Anyone who has ever traveled in Switzerland cannot help but to have remarked upon the overwhelming tranquility of the country. But this tranquility is illusory. As John McPhee writes in La Place de la Concorde Suisse,
a rich journalistic study of the Swiss Army's role in Swiss society, "there is scarcely a scene in Switzerland that is not ready to erupt in fire to repel an invasive war." With a population smaller than New Jersey's, Switzerland has a standing army of 650,000 ready to be mobilized in less than 48 hours. The Swiss Army, known in this country chiefly for its little red pocketknives, is so quietly efficient at the arts of war that the Israelis carefully patterned their own military on the Swiss model. You'll understand why after reading this outstanding book.
"McPhee, in showing us as many aspects of the Swiss Army as their famous knife has blades, has produced one of his books."—Edmund Fuller, The Wall Street Journal
"The Swiss have avoided fighting a war for almost 500 years. To preserve that enviable record of peace, they maintain one of the world's largest armies, on a per capita basis. This paradox . . . is the core of McPhee's engaging La Place de la Concorde Suisse."Jack Schnedler, Chicago Sun-Times
"Delightful . . . What McPhee saw and learned he writes about with his inimitable light touch."—Christopher Lehmann-Haupt, The New York Times
"'Switzerland does not have an army,' says one of John McPhee's informants in La Place de la Concorde Suisse. 'Switzerland is an army' . . . McPhee put his reader inside Switzerland with elegance and insight."—Jonathan Steinberg, The New York Times Book Review