Unica Zürn


At a special Raw Vision price until 5 Februrary 2021.

Unica Zürn’s celebrated autobiography, plus the greatest of her short fictional texts, edited and in a revised by translation by Malcolm Green


In the 25 years since Atlas Press first published this account by Unica Zürn of her long history of mental crises, she has come to be recognised as a great artist at least the equal of her partner, the Surrealist Hans Bellmer.

Yet her work is barely comprehensible without the texts printed here, in which she demonstrates how her familiarity with Surrealist conceptions of the psyche allowed her to welcome the most alarming experiences as offering her access to an inner existence that was the vital source for her artistic output. The introduction here was the first study to consider her life and work from this perspective.

Zürn’s initial mental collapse was initiated when she encountered her fantasy figure “the man of Jasmine” in the real world in the person of the writer Henri Michaux. Her meeting with him plunged her into a world of hallucination in which visions of her desires, anxieties and events from her unresolved past overwhelmed her present life. Her return to “reality” was constantly interrupted by alternate visionary and depressive periods, and her description of these episodes reveals how language itself formed a part of the “divinatory” method that could aid her recovery or predict a new crisis. Her compulsion for composing anagrams allowed her to dissect everyday language so as to release from it an astonishing flood of messages, threats and evocations. This method, if such it can be called, and Zürn’s eloquent yet direct style make this book a masterpiece of literature as well as providing an acute first-hand insight into extreme psychological states.

In 1970 Unica Zürn committed suicide by throwing herself from the sixth-floor apartment that she shared with Bellmer.

Companion volume: THE HOUSE OF ILLNESSES.

Atlas Anti-classic 25.

2020, ISBN: 978-1-900565-82-0, 192pp, hardback with decorated endpapers.
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Additional information

Weight .52 kg
Dimensions 17.5 × 19.5 cm