Corpus Delicti (novel)

from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Corpus delicti: A process is a novel by the German writer Juli Zeh , who in 2009 published by Schöffling & Co. was released. The author had originally written Corpus Delicti as a play on behalf of the RuhrTriennale . The piece was premiered on September 15, 2007 in Essen.

Corpus Delicti deals with the problem of a health dictatorship in the near future using the example of a form of rule that makes a claim to infallibility. Juli Zeh takes up current developments, continues them and takes them as the basis of a state that she calls METHOD. The novel warns the reader of critical developments in today's society and appeals to his maturity and personal responsibility. Although Corpus Delicti belongs to the genre dystopia of science fiction literature, Juli Zeh declined a nomination for the renowned Kurd-Laßwitz-Prize .



The METHOD is a legal system that has replaced today's principles of democracy and made the health of citizens a principle of the state. This system derives its legitimation directly from the will to survive biological life. The METHOD is considered infallible due to a variety of monitoring measures. Everyone has to do the best possible for their body in the METHOD, violations are punished.

The protagonist Mia Holl mourns her brother Moritz Holl, who recently committed suicide in prison. Moritz Holl had been charged with murder, found guilty by means of a DNA test and convicted, but insisted on his innocence to the very end. The explosive political power behind this judgment prompts Heinrich Kramer, the mouthpiece of METHOD, and, independently of him, the lawyer Lutz Rosentreter to conduct further investigations, which is why they both seek contact with Mia.

Mia Holl spends the days withdrawn in her apartment, together with the “ideal lover”, who is a person invented by Moritz who serves the memory of Moritz (in his sense). In her pain, Mia neglects the obligatory sleep and nutrition reports, as well as the daily exercise program, which is prescribed for her by the METHOD. When she is finally charged for further misconduct, Rosentreter, who represents Mia as a lawyer, initially deliberately worsens the situation to Mia's disadvantage. In the following main hearing, however, he was able to clarify the Moritz Holl case in front of a larger audience: Due to a bone marrow donation many years ago, Moritz's genetic fingerprint matches that of the donor, which Rosentreter presents as the murderer. Mia is released from prison.

As a result of the judicial scandal, most media representatives, including the system-loyal journalist Würmer, are surprisingly open to a discussion about possible reforms. Furthermore, Mia's inner conflict is resolved because, as a rational scientist, she recognized the positive DNA test as evidence of her brother's guilt, but also believed her brother. She calls Kramer over and dictates a pamphlet in which she withdraws confidence in the METHOD. With that Mia has finally decided for the side of her deceased free-spirited brother and against the METHOD.

Shortly afterwards, Mia Holl is arrested as an enemy of the state. Using fabricated evidence and extorted testimony from Worms, the state security officers and Kramer have provided apparent evidence that Mia, as the leader of a terrorist organization, prepared a devastating poison attack. Mia does not comply with Kramer's request to sign a confession that has already been prepared, even under torture. In the ensuing trial, she is finally sentenced to indefinite freezing, the equivalent of the death penalty. However, the execution of the judgment is stopped at the last second. In order not to create a martyr, Mia Holl is pardoned and a rehabilitation program is prepared for her.

Important characters

Figure constellation
Mia Holl

Mia is the main character of the novel and the figure who undergoes the strongest change: the 34-year-old biologist and natural scientist, who as an apolitical conformist with exemplary adaptation actually represents the personification of METHOD, becomes a reluctant revolutionary.

An outstanding quality of Mia is her scientific-analytical thinking, which allows her to easily find arguments for and against for every position; but this is precisely the reason for her inability to act, a weakness that her ideal lover, an imaginary woman who Moritz “gave” her shortly before his death, repeatedly accuses at the beginning of the novel: If you have arguments for both sides, I find it difficult to decide which side to go with. As a scientist, she has to acknowledge the DNA evidence; as a sister, she believes in her brother's innocence. Mia differs from the majority of her fellow human beings, who are basically nothing more than empty shells without any emotion or reaction (corpus sanum sine mente sana) to the METHOD, through her ideal lover, Mia's “advisor” and Moritz's legacy. This reflects the emotions that should stir in Mia - actually in every rational person - against a system like METHOD: Despair, skepticism, anger, resistance. The ideal lover points out to Mia her weaknesses and helps her to recognize the truth and to overcome her ambivalence between faithfulness to METHODS and conviction.

