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"I am a witness to this time and this body"

Kim grew up in a Swiss suburb and identifies as non-binary.

- 7 reads.

"I am a witness to this time and this body"

Kim grew up in a Swiss suburb and identifies as non-binary. The debut novel "Blutbuch", which is shortlisted for the German Book Prize, refuses any definition, even an autobiographical one, even if Kim sounds like Kim de l'Horizon: "Born 2666 on Gethen" and "studies witchcraft with Starhawk" it says instead of a résumé on the book cover about Kim de l'Horizon.

This is only logical, since the novel is dedicated to the implicit violence that emanates from categorizations and attempts to fathom the lost biographies of the ancestors. The actual protagonist of this eclectic search for what came before is: language itself.

De l'Horizon attracts and tries on words like dresses or suits; the writing presented here is a transgressive one, it moves in the spaces between genres, languages ​​and conventions. Sometimes punctuation marks are dispensed with in the mode of incessant flow, shortly afterwards one encounters an outrageous waste of punctuation. Sometimes the grandmother is addressed as "you", then the "I" is changed to the third person: "The child knows: It must not become a man."

Instead of "man" it says "human"; Asterisks break up a clear gender order: "I am a witness for this time, for this body," one reads. Or: "I became a werewolf, a werewolf, a wenfickeichtoday-woof." It rhymes, rows, jumps.

“How incredibly soft and alive a penetrated ass feels. As if human beings were made entirely of silk”, descriptions like these arise in a virtuoso alternation of soulful poetry and hard-hitting materiality. Once a single sentence runs over a whole page, changing in the middle from High German to Swiss dialect, to English, to CAPITAL LETTERS.

Self-reflective footnotes that ironically imitate a scientific discourse, for example about settling scores with male classics, are among the many narrative highlights: "What do texts look like if there isn't a human master subject at the center and the world gracefully gets into shape?" But just as little as Goethe gets off well with the “proto-fascist sexuality of gay masculinity” or with straight men who paint their nails brightly to prove they are on the right side.

When, in the force of the preceding quotations, Virginia Woolf talks about “flow” and Gilles Deleuze talks about “becoming”, it is initially surprising that a tree of all things, that instance of hierarchical unity, is at the center of the narration and what is narrated. More precisely: a blood beech. But it quickly becomes clear that the copper beech is not a normal tree, but "something monstrous, hermaphrodite", i.e. like the off-centered art of language de l'Horizons is more like a rampant rhizome: "She was an in-between, drank blood."

Only towards the end do you finally find out why the novel is called "Blutbuch" and not "Blutbuche" - and that the "e" didn't just disappear into the blue of the cover design. In Swiss German, "book" means not only "belly" but also "beech". The monstrous reality of both-and is already in the title.

There are books where it is enough to read the first 100 pages to get a feel for the whole. In the case of de l'Horizons, on the other hand, the narrative instance changes constantly and so radically that there is nothing left but to greedily absorb every word from the first to the last page. The fact that this is neither an informative set of rules for left-wing contemporary discourses nor decent identity prose in front of a queer foil is shown by the decision not to precede the novel with a trigger warning. Some of the sex scenes in which blood, feces and spit are just as indissolubly blurred as violence and pleasure are not for the faint-hearted.

In view of this impressive linguistic power, the plot, which loses itself in as many strands as an uncontained root system, takes a back seat. But that's not too bad, because the experimental form and the fun of the game make the scraps of action that pop up in between all the more striking - scraps of action that talk about merciless sex and stirring family research, female oppression and class flight, witch hunts and plague victims, Swiss fairy tales and tell botany.

About a grandmother who is affectionately known as "Big Sea", who suffers from dementia and offers such an open narrative occasion that it provides de l'Horizon with all sorts of possibilities. Of a liberation that knows what it owes to its bonds; who commemorates the tradition, among other things, with a wealth of references instead of breaking with it blindly: "I don't kill my parents. I am giving birth to my mothers.” About the women before and after Great Sea and the blood that sticks to their bodies. With this blood de l'Horizon must write. And it can, masterfully.

Kim de l'Horizon: Blood Book. DuMont. 336 pages, 24 euros.

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