Urs Allemann interviewed by Elizabeth Hall
What prompted you to write Babyfucker? Did it start as an idea, a sentence, question, challenge?
It wasn't an idea. It was an image. An image in my head. A vexing image. An image that was just suddenly there. Without reminding me of anyone or anything. Without eliciting any feeling in me. That's what was vexing. A challenge. And then suddenly the sentence was there. As a response to the image? As an escape? As self-defense? I don't know. “I fuck babies.” And then there was the decision to attempt to extract something like a story from this terrible sentence.
Your prose is often hypnotic. Babyfucker evokes its own associative logic by which words generate further words, creating a dazzling rhythmic trip. Yet the beauty of your prose is offset by the disturbing nature of the text. Everything hinges on the monstrous “I fuck babies.” Why did you choose that sentence specifically?
I'm very happy to hear you use the word “beauty” to describe my prose. Because, as strange as it may seem, it was in fact my intention to make something beautiful out of this monstrous material. To write a beautiful story. In this anything but obvious intention a certain idea played a role: the idea that beauty as an aesthetic category can only have relevance today if it passes the endurance test represented by the most un-beautiful, revolting material thinkable. I had the somewhat megalomaniacal idea that I could put it through that – that I could transform shit into gold by writing. And there was the quite crazy corollary idea: only gold made from shit is true gold.