After Moritz's death, Mia is lonely and on her own; For Mia Moritz was the only person with whom it was worth arguing. Mia doesn't have any friends. How negative and pessimistic Mia's view of man is, her sentence "Middle Ages is not an epoch, but the name of human nature" gives an idea. Mia does not trust people to want to free themselves from their self-inflicted immaturity. She considers them to be living beings without a soul, without conviction, for which it is worth fighting for, for beings who prefer to move comfortably and safely on prescribed paths than to find their own ways and take initiative, for puppets who are from the METHOD without great effort can be made and instrumentalized. The ideal lover lets Mia develop morals that lead Mia to stand up for a right to resist the METHOD. She withdraws her trust in METHOD. It is not your goal to overthrow the METHOD, but to draw attention to grievances and mistakes that legitimize inhumane behavior. Mia's resistance to the METHOD is passive, not active.

Mia does not want to make herself the figurehead of a movement that is against the METHOD for selfish motives (she believes in this way too much until the end), but repeatedly emphasizes the individual reasons of her point of view, which she has consistently defended for a long time. However, when Mia realizes that her resistance is grist to Kramer's mill and strengthens his position more than it weakens, she inwardly pulls the sails and surrenders to her fate, the METHOD.

Mia almost became a martyr who would have to endure torture, suffering and death for her convictions if the METHOD hadn't played with her to the end.

The name Mia Holl is an association with Maria Holl , a woman persecuted as a witch in the 17th century.

Moritz Holl

Individualist and anarchist who evades the monitoring by the METHODE: a life artist for whom the spice of life lies in the semitones and contradictions of life that the METHODE does not allow. However, Moritz is not a direct opponent of methods and consequently also not a supporter of organizations hostile to methods, which are also presented in the course of the plot (e.g. the organization RAK - "Right to Illness"). He just wants his freedom , because this is the highest good for him. Moritz, one of the few free thinkers in METHODE, finds it difficult to find a good conversation partner. Mia is also not the right person to talk to, as she is not a free thinker. Moritz's partners, whom he tells Mia about, are too complicated for him. Because of this problem, Moritz creates the ideal lover for himself. A lover who only exists in his thoughts, which he can however freely shape according to his will. A lover who thinks like him - a perfect conversationalist. Before his death Moritz passed on his ideal lover to his sister Mia. Moritz got his name because Juli Zeh named a protagonist Max in her novel Adler und Engel . In their social roles, Max and Moritz behave in parallel in their respective actions: Both perish due to a lack of adaptation to an existing system.

The ideal lover

A fictional companion and life coach of Mia, who was invented by Moritz and given to Mia in prison. The ideal lover embodies Moritz's ideologies and values ​​and thus has the task of ensuring that he and his thoughts of freedom are not forgotten even after his death and, above all, continue to live in Mia's spirit. When Mia's spiritual transformation is complete, the ideal lover sees her task as solved and leaves Mia. The ideal lover can be viewed as Mia Holl's conscience. She moves Mia, who still clung to the METHOD during Moritz's lifetime, to slowly turn away from her and to see the bad in the METHOD. The ideal lover is to be regarded as Moritz's free spirit, who now lives on in Mia.

Heinrich Kramer

Kramer, the chief ideologist of the health dictatorship and model intellectual, is Mia's opponent. He appears as a well-groomed, rationally thinking gentleman who benevolently explains the METHOD and brings it closer to anyone who wants it or not. He embodies the state of affairs and is attracted to Mia and her story because he sees her as an equal opponent who thinks just as rationally as he does. He measures himself against her and trains his powers of persuasion and loyalty to the system in mutual disputes. Mia accuses him of making it too easy for himself, despite his ability to think rationally, and of using all his intellectual abilities one-sidedly for the system. He, and not Mia, is in reality the fanatic who blindly and aggressively pursues his goal under the guise of excessive morality in the sense of the METHOD, does not practice any self-criticism and is intolerant of other views. If the book only speaks of Kramer as a journalist, the end of the book in particular suggests that Kramer has a great influence on the METHOD and that ultimately all threads come together with him. When public prosecutor Bell overturns the verdict against Mia Holl, Kramer leans against the wall in a familiar pose, with crossed arms and a satisfied smile . So he already knew about the overturning of the sentence, which the President of the Methodological Council had given up. The name Heinrich Kramer is derived from the historical Heinrich Kramer , the author of the witch's hammer .

