Bernard Crettaz Death, Obituary – Bernard Crettaz, a Swiss sociologist and ethnologist, passed away on Monday at the age of 84. He had been on the verge of death for a long time before it finally took him. He was the host of the “Cafés mortels” for around ten years, from 2004 to 2014. These were gatherings in cafés where people discussed death. “If you talk about death and dying all the time, you will prepare yourself a little bit for your own death, which implies that you will not be scared of it.” According to the Swiss public radio station RTS, he stated that “it’s potentially a way of facing it, as in the past we dared to stare it in the face.” In addition to this, he stated that “death will forever be a taboo, a basic riddle.”
Even when he was far into his nineties, Crettaz never stopped writing and thinking about death, which was his favourite topic. The pandemic caused by the Covid-19 virus was a significant subject for him to think about. Two years ago, he gave an interview to the newspaper Le NouvellisteExternal link in which he stated that “we had marginalised death,” but that “with this epidemic that has come upon us […] we see that death is here, that it is striking again.” He referred to his own passing as “a lesson in life.” In 1979, when Crettaz was 41 years old, he received his PhD in sociology from the University of Geneva, where he was working as a lecturer at the time.
He was given the position as curator of the Europe Department at the Museum of Ethnography in Geneva in the year 1976. A society for the study of funeral rites and customs was established by him and his late wife, the anthropologist Yvonne Preiswerk, who founded it. She passed away in 1999. He took his official retirement in the year 2000, when he was 62 years old, and moved back to the canton of Valais in Val d’Anniviers, where he was born, to devote himself to writing. In addition to that, he served as the official ethnologist at Expo.02. On the occasion of Swiss National Day in 2004, Crettaz, acting in the role of Swiss hero William Tell, granted an exclusive interview to SWI swissinfo.ch. During the course of the interview, he discussed a number of topics, including his (Tell’s) disappointment with contemporary Swiss politicians: