Diccon Bewes: Dead famous in Switzerland
When it comes to foreign celebrities, Switzerland is the place to die; find the graves of numerous celebrities in Switzerland from Charlie Chaplin and James Joyce to Coco Chanel.
When it comes to Switzerland, foreign celebrities are like elephants – they come here to die. Of course, the low rates of tax and high level of privacy might have something to do with foreign celebrities moving to Switzerland, but it is interesting how many stars are buried here. While their graves are strewn all across the country, they are particularly concentrated along the shores of Lake Geneva; in comparison, German-speaking Switzerland is relatively free of dead celebrities. Don’t ask me why. It seemingly has little to do with language as few were native French speakers. In fact many were British-born. Perhaps it’s just a low-tax variation of the British love-affair with France.
The list below is my pick of some the most famous foreigners buried in Switzerland. What’s interesting is that most worked in the arts, and 10 were authors, from literary heavyweights James Joyce (pictured) and Thomas Mann to pulp-fiction masters Alistair MacLean and James Hadley Chase. Although all were born abroad, some were Swiss by the time they died, for example, Peter Ustinov and Hermann Hesse.
And while all of them will now remain Swiss, there is one corner of Switzerland that is forever England: in tiny Corsier-sur-Vevey cemetery, three great Britons are buried, with Charlie Chaplin laid to rest next-door to James Mason and over the way from Graham Greene. So if you are into a bit of cemetery tourism (don’t laugh, it’s astonishingly popular), Corsier is a good place to start, before setting off in search of famous graves in the rest of Switzerland.
- Richard Burton, British actor: (d 1984) Celigny.
- Alistair MacLean, British author: (d 1987) Celigny.
- Jorge Luis Borges, Argentinian author: (d 1986) Plainpalais Cemetery Geneva.
- Jean Calvin, French reformer: (d 1564) Plainpalais Cemetery Geneva.
- Sir Humphrey Davy, British scientist: (d 1829) Plainpalais Cemetery Geneva.
- David Niven, British actor: (d 1983) Chateau d’Oex.
- Vladimir Nabokov, Russian author: (d 1977) Clarens.
- Charlie Chaplin, British actor: (d 1977) Corsier-sur-Vevey.
- Graham Greene, British author: (d 1991) Corsier-sur-Vevey.
- James Mason, British actor: (d 1984) Corsier-sur-Vevey.
- Coco Chanel, French designer: (d 1971) Bois-de-Vaux Cemetery Lausanne.
- Pierre de Coubertin, French Olympic founder: (d 1937) Bois-de-Vaux Cemetery Lausanne.
- Peter Ustinov, British actor: (d 2004) Nyon.
- Henri Nestlé, German industrialist: (d 1890) Territet.
- Audrey Hepburn, Belgian actress: (d 1993) Tolochenaz.
- James Hadley Chase, British author: (d 1985) Vevey.
- Robert Palmer, British singer: (d 2003) Lugano.
- Hermann Hesse, German author: (d 1962) Montagnola.
- Erich Maria Remarque, German author: (d 1970) Ronco sopra Ascona.
- Paulette Goddard, American actress: (d 1990) Ronco sopra Ascona.
- Patricia Highsmith, American author: (d 1995) Tegna.
- Erasmus, Dutch thinker: (d 1536) Basel Cathedral.
- Meret Oppenheim, German artist: (d 1985) Birsfelden Cemetery Basel.
- Thomas Mann, German author: (d 1955) Kilchberg Cemetery Fluntern.
- James Joyce, Irish author: (d 1941) Fluntern Cemetery Zurich.
- Paul Klee, German artist: (d 1940) Schosshalde Cemetery, Bern.
- Elias Canetti, German author: (d 1994) Fluntern Cemetery Zurich.
- Elisabeth Schwarzkopf, German singer: (d 2006) Zumikon Cemetery Zurich.
Diccon grew up in Britain but now lives in Bern. He has spent the last seven years grappling with German grammar, overcoming his innate desire to form an orderly queue and exploring parts of Switzerland he never knew existed. And eating lots of chocolate. He is the author of the bestselling book Swiss Watching.
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