Urs Allemann
Les Figues Press, 2010

Reviewed by Arin Fisher

[Review Guidelines]

Peter Smith writes that "Der Spiegel magazine includes the 'Allemann affair' as one of only three cultural events on its list of the top forty-five scandals between 1949 and 1999 [in Germany]" (v). And, as willing as I usually tend to be to suspend moral or ethical judgments on literature, I'm tempted to glower at this book, hunkered down like an accommodated goose on a Thanksgiving dinner table: unwelcome and foreign. And, as if in protest to this book, my iced americano just delivered a dollop of brown water on the cover, right over the word "-yfuck." Who, I must ask, is Urs Allemann? And what has he written that pricks at the confusing conservative part of myself that I thought I had suppressed years ago?
      My ability to apprehend this book aesthetically required two readings. The first reading was to adapt my mind to seeing choice words used in the same sentence: "I fuck babies." If ever an opening sentence broke balls as effectively as this one, I have yet to hear about it. Or see it. Or think of it. The only people who can read a sentence like that and not be jerked into a new level of consciousness are, well, pedophiles, who might find this piece of literature particularly fruitful in its accessibility and relatability. I am not a pedophile; therefore, reading "I fuck babies" is challenging, but intriguing, and allowed me to read all the way through—twice.
      The first time I read this, I was desensitized to the language towards the end and fell into the impression that this book was purely masturbatory. I believed that Allemann's only effort was to shock and awe. I focused on the surface details that belied my efforts to really dig in. I saw things like: "I don't intend to look in the mirror. I don't intend to fuck babies with the mirror's wooden handle. Like an idiot. Paul's bumhole. My bumhole. Linda's bumhole. O. O. The baby bumholes" (79). The sentence is revolting, but I keep reading.
      The second reading was productive. Found a story that wasn't hyper-indie in the tasteless sense. I learned about Linda, the narrator's wife? lover? stalker? And I learned about Paul, who likes Linda and who may be himself: "But Paul. If we if I am made of babies. But Linda" (113). And the pain the narrator's enduring by way of Linda, whose love for him is torturous. In short: this is the creepiest and most original love story I've ever encountered. The babies are like speed, alcohol, sex, fisting: a way to forget. By the end, though, he's entertaining the idea of fucking Linda, who, by the final two pages of the book, in the final scene, is giving birth to a baby, I presume, the narrator will want to fuck.
      At the end I pity the Babyfucker. Not afraid. Not that. Never that. He's not a criminal. He gives the babies morphine. He gives himself to absolute suffering, struggling: "Nauseous. I just felt nauseous. Sick. Now I feel sick to my stomach" (15). Linda's fault. Paul's fault. Not babies' fault. The Babyfucker hasn't, at least, withdrawn from himself. He's honest with himself—aware of his patheticism. He rapes babies. The babies grow large. And he hasn't withdrawn from Linda: "Linda claims that I too was once a baby. Like her. Like Paul. Supposedly I too once had a name. Like Paul. Like her. Looks like her. She brought me a mirror [...] I'm not a baby. Never been one" (77).
      Read. The. Book.
      Give it a chance. Give the Babyfucker some time, some love, some therapy, some morphine, a Fleshjack©.