24 Jan 2023 8:25 am
The bestselling author Juli Zeh has written a new novel together with her fellow writer Simon Urban: “Between Worlds”. It won’t appear until January 25th, but people are already getting excited. However, it is not about the literary qualities.
The German lawyer and writer Juli Zeh (48) and her colleague Simon Urban have written a novel together for the first time. “Between Worlds”, written in the tradition of the epistolary novel, formally picks up on the new short text formats from messenger services such as WhatsApp and e-mails. In terms of content, the story revolves around political and ideological divisions in society, as they ignited from the refugee crisis to the war in Ukraine.
There is also a relatively large range: it ranges from Juli Zeh, Sahra Wagenknecht and Ulf Poschardt to Andreas Rödder. Nothing is certain yet, but the vectors are all pointing in the same direction. 3/
— Oliver Nachtwey (@onachtwey) January 22, 2023
The tension between the two fictitious main characters is already created by the very different milieus in which they are located: one, Stefan Jordan, is the features editor of a large Hamburg weekly newspaper, the other, Theresa Kallis, an organic farmer from a fictitious Brandenburg village .
the The New Zurich Times (NZZ) has now spoken to the two authors, and since the publication of the interview with Zeh and Urban, the storm has been raging in a teacup, i.e. in the Twitter bubble. Because loud NZZ journalist Jordan appears – and this to the displeasure of many overtly activist commentators – as an “incarnation, if not an incarnation [als] the caricature of “political correctness”, which is presented in a rather unsympathetic way (as “the biggest puke in modern German literary history”). This describes the content of the novel. Or as Juli Zeh puts it:
“Above all, we wanted to show how the communication distortions that we all observe in our society arise: the high pressure of opinion, the polarization, the need to pay attention to what one says.”
The echo that the new novel generates in the social media even before its publication seems to prove Juli Zeh and Simon Urban right. The authors are addressed for that and above all how draw their attention to the impossibility of a dialogue between the hostile camps in literary form. Although there are similar blockades in other countries – Zeh refers to the USA with Trump and Brexit in Great Britain – the hardened mood in Germany has only emerged since Merkel’s refugee policy of 2015. Urban states that, as with the migration issue, the corridor of opinion was also narrowed during the Corona crisis:
“Like 2015, there was a prevailing opinion in 2020/21. And if you didn’t want to adapt, you could have problems.”
So the novel deals with the problem of the mainstream, or rather the divergence from the majority opinion and the suppression of the undesirable, in new German: Political Correctness and Cancel Culture. But even compared to the criticism of climate policy or the Corona measures, in the case of the Ukraine war, things have “now gotten even worse,” says Zeh. The writer, who is a member of the SPD and currently also a member of the Brandenburg Constitutional Court as a doctor of law, had signed an open letter to the Federal Chancellor, in which a de-escalating German Ukraine policy based on negotiations was called for. For this, some of the signatories were “attacked with violence [worden] – Holla, the forest fairy! In terms of diction, that was worse than any corona dispute,” said Zeh.
Juli Zeh: “It’s true that Sarrazin had the right topic on his hands, unfortunately his books were polemical and full of strange numbers.” (Interview with the NZZ, 01/21/23). Crazy. Just crazy how you can watch Juli Zeh radicalize.
— Katharina Nocun (@kattascha) January 22, 2023
However, by their own admission, Zeh and Urban are not impressed by the non-culture of canceling – the tweets interspersed here may serve as examples. They “don’t care”. With their new book they wanted “for differentiation […]stand up for perspective diversity, for pluralism, for the ambivalence and complexity of literature”. So it remains to be seen what literary qualities the novel will have, going beyond the welcome concerns of contemporary diagnosis and communication therapy, and whether, apart from bourgeois voices like the NZZ or Julian Reichelt is also positively received in the left-wing spectrum.
more on the subject – Since he was researching in the Donbass: Journalist loses teaching position and is suing the University of Kiel