German, DuMont Buchverlag, 2022
“If there’s one feeling from my childhood that I do remember clearly, it’s the feeling that my body did not belong to me. That it was there for others, for something other, and not for me to be in it. I was always like a piece of furniture somehow, this chest of drawers for castoff things. I don’t know how, but the grown-ups dumped their stuff, their preoccupations, their problems into me.”
“Grandmeer, oh little Grandmeer, you have become a little fairy tale, repeating yourself, working in formulae; you are a piece of the past that haunts us, you have become a little girl, peeing in the umbrella stand if someone doesn’t make you use the toilet.”
In Bloodbook, Kim de l’Horizon explores the origins of the eponymous main character, Kim. The text not only traces the female bloodline of the gender-fluid protagonist’s ancestors, but also describes their childhood in Ostermundigen, in Bern, which was shaped by a search for identity and a sense that their body was somehow different.
Kim’s story in Bloodbook is addressed to their grandmother, known as ‘Grandmeer’, who is spiralling into dementia. The narrator begins abruptly: ‘For example, I never officially told you.’ The thing not told is the fact that Kim does not identify with any specific gender. There is much in the text that cannot be said. Although Grandmeer has always been a chatterbox, there are many things Kim could not and cannot say to her. In this sense, Bloodbook is also a search for a suitable language.
The fluidity of identity assumes a central role in this text. In describing scenes from their past, Kim’s account refers to ‘the child’, creating a distance between the narrating self and the child who grew up in Ostermundigen. There is a lot the child does not remember very clearly – only the sense that their body does not belong to them.
Yet this search for identity goes back far beyond Kim’s childhood. Kim researches the copper beech their great-grandfather planted in the garden when Grandmeer was born, which offered the child a refuge and sense of safety. When Kim is asked to write an account of their grandmother’s life before she dies, they stumble across a grey folder in their mother’s apartment. It contains a family tree tracing back their female ancestors – stories of women whose lives were marred by violence and oppression. These texts, compiled by Kim’s mother, double and reflects Kim’s own writing – writing that defies the patriarchal world order, its ascriptions and norms.
In the present day, Kim is twenty-six and lives in Zurich. In addition to writing and research, they fling themselves into a turbulent sex life. Very explicit, sometimes violent sex scenes are described. Kim will never have children of their own, so the writing of this book also represents a break with genealogy, even as it is also a birth, a creation.
Bloodbook is split into five parts. There are frequent quotations, and the author’s inspirations and influences are made clear. The narrative is eclectic and the text is rich in allusions, references and metaphors, which recur throughout. Everything is in conversation with everything else, constantly in motion. In this sense, the principle of fluidity also applies at the level of the text. The in-between, the non-present, the ever-searching – all are constitutive elements in this book, which is a virtuosic celebration of the ambiguous and the blurred.
Text by Martina Keller
- DuMont Buchverlag
- Translation rights
- Judith Habermas, firstname.lastname@example.org
- Publication date
- July 2022
- German Book Prize 2022, Swiss Book Prize 2022
Kim de l’Horizon
Kim de l’Horizon was born in Ostermundigen (Bern) in 1992. Kim studied German, Film, and Theater in Zurich as well as Literary writing at the Swiss Literature Institute in Biel. Currently, Kim is studying transdisciplinarity at the ZHdK in Zurich. Kim is part of the collective e0b0ff and writes for the literary magazine “Delirium.” During the 21/22 season, Kim was also resident playwright at the Bühnen Bern theater. Before the debut novel Blutbuch, Kim tried to gain attention with prizes for emerging talents, such as the Textstreich competition for unwritten poetry or the Treibhaus competition. Blutbuch was awarded the Jürgen-Ponto Prize, the German Book Prize 2022 as well as the Swiss Book Prize 2022.
Photo: Anne Morgenstern