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La Place de la Concorde Suisse Paperback – April 1, 1994
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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 SunTimes
“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
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Top customer reviews
Between discussions of the everyday life of Swiss men engaged in the Swiss Army either as short-term duty or lifelong calling, McPhee weaves in discussions about WWII plans for a Nazi invasion, or, more appropriately today, invasion by a foreign enemy or the explosion of a nuclear bomb. Still, demonstrating that neutrality is not the result of inaction, but the result of choice, the tone of the book becomes serious at times - especially when discussing the fact that the Swiss are ready to blow up any bridge or any mountain tunnel or even the city of Basel -- but does not deviate into heavyhanded visions of apocalypse that might be considered poor taste at any apres ski dinner table.
If Disaster Preparedness - in this time of earthquakes, tsunamis, and terrorist threats - will ever become mainstream in America, it must be handled lightheartedly in the Swiss Way...except, perhaps, it should come up not in hushed whispers, but during the rowdiness of a tailgate party, amid beer, hot dogs, and casual friends. This is a book that can be recommended to everyone.
Most recent customer reviews
Try as I might I cannot see where or how other reviewers found this to be a work of well written prose.Read more