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Dark Spring for Unica Zürn

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One has to wonder, though only to wonder, how much of Zürn’s life transpired above the threshold of the dissociative states and debilitating depressions that later entrapped her. The writings for which she is best known reflect an excruciating mental state, relieved solely by fantasies and hallucinations; reality, in her description, is unbearably harsh and punitive, a realm of grotesquerie in which, she writes in Dark Spring (Merlin, Hamburg, 1969; English translation Exact Change, Cambridge, Mass.,2000), she is “mocked, derided and humiliated.” And while the narrator of that autobiographical novel avers that “pain and suffering bring her pleasure,” Zürn’s inner torment led many times to long spells in mental hospitals, and finally to suicide by throwing herself from Bellmer’s sixth-floor window in 1970, when she was 54.