Alice Rivaz > Becoming Alice Rivaz >

Becoming a writer

In 1925, Alice Rivaz née Golay started work at the International Labour Office (ILO) and moved to Geneva. Writing was her life’s focus, but her secretarial job took up all her time. Her first novel was only published in 1940. She sent her manuscript for Nuages dans la Main to C.F. Ramuz, who was struck by the quality of this novel and immediately sent it to the editor of the Guilde du Livre. Thenceforth, Alice Golay assumed Alice Rivaz as her pen name and was awarded the Prix Schiller in 1942. This accolade marked the advent of one of the outstanding female novelists of the 20th century.

Letter written by Paul Golay to the Bureau International du travail (BIT) 29 March 1923 (ILO archives / page 1): Paul Golay addressed Albert Thomas to endorse his daughter’s application to work at the BIT.
Letter written by Paul Golay to the Bureau International du travail (BIT) 29 March 1923 (ILO archives / page 2): “As the daughter of a militant socialist, she has a formidable handicap. Her father’s political life hinders her. The teaching profession is not an option for her…”
Letter written by Paul Golay to the Bureau International du travail (BIT) 29 March 1923 (ILO archives / last page): This letter shows the deep impact her father’s life choices and political involvement had on her life, rendering her unwelcome in the canton of Vaud.
Alice Rivaz sat at her desk, with her elbows on it and her left hand on her neck. On the desk, there is a lamp and a pile of blank writing paper.
Guilde du Livre bulletin, June 1941 (CLSR). Alice Rivaz at her work desk, a mirror image of the picture of C.F. Ramuz!
Typed message with Paul Golay's address in the top left corner and his signature at the bottom.
Paul Golay’s correspondence card, 20 March 1941 (SLA) / Ironic comment regarding the photo of his daughter who, from his point of view, adopts a ridiculous pose of a famous author.
Yellowed pages with ink almost totally faded, assembled together with a knotted pink ribbon
Manuscript for “Nuages dans la main”, shorthand notebook with a pink ribbon, first draft (BCUL)
Alice standing next to a white door and an armchair, wearing dark blouse and long skirt, looking at the camera.
Photo of Alice Golay, circa 1935 (SLA) / In her flat on Avenue Weber, her home throughout her life
Typed letter with handwritten signature. On top left corner is embossed his address at La Muette in Pully.
Letter from Charles-Ferdinand Ramuz to Alice Rivaz, 26 July 1940 (SLA ) / C.F. Ramuz agrees to read her manuscript.
Black and white photography showing the interior of the library from above with people sat reading at the long tables
International Labour Office (ILO Historical Archives, Geneva) / The library at the W. Rappart Centre in 1930
Secretaries sat at their desk working. On the left of image there are tall chests of little drawers and on the right of image there is a big closed window.
International Labour Office (ILO Historical Archives, Geneva) / Secretaries at work
Black and white photograph of a woman sat on her desk writing and two men, standing up, sorting the post in the pidgeonholes
International Labour Office (ILO Historical Archives, Geneva) / Alice Rivaz’ workplace, the setting for many of her novels. Mail service and sorting, as described in Nuages dans la main
Painting showing a man in a coat walking across a park towards a building with square windows.
Illustration by Pierre Monnerat for the Guilde du Livre bulletin (BCUL) / The protagonist takes the same path as the novelist when going to the ILO.
Typed letter on a slightly yellowed paper
Letter from Paul Golay “Observations sur le chef d’œuvre”, undated (SLA) / Signed le Critique (the critic), these ‘observations’ reveal several imperfections which, from his point of view, detract from what could be a belle oeuvre/a fine piece. This father is far from lenient with his daughter!
Writing history

Writing history

The author questions the normality of sheltered lives, and their blindness in the aftermath of the First World War.