Nicolas Bouvier

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Nicolas Bouvier

Nicolas Bouvier (March 6, 1929 in Lancy – February 17, 1998) was a 20th-century Swiss traveller, writer, picture editor and photographer.

Major voyages[edit]

Khyber Pass (1953/1954)[edit]

Without even waiting for the results of his exams (he would learn in Bombay that he had obtained his Licence in Letters and Law), he left Switzerland in June 1953 with his friend Thierry Vernet in a Fiat Topolino. First destination: Yugoslavia. The voyage lasted till December 1954. The voyage led the two men to Turkey, to Iran and to Pakistan, Thierry Vernet leaving his friend at the Khyber Pass. Bouvier continued alone. Bouvier recounted the journey in L'Usage du monde, published in English translation as "The Way of the World".[1] The pilgrim finds the words to express himself, and his feet follow them faithfully: "A journey does not need reasons. Before long, it proves to be reason enough in itself. One thinks that one is going to make a journey, yet soon it is the journey that makes or unmakes you." The book was described as a voyage of self-discovery '"on the order of Robert M. Pirsig’s Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance".

Sri Lanka/Ceylon (1955)[edit]

With intermittent company, Bouvier crossed Afghanistan, Pakistan and India before reaching Ceylon. Here he lost his footing: the solitude and the heat floored him. It took him seven months to leave the island and almost thirty years to free himself of the weight of this adventure with the writing of Le Poisson-scorpion (published 1981, translated into English as The Scorpion-Fish). It ends on a quote from Louis-Ferdinand Céline: "The worst defeat of all is to forget and especially the thing that has defeated you."

Japan (1955/1956)[edit]

After Ceylon, he left for another island: Japan. He found a country in the throes of change and he continued to visit Japan over the subsequent decades. These experiences led to Japon, which would become Chroniques Japonaises after a third sojourn in 1970 and a complete re-edition. It was published in English in 1992 as The Japanese Chronicles. In this book, he blended his personal experiences of Japan with Japanese history and rewrote a Japanese history from a Western perspectives. "Japan," he says, "is a lesson in economy. It is not considered good form to take up too much space."

Ireland (1985)[edit]

Building on a report for a journal in the Aran Islands, Bouvier wrote Journal d'Aran et d'autres lieux, a tale of travel that slips at times into the supernatural, the voyager suffering from typhoid. His appreciation of the air of the Irish islands is described as that which "dilates, tonifies, intoxicates, lightens, frees up animal spirits in the head who give themselves over to unknown but amusing games. It brings together the virtues of champagne, cocaine, caffeine, amorous rapture and the tourism office makes a big mistake in forgetting it in its prospectuses."


  • L'Usage du monde, 1963, translated as The Way of the World, Eland 2007
  • Japon, éditions Rencontre, Lausanne, 1967
  • Chronique japonaise, 1975, éditions Payot, 1989, translated as The Japanese Chronicles, Mercury 1992, Eland 2008
  • Vingt cinq ans ensemble, histoire de la television Suisse Romande, éditions SSR, 1975
  • Le Poisson-scorpion, 1982, éditions Gallimard, Folio, 1996, translated as The Scorpion-Fish, Carcanet 1987, Eland 2014
  • Les Boissonas, une dynastie de photographes, éditions Payot, Lausanne, 1983
  • Journal d'Aran et d'autres lieux, éditions Payot, 1990
  • L'Art populaire en Suisse, 1991
  • Le Hibou et la baleine, éditions Zoé, Genève, 1993
  • Les Chemins du Halla-San, éditions Zoé, Genève, 1994
  • Comment va l'écriture ce matin?, éditions Slatkine, Genève, 1996
  • La Chambre rouge et autres textes, éditions Métropolis, 1998
  • Le Dehors et le dedans, éditions Zoe, Genève, 1998
  • Entre errance et éternité, éditions Zoé, Genève, 1998
  • Une Orchidée qu'on appela vanille, éditions Métropolis, Genève, 1998
  • La Guerre à huit ans, éditions Mini Zoé, Genève, 1999
  • L'Échappée belle, éloge de quelques pérégrins, éditions Métropolis, Genève, 2000
  • Histoires d'une image, éditions Zoé, Genève, 2001
  • L'Oeil du voyageur, éditions Hoëbeke, 2001
  • Charles-Albert Cingria en roue libre, éditions Zoé, Genève, 2005

See also[edit]


External links[edit]