Much of X Schneeberger’s debut novel, Neon Pink & Blue, is quirky if not queer: the narrator’s family story, life story, and awareness of gender identity between one, her, and human, as well as the use of indirect speech in the first section of the book. This novel also reads as a drag queen’s account of an ecstatic summer of dancing in Zurich’s underground and techno scenes.
On the cover, X Schneeberger is listed in the brief author bio as Christoph Schneeberger. The play of gender identities runs through the entire text linguistically as well: “And the child would have liked, given the opportunity, to have been a girl, and itwould not have become neuter so swiftly, as putative personal pronouns feign to be.” Hence the frequent use of the impersonal pronoun ‘one’ along with the personal pronoun ‘she’. The author’s choice of the subjunctive mood rather than the indicative throughout the first section ‘Schneeberger Vogelsang’ is also unusual.
The subjunctive mood lends this work of autofiction an artificial air and with it a sense of distance, but also something artistic. Writer, dancer, artist, poet, diseuse – ambitions are high and the self-doubt is too: “One throws oneself into life but is still just a quotation. Cobbled together.” Work as a drag artist from the provincial Aargau backwater Vogelsang – a real place – in pitiless, big-city Zurich brings in only enough to support ‘bare’ life on the margins of society, this includes homelessness, loneliness, and sexual harassment but also friendship and solidarity among the weak.
In the novel’s second section ‘The School of Melancholy’, the narrative voice switches to that of X Noëme: “I’m the one who’s always included in the pronoun ‘one’ but who’s never actually mentioned.” This changes the perspective to that of a self-confident first-person narrator who wants to save herself by telling her story: “I, Noëme, will come out of this story alive, something all storytellers share, I hear. Whoever is telling a story has survived.”
Schneeberger’s talent is to fashion this restless artistic existence between identities and outside bourgeois life with an unsparing eye and in powerful, idiosyncratic language. This includes sprinklings of dialect, lines from songs, and numerous intertextual allusions to pop-culture, literature, and bible verses as in the following lines that conclude the novel on a hopeful note: ‘Siblings, we carry paradise within … when you make male and female one so that non-masculine is masculine and non-feminine feminine.’
Text by Jan-Jesse Müller
- Neon Pink & Blue
- verlag die brotsuppe, Biel/Bienne
- Translation rights
- Ursi Aeschbacher, firstname.lastname@example.org
- Publication date
- August 2020
- Swiss Literature Award
Christoph Schneeberger has been active under different names in a variety of fields. His first novel, Neon Pink & Blue, draws on years of texts written the morning after, both from the underground rave scene and from his life as a political activist and drag queen. Neon Pink & Blue was on the Hot List 2020.
Photo: Christoph Schneeberger