Juli Zeh and Simon Urban: “Between Worlds” – book tip

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Created: 2/2/2023 5:13 p.m

Von: Sven Trautwein


Even before the book was published, opinions about the book were circulating in the press and on social media. The novel deserves a well-meaning reader.

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What went wrong? When a book is on everyone’s lips and torn up before it’s published, it’s hard to resist the storm of loud voices. That’s what happened to Juli Zeh and Simon Urban with “Between Worlds”, a WhatsApp novel between big city and province. Reason enough to take a closer look at the book once it’s published.

Juli Zeh, Simon Urban “Between Worlds”: About the Book

Juli Zeh, Simon Urban “Between Worlds” © teutopress / Imago / Luchterhand

Twenty years have passed: When Stefan and Theresa accidentally cross paths in Hamburg, their first reunion ends in disaster. When they were students they were like family to each other, today there is hardly anything they have in common. Stefan has made a career for Germany’s largest weekly newspaper DER BOTE, Theresa has taken over her father’s farm in Brandenburg. The different life plans have become contradictory attitudes…

The displeasure of the preliminary criticism is possibly based on an interview in the NZZ, in which the two of them said things that were rather suboptimal, wrong, for example regarding the entry of the AfD into the Bundestag. July Zeh dated this one to 2013, not 2017. Well, alright. But this interview has nothing to do with the content of the novel. And the question always arises as to whether you can’t read the book without the trappings and just let the text sink in.

Of course, reading is a blessing. For the individual and for humanity. But does one have to write something about what is read, about which something is then written, about which hosts of educated people argue, in order to then document the dispute and discuss the documentation in the arts pages?

The book may, some reviewers agree, be simply written. But if you look inside, you realize that it is a novel consisting of WhatsApp and e-mails from the two main characters, who meet again by chance 20 years after their shared flat share. Thus, there is the exchange of the two again. This can’t be highly polished prose. She has taken over her father’s farm and can hardly breathe between the barn and the computer, he is the arts editor of a large weekly newspaper and enjoys life in the big city. But isn’t it sometimes the unspectacular that gives rise to great stories?

Aren’t we busy reading headlines on social networks on a daily basis rather than the text or the background behind a quote? It takes time to read a 400-page novel. Time that many no longer want to take because they could miss something else. And make judgments about it before you’ve even read the book in its entirety. You should be angry about that.

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Juli Zeh, Simon Urban “Between Worlds”: Conclusion

An outcry over a book before it’s published is a little reminiscent of Prince Harry’s “Reserve.” Social media was on fire and quotes were circulating everywhere. After reading the book, opinions changed. This should also apply to “Between Worlds”. Detached from everything. In addition to all the gender asterisks and big-city pink-glasses feuilleton, it is a clear view of the precarious situation of farmers in this country. That has definitely succeeded. And discussion is welcome. After reading.

Juli Zeh / Simon Urban “Between Worlds”

2023 Airer’s Hand, ISBN-13 978-3-630-87741-9

Price: hardcover €24, e-book €19.99, 448 pages (deviating from the format)

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July toe

Juli Zeh, born in Bonn in 1974, studied law in Passau and Leipzig, doctorate in European and international law. Extended stays in New York and Kraków. Juli Zeh has received many awards for her work, such as the Thomas Mann Prize (2013) and the Heinrich Böll Prize (2019). In 2018 she received the Federal Cross of Merit and was elected judge at the Constitutional Court of the State of Brandenburg.

Simon Urban

Simon Urban, born in Hagen in 1975, studied German, comparative literature and philosophy in Münster. He has received numerous literary prizes and creative awards for his publications, such as the Cannes Lion and the Clio Grand Prix.