Unica Zurn, Oracle and Spectacle

Unica Zürn, from the illustrated manuscript Orakel und Spektacle (1960; unpublished). India ink, ink and pencil on paper.


This post is dedicated to gossamer, one of the beautiful people behind the art of memory and invisible birds. I was particularly struck by this recent post.


I'm too tired to actually write something. If you like Unica's visual art, please God check out her writing. In addition to Dark Spring from Exact Change, you can still find The Man of Jasmine and The House of Illnesses, both from Atlas Press.


An excerpt from Dark Spring by Unica Zürn (published by Exact Change):

Each time, she finds herself tormented by her terrible fear of the rattling skeleton of a huge gorilla, which she believes inhabits the house at night. The sole purpose of his existence is to strangle her to death. In passing, she looks, as she does every night, at the large Rubens painting depicting "The Rape of the Sabine Women." These two naked, rotund women remind her of her mother and fill her with loathing. But she adores the two dark, handsome robbers, who lift the women onto their rearing horses. She implores them to protect her from the gorilla. She idolizes a whole series of fictional heroes who return her gaze from the old, dark paintings that hang throughout the house. One of them reminds her of Douglas Fairbanks, whom she adored as a pirate and as the "Thief of Baghdad" in the movie theater at school. She is sorry she must be a girl. She wants to be a man, in his prime, with a black beard and flaming black eyes. But she is only a little girl whose body is bathed in sweat from fear of discovering the terrible gorilla in her room, under her bed. She is tortured by fears of the invisible.

Who knows whether or not the skeleton will crawl up the twines of ivy that grow on the wall below her window, and then slip into her room. His mass of hard and pointed bones will simply crush her inside her bed. Her fear turns into a catastrophe when she accidentally bumps into the sabers, which fall off the wall with a clatter in the dark. She runs to her room as fast as she can and slams the door shut behind her. She turns the key and bolts the door. One again, she has come out of this alive. Who knows what will happen tomorrow night?

Unica Zürn, from Orakel und Spektacle (1960)





Unica Zürn, from Orakel und Spektacle (1960)





Unica Zürn, from Orakel und Spektacle (1960)





Unica Zürn, cover for Orakel und Spektacle (1960)





Unica Zürn, from Solfège (early 1960s)





Unica Zürn, from Solfège (early 1960s)