Sophie the judge

A strong-willed, ambitious, young judge who is investigating Mia Holl in the trial. Her actions are characterized by mildness and helpfulness towards Mia. She acts as a mediator between Bell and Rosentreter and defuses the negotiations each time in favor of Mia. Although she notices that Mia rebelled against her in the course of the plot and that she has misled her knowledge of human nature, she can do nothing against the sympathy for Mia and is eventually withdrawn from the process because of bias and transferred to a county court in the province.

The name Sophie (from Σοφία, Greek for "wisdom") refers to the wisdom of the young, ambitious judge, who ironically turns out to be folly in the novel because she allows the evidence that almost brings the charges against Moritz Holl down, which is ultimately detrimental to their career. In the novel Spieltrieb , the judge is also called Sophie.

Bell, the prosecutor

Know-it-all, ambitious public prosecutor in Mia's case, who is a strong advocate of the METHOD and wants to teach opponents the better with harsh judgments. Bell has always been in conflict with Sophie since his studies because he is adapted, loyal to the system and vehemently defends his opinion.

Dr. Lutz Rosentreter

Rosentreter is the representative of private interests and accompanies Mia during her criminal trial. According to Mia's definition, he belongs to the kind of supposedly lovable boobies who rob her of the last nerve and clearly belong to the category "unprofessional", but he is the one who refutes the infallibility of the METHOD in the Moritz Holl case, thus a basic pillar of the State ideology blows up and creates riot and resistance movements across the country. Rosentreter is also an opponent of the system at heart, as he was denied a relationship with his great love for immunological reasons. Now he is secretly looking for a solution to take revenge on the METHOD and sees his life goal fulfilled in this process.

Judge Hutschneider, Sophie's successor

A man of sixty who has already had most of his professional career behind him, lives in a middle-class family and wants to enjoy his old age. In the Mia Holl case, he does not represent his own convictions, but wants to end the process as quickly as possible and not endanger himself or be suspected of acting against the METHOD. He takes over the previously prepared judgment with complete indifference and does not ask himself the question of morality.

Würmer, presenter of the political talk show "WAS ALL THINK"

He is eager to have a career in METHODE that is just as steep as his friend Kramer and to distinguish himself professionally, regardless of the means. He can also be called Kramer's pupil, as this is his great role model, whom he deeply admires and from whom he would like to learn. As a key witness, he says that Mia and Moritz founded their own resistance group.

The method


The METHOD is legitimized by the "unconditional, collective will to survive" of every living being. It guarantees its citizens physical and mental health, because health is the "undisturbed flow of life in all parts of the body, organs and cells, a state of mental and physical harmony". Those who are granted health have optimal performance and strength.


Life in the state of METHOD is determined by compulsory health checks, such as sleep and nutrition reports, fixed sports schedule and measures such as methodology and reintegration into society after “misconduct”. Personal freedom, as well as physical freedom of movement, is restricted to a minimum: The courts of the health dictatorship condemn every “method enemy” to severe penalties and pay close attention to the future behavior of the potential source of danger. The community idea is strongly promoted by the Methodists in order to ensure the maintenance of the hygienic conditions. It is a totalitarian state that monitors its citizens down to the smallest detail and thus restricts their personal freedoms.

The downside of the method

In the method, personal will and individual freedom are restricted by controls, tests and monitoring, death is not seen as part of life, but rather taboo and relationships are not entered into because one feels drawn to one another or finds them sympathetic. This completely denies experiences of nature and does not allow emotions; instead, the method is only rationally oriented and people are indoctrinated by the method.


Health craze

A society that equates physical well-being with spiritual well-being and regards its attainment as the highest goal, leaves little room for people who think differently and who want to give their life a priority other than the greatest possible extension of their earthly existence. This prolongation of existence also requires great sacrifices and restrictions on the part of each individual, but can only be successful as a collective. In this way, the general health craze forces everyone into a scheme of life that comes close to the ideal, without leaving room for personal freedom.

Surveillance state

The transparent citizen as the ideal of a total surveillance state harbors many problems. The disclosure of any personal data to the state and the law makes it vulnerable. The psychological stress and the constant pressure to perform (sports program to be fulfilled, necessary perfect blood values, etc.) can lead to serious mental disorders, the treatment of which is tedious. Personal freedom takes a back seat and becomes worthless if it is neglected, which also reduces the value of each individual as an individual. It is not important what character traits a person is characterized by and that he is successful according to his possibilities, but that all facts relating to his life are securely ordered and faultless.

