine. M. Lepine learned the facts from Mr. Martin, Commissioner of the “police de service” (Jennie’s comment: am not perfectly sure about the meaning of this term, it may mean “police on duty” or possibly “police particularly attached to the Opera”. All input welcome). He himself examined the place where the accident occurred to verify the causes.

By order, M. Martin went at eleven o’clock in the evening to M. Atthalin, the public prosecutor, to inform him of the event that had occurred.

While awaiting the legal orders that must come, M. Girard, the head of the municipal Laboratories carried out a technical examination. The investigation was not yet finished at midnight, when we left the Opera. 

New details tomorrow, if there are any.

Georges Grison”