Hans Ruesch (1913-2007)



«Hans Ruesch was born in Naples on May 17, 1913. Both his parents were Swiss, sons of Swiss manufacturers established in Naples. His mother Ginevra, daughter of Filippo Büchy of the Canton of Argovia, took the Italian nationality; his father remained Swiss and registered his son at the Swiss consulate of Naples, which made of Hans a Swiss citizen from birth in all respects, thanks to an agreement between the two Countries.

Hans went to school in Naples
until the age of 12 years, then in order to finish his studies he was sent to his country, both French and German Switzerland, thus becoming multilingual. After an interlude of 8 years, in which he travelled all Europe and Africa (Tripolitania and South Africa) and in which he indulged in his juvenile passion for the car races of Formula 1 where he ran also for the Ferrari Team, in October 1938 he migrated to the United States, in order to continue the literary career he had begun at the time of the races. In fact in 1937 in Switzerland his first novel came out, written in German, and having as its subject-matter the world of F1 car races. Subsequently he translated it into English, and in 1953 Darryl Zanuck of Twentieth Century Fox made in into a movie featuring Kirk Douglas in the role of the protagonist. The title of the movie was The Racers.


After the war he returned in Europe on ship, and in January 1946 he landed in Naples, which had been devastated by the American bombing; it was the time when he set his novel The Stealers, which he wrote years later. This novel, originally written in English, was translated by himself in Italian. In the meantime, in 1950, the United States his first bestseller had appeared, Top of the World, which was also made into a movie ten years later with the title White Shadows, featuring Anthony Quinn.


After publishing South of the Heart, The Game, Com'esser poveri, The Stealers and Back to Top of the World, all written at first in English and then translated into Italian by himself, he stopped writing novels in order to devote himself to fighting the swindle of the vivisection, which is performed with the excuse of being medical research. Having studied medicine for years and edited for a publishing house a medical series called “The Handbooks of the Health”, he is convinced, like many others, that vivisection is nothing else than a most lucrative swindle, which attracts funds for a supposedly “medical research” that, however, many doctors consider not only useless but even misleading. In fact the diseases still indicated as the main causes of death – cancer, diabetes, heart problems – not only have not disappeared, but they have increased since vivisection was introduced as the only method of  [basic] “medical research”.


These ideas, presented in the book Imperatrice nuda, the first book Hans Ruesch ever wrote directly in Italian [and which was published in English by Bantam Books in 1978 in a greatly expanded version, with a different title required by the American publisher, Slaughter of the Innocent], aroused a scandal in Italy when the book appeared in January 1976, putting also an end to the literary career of its author. Then he had to start a pilgrimage from a justice court to another in several countries, not openly sued by the pharmaceutical industry, as one might logically assume, but by false friends. This is the subject of his subsequent book, entitled the Counterfeiters of Justice, which he still hopes to be able to finish.


In the meantime Prentice Hall, the primary American publisher of educational books, issued in 2003 a new anthology, nearly 800 pages long, devised for the university and entitled Past to present: ideas that changed our world. Among the 73 authors of which long excerpts are reprinted, there is also Hans Ruesch. What is the work which has been selected? Why, it is the one that had been suppressed in all 9 countries where it had appeared: Imperatrice nuda


The text above is a new translation of an Italian text which had been approved by the author. Hans Ruesch died at 94 in his home in Massagno, near Lugano, on August 27, 2007.


The obituaries appeared in the world press have been mostly of low or very low quality. They deal essentially on Ruesch’s s “first life” (i.e. the racing years) and say little or nothing of the other two lives – which would be, even from a strictly journalistic viewpoint, particularly obtuse if it were not deliberate, since it is to his role as antivivisection writer and leader that Ruesch owes his place in the history of human civilization.


Typical of the English-speaking press is the article published by New York Times (“Hans Ruesch, Writer and Grand Prix Winner, Dies at 94), which, quite astutely, has been put in the “Sports” section, and which says:


His nonfiction book “Slaughter of the Innocent” (Civitas Publications, 1983), first published in Europe in the 1970s, is credited with helping galvanize the animal-rights movement here and abroad.


It is hard to misinform so much with so few words. Slaughter of the Innocent, which is the (very) enlarged version of Imperatrice nuda (appeared in 1976), was published for the first time not in Europe, but in the United States; not in 1983, but in 1978; not by a small publisher (notice that Civitas is the imprint of the Hans Ruesch Foundation), but by was at the time the America’s largest publishing house, Bantam Books. Most importantly, Ruesch spent a lot of energy in his last thirty years to emphasize that opposition to vivisection requires no acceptance of the animal-rights philosophy (although the latter has sometimes led people to take an interest in the former), and that to further this confusion is a means of defusing the AV movement.


By the way, the fact that in U.S. a book which has “galvanized” (to repeat the silly vivisectionist metaphor used by the NYT writer) people all over the world had to be printed and distributed mostly by the direct intervention and investment of its author is very useful to understand how big publishers work. They are ready to remove from circulation a potential blockbuster in order to comply with the powers-that-be from which their very existence and profits ultimately depend. But you cannot expect that a falsely independent journalism will stress this point for the benefit of its readers.