Daily Brief logo

Hello, this is Kasmira. While James Bond paid several visits to Switzerland on missions to take down villains, his creator also spent a chapter of his life in the country, even working for the League of Nations. We spoke to the author of a new biography on Ian Fleming about how the 007 author's stay in Geneva would leave a lasting impression on his fiction.

photo journaliste

Kasmira Jefford


On our radar

Photo article

Nicholas Shakespeare at the Société de Lecture, 20 March 2024 (Rebecca Bowring/Société de Lecture)

Long before James Bond was born, before he was assigned by M on hair-raising missions and taking down criminal masterminds, before he seduced scantily-clad women over vodka martinis and sent dozens of Aston Martins into steaming tatters, his creator fell in love with a Swiss girl from Vaud.

Ian Fleming was 21 when he drove his black Buick to Geneva from Austria, where he’d been studying, and enrolled in classes at the University of Geneva to brush up on his language skills in preparation for a career in the UK Foreign Office.

His time in the city would play only a small chapter in the Briton’s colourful career that would lead him on a path to writing his best-selling spy novels but would nevertheless leave its mark on his fiction, says Nicholas Shakespeare, the author of a new biography, Ian Fleming: The Complete Man.

The first official biography of Fleming to be published since John Pearson’s 1966 rendition, Shakespeare’s detailed portrait goes to lengths to show that before James Bond stepped off the page and graced the silver screen, Fleming had a thrilling life of his own, including playing a bigger role in British intelligence than he’d previously given credit for.

“If he hadn't written James Bond, Ian Fleming is somebody we’d still want to know about,” says Shakespeare, a guest at the Société de Lecture last month.

By the time he sat down at his typewriter and came up with the first 007 novel in 1953, Casino Royale, Fleming’s career had already taken on many guises, from stockbroker and merchant banker, Reuters war reporter, book collector and, significantly, as a British naval intelligence officer.

Fleming’s life, in particular his six years serving in the war would go on to feed much of Bond’s adventures. But so would his brief time in Geneva, as Shakespeare details in one chapter of his biography.

Read the full story on Geneva Solutions

Here's what else is happening

GS news is a new media project covering the world of international cooperation and development. Don’t hesitate to forward our newsletter!

Have a good day!

Avenue du Bouchet 2
1209 Genève