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The Dark Spring by Unica Zürn: a somewhat peculiar sexuality

It is well described how neurotic children discover sexual difference. Unica Zürn´s Dark Spring[i] offers another kind of testimony, an encounter with sexuality little mediated by the common discourse.

The protagonist confesses a fascination for her father and the masculine body, while that of her mother inspires in her a “deep and insurmountable aversion”[ii]. One morning she climbs onto her mother´s bed and “is scared by that huge body”. In place of her mother, she faces a real body: “The unsatisfied woman hurls herself over the girl, with a humid mouth and a trembling tongue, long like that thing hidden in her brother’s pants”.

The real absence of a penis in her own body, unbearable to her, does not become a symbolic lack and leads her to search for another solution. “She is thinking where to find her own complement. She takes to her bed all hard and long objects… and introduces them between her legs”. This search for a “complement” and compulsive masturbation, without guilt or shame, do not find any limit. Her first “relation” occurs with a dog: the girl uses the animal´s tongue as an instrument of pleasure. Later, she decides to wait for the “remedy” to come from a man – which could seem an Oedipal solution if it were not so literal.

In this connection it is curious that the girl falls in love, quite platonically, with an adult stranger. For a while, this love serves as a limit to her sexuality, but soon it turns into real incorporation: the little lover ends up eating her beloved´s photo.

Without a signification that would come from the Other, she invents one herself. During an experience of incest with her brother the girl compares their genitals to the wound and the knife. This metaphor seals a previous development: the connection she made between sexual relations and violence. (Well before that, she would fantasise with scenes of torture. “Pain and suffering give her pleasure,” offering a sort of treatment for the real of her body and for anxiety). Seemingly, here she manages to give meaning to sexuality and subjectivise it. In this light, one may better understand Zürn’s relation with photographer Hans Bellmer, whose doll-model she will eventually become.

[i] Zürn, U., The Dark Spring, Exact Change, 2000.

[ii] The quotes that cannot be found in Google books were translated from the Spanish edition by the author.