The Encyclopedia Americana (1920)/Zahn, Ernst
ZAHN, tsän, Ernst, Swiss novelist and writer of short stories: b. Zurich, 24 Jan. 1867. In 1873 his father, an innkeeper, bought a hotel at Siders in the canton of Wallis and here Ernst obtained his first instruction in the Protestant Elementary School. In 1875 he went to Zurich, where his grandparents took charge of him and sent him to the public schools, later (for three years) to the gymnasium. His father leased, in 1880, the restaurant in the railroad station at Goschenen, at the entrance to the Saint Gotthard Tunnel, and here Zahn worked as a waiter in 1883. For a year and a half he also attended the Breidenstein International Boys' School at Grenchen, canton of Solothurn. In all these various capacities, and in spite of a much interrupted education, he was energetically pursuing every opportunity that presented itself to him for increasing his knowledge. In the winter of 1885 he again worked as a waiter at Hotel Beaurivage, Geneva; in the winter of 1886 he was at Hastings, England, learning the language; in 1887 he was hotel clerk at the Hotel de la Ville, Genoa. He returned to his father's restaurant in 1888, becoming a partner in 1894 and taking sole charge in 1897. The town of Goschenen made him a town councillor, and one of his first acts in office was to cause the erection of a monument for the constructor of the Mount Saint Gotthard Tunnel and for the many laborers who met their death during its construction. In 1902 he became judge of the Uri Criminal Court, in 1904 a member of the Cantonal Council of Uri, in 1908 its president. He received the honorary degree of Ph.D. from the University of Geneva in 1909. He has written an unusual quantity of stories of Swiss local life, which are very attractive in form and correct in technique. Some of his short stories seem like faultless works of art, especially ‘Stephan der Schmied’ and ‘Verena Stadler.’ In his larger works, however, he has not devoted his attention chiefly to the difficult task of analyzing serious conflicts of character, but rather to more or less superficial problems, with the result that he is drifting more and more into the position of a writer interested only in success, which will therefore perhaps not be of very durable character. Consult ‘Gesammelte Werke’ (10 vols., Stuttgart 1910); ‘Herzenskämpfe’ (1893); ‘Die Clari-Marie’ (1904); ‘Die Helden des Alltags’ (1905; 20th ed., 1912). ‘Firnwind’ (1906); ‘Der Apotheker von Klein Weltwil’ (Stuttgart 1913). A translation of ‘Stephan der Schmied’ is given in ‘German Classics’ (Vol. XIX. New York 1914).