Der Ursprung der Welt / Fruit of Knowledge
Der Ursprung der Welt / Fruit of KnowledgebyLiv Strömquist
Translation: Katharina Erben
The problem is not men who are not interested in the female sex organ, but those who have developed too great an interest in it, Liv Strömquist proclaims somewhat startlingly in the opening of Der Ursprung der Welt. She goes on to list a top ten of notable figures guilty of misunderstanding women. Men ranging from the doctor and inventor of the cornflake John Harvey Kellogg to the theologian Augustine of Hippo are charged with complicity in the stigmatisation of the vulva as unclean and the source of numerous illnesses, a notion that has so often resulted in its being mutilated, circumcised or even “treated” with acid.
After this introduction, Strömquist – born in Sweden in 1979 – launches an exhaustively researched cultural history of the vulva, presented with feminist verve and caustic sarcasm, devoted not least to discussing how, for centuries, female sexuality has been repressed, pathologised and disparaged. There is never a dry moment in this analysis of the female nether regions: Der Ursprung der Welt is a pamphlet oozing in-your-face humour and frank indignation, as entertaining as it is informative.