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“DARK SPRING” by Unica Zürn

in Ark Review/Book reviews by

A girl commits suicide, after her ‘’coming-of-age’’
turns into a freudian nightmare.

I’d like to start this book review out with a long awkward silence.

/Hold it.

Rarely have I read a book that is so difficult to say something about. Possibly because of the anger and fury that evaporates from all the pages, which turns into an almost physical experience of being sucker punched right in the gut upon finishing the book. And 40 showers won’t be enough to make me feel clean again.

A young girl grows up in a suburb of Berlin and adores her father. She gets sexually(?) violated by her unhappy mother early on in the book (here the book is rather vague, but there is definitely something going on with a tongue), which leads this nameless young girl to an ocean of hatred and self hatred. Sexual fantasies revolving around being beaten, mocked, spat on, raped and finally having her throat cut slowly open fill her imagination..

The entire house reeks of sex: The parents swap partners, the brother masturbates everywhere and with different gadgets, both before and after he rapes his sister. The girl likes to use: Bannister, dog, books and her imagination to gain a kind of satisfaction, though it always leaves her in an empty state of post-onanistic-blues. Nothing works against the feeling of lacking something, besides the idea of a man, who is the only one that can save and cure her from ‘’the beginning ailments’’.

This is so freudian that I can’t even…

Everyone in the house is fully occupied with their own sexual satisfaction and they all seem extremely lonely (I’m not judging!). The girl’s bodily awakening and prepubescent formative years go horribly wrong, as she experiences one trauma after the other. As her final protest against the rulers (the grown ups), she throws herself out the window and dies. In her mind it’s the perfect revenge and the only empowerment within her reach.

The book is short, only 66 pages and told from a third person perspective by someone we don’t know. That it’s narrated by an anonymous voice frees us from the forced/fake naive language of the inner child monologue (i.e. ‘Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close’ – sorry) and it liberates the prose from having to live up (or down) to the conscience of a 12-year old. But oh, conscience. If there is a place where a 12-year old first person narrator could work without it becoming absurd and embarrassing, it might be here.

Our main character is furious and despises her fellow characters on a level that keeps her awake at night full of hate and murderous fantasies.
It’s the dark spring of the young inner life.

The language of the book is quite seductive and simple, and just that makes it so aggressive. What to do with or against the directionless fury of a child? Probably nothing except to keep reading and decide to at least never put one’s own genes into reproduction.

Then there is the suicide of the author Unica Zürn that she executed in the same manner as her young nameless girl. Is it possible to not read the book autobiographical? Probably. I don’t know. But by reading the story as a biography and not a piece of fiction, one denies Zürn of her ability of invention and artistry. An entire inner life and fantasy is lost if her writing is reduced to only containing thoughts that are due to ‘’personal problems’’ and thus almost unavoidable.

It’s a powerful reading experience that reminded me of Batailles ‘’Story of the Eye’’. Not the story itself, but the way I felt when I read it. Everything is turned upside down and everything is wrong (if we operate within conventional morals and ethics), but because of the simple way the story is told, without resistance, it manipulates a new normalcy. It’s the same with Zürn, where the child’s voice is so strong and without genuine reflections that the unnatural almost feels natural.

A few days after I read this book, it started taking form as a manifest in my mind and now I’m left wondering why a pre-teen (tween?) death cult hasn’t emerged around this book. As always, I’m late to the party.

Hereby: not a suggestion.

Giovanna, wildly gifted pedestrian, yet is able to remain humble. Would love to engineer a lovechild/super-breed author between Ben Lerner and Chris Kraus, but will also settle for a coffee table book with pictures of them and/or a documentary where they walk the Camino together.

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