Criticism of the DNA process

I'm withdrawing trust from a METHOD that would rather believe a person's DNA than his words. This is what Mia Holl writes in one chapter of the book. Moritz Holl, who found himself innocent, was convicted of rape and murder based on a DNA sample. The fact that Moritz Holl suffered from leukemia as a child, received a bone marrow donation and thus has a new DNA - that of his donor - only comes out later in the plot. This total rationalization, whereby a single piece of evidence is enough to convict someone, is one of the main criticisms of the book. Due to the fallibility of the DNA process, the infallibility of the METHOD is also called into question. If the METHOD sees itself as infallible, the Moritz Holl case is clear evidence that this is not the case. Moritz was wrongly convicted and thus METHOD makes itself a criminal. Juli Zeh denounces this rationalization that is being initiated today by biometric passports and naked scanners .


In order to draw the reader's attention to grievances in today's society, Juli Zeh criticizes both the state and the individual citizen in her novel. She warns of the increasing tendency to want to control and regulate everything (Internet censorship, recording biometric data in ID cards, online searches, spying on companies, naked scanners, smoking bans), and suggests that concerns about security and precaution could be put forward to to justify the restriction of civil liberty. It draws attention to the danger that the individual's need for security is deliberately abused in order to enforce the most complete surveillance of the citizen. The METHOD is to show that our democracy can be secretly undermined by “dictatorial elements”, so that a surveillance state develops that increasingly incapacitates its citizens and in which individuality is undesirable. In contrast to most anti-utopias or dystopias, the totalitarian and repressive potential of the METHOD does not develop from an open will to power, but from the supposedly positive care for the citizens of the state: “The system wins its legitimation, from Zeh the METHOD ( CD, 35), by setting health as an absolute national goal; The health of the body and the power to dispose of it is now incumbent on the state and no longer the individual ideas of its citizens: 'Health is the goal of the natural will to live and therefore the natural goal of society, law and politics. A person who does not strive for health does not get sick, but already is. '”(CD, 7 f.) The“ politicization of bare life as such ”, which Giorgio Agamben recognizes as“ the decisive event of modernity ”, is initiated here through health prevention; The inclusion of the body in politics, according to Agamben, marks “a radical transformation of the classical political-philosophical categories”, since the state is now expanding its system of rule and access to “natural life” and thus transforming “politics into biopolitics”. Through the state-defined normative setting of health / illness, Zeh's text - which allows itself a joking reference to agamben - creates a logic of repression that creates the totalitarian and exclusive structure of the ruling figure of 'prevention' and the resulting surveillance and violence in the name legitimized by health.

role models

The science fiction film Demolition Man should be mentioned as a model , from which Zeh also took over other elements of the dystopia she described in addition to the punishment of freezing. So here too - in the future dated to the year 2032 - contact and “fluid exchange” are forbidden for hygienic reasons and unhealthy food as well as tobacco and alcohol are forbidden.

Setting "Corpus Delicti - A Sound Novella"

A setting for Corpus Delicti has also been released under the name Corpus Delicti - Eine Schallnovelle , a collaboration between Juli Zeh and the rock band Slut . Slut composed seven pieces for the setting, Juli Zeh adapted parts of the novel and redesigned or shortened other parts.



  • Mario Leis, Sabine Rieker: Juli Zeh. Corpus delicti. Reading key. Reclam, Stuttgart, 2016, ISBN 978-3-15-015447-2
  • Nover, Immanuel: The Disciplined Body - Ethics, Prevention and Terror in Juli Zeh's Corpus Delicti. One process . In: Critical Edition. Journal for German Studies & Literature. 24 (2013), pp. 79-84.

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. DNB 99139609X
  2. ^ Uwe Post: Juli Zeh rejects nomination for Kurd-Laßwitz-Prize. In: Forum in the SF network . May 8, 2010, accessed December 27, 2014 .
  3. Britta Heidemann: Author Juli Zeh meets her translator. , August 31, 2010, accessed December 26, 2010 .
  4. ^ A b Giorgio Agamben: Homo Sacer. The sovereignty of power and bare life . Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp 2002, p. 14.
  5. ^ Giorgio Agamben: Homo Sacer. The sovereignty of power and bare life . Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp 2002, p. 12.
  6. Immanuel Nover: The disciplined body - ethics, prevention and terror in Juli Zeh's Corpus Delicti. One process . In: Critical Edition. Journal for German Studies & Literature. 24 (2013), pp. 79–84, here: p. 79.