Richard Swartz

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Sweden | 2009

Born in 1945, Swedish writer and journalist Richard Swartz has lived in Vienna since 1976.

Report 2009

From the very first day Santa Maddalena seemed to be situated out of time and space. Still, I can not say what constituted this impression of mine, only that it serves a writer well – tied to my writing-desk in the tower, I forgot where I was and that time went by.

Every now and then – but not too often – I took a break to stretch my legs, eat an apple and to look out through the window. From my tower I could see the hills and vallies underneath and beyond, an ever-changing landscape that I studied carefully in order to have at least something to hang on to. This Tuscan scenery did its best to surprise and entertain me by constant metamorphosis of a kind that made my empty or half-filled sheets of paper on the desk envious. Sometimes almost winterly, the next day relapsing into the already gone Summer, sometimes ragged and battered like a street-dog, then taking on the stern graphic qualitites of classical Chinese simplicity, relying only on shades of white and black colours.

But then I returned to my desk and the spirit of the place, i. e. to the feeling of being in a tower beyond time and space.

I had the privilege of spending six weeks in this way (yes, somehow I managed to count them). Nobody and nothing disturbed me. In my tower I was totally on my own, dedicated to my routines, papers and pencils, as well as my loneliness. The salvation from this blessed prison was the daily lunch and dinner, bestowed upon us by Beatrice, the Lady of the House. Suddenly, time and space were restored; punctuality (strictly observed) and the seating-order around the table (more indicated than requested) saved me from the bliss of drowning in my own work, ignorant of time and space. Occasional guests at the table, usually from Firenze, reminded my of the existence of the outside world, and Beatrice’s generosity and conversation of the futility of art.

On top of this, her own stories were better than mine.

Many years ago, Carlo came and asked for a job. Before, he had worked as a travelling salesman. Beatrice needed a gardener. On the first day on the new job Carlo climbed a tree in the garden and remained there for hours.

What are you doing up there, Beatrice asked. Don’t you want to come down? – I would prefer not. – Don’t you like gardening? – No. – But why did you then apply for the job as a gardener? – Well, some sort of job I need to have. – Is there something else you would rather do? – I would like to drive your guests around, to Firenze and other places. I know the area well.

And so it came that Carlo climbed down from the tree and Beatrice, instead of a gardener, got a driver.

Not only for that particular story I will for ever remain grateful to her and Santa Maddalena.