July toe

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Juli Zeh at the Frankfurt Book Fair 2018

Juli Zeh (bourgeois Julia Barbara Finck nee Zeh; pseudonym Manfred Gortz ; born June 30, 1974 in Bonn ) is a German lawyer and writer who has received numerous literary prizes and is also known for her social and political commitment.

In addition to her literary work, Juli Zeh is also active as a journalist. She writes u. a. Essays for Die Zeit and the FAZ . From May to October 2014 she wrote (in regular three-week alternation with Jakob Augstein and Jan Fleischhauer ) the column The class representative in the mirror .


Zeh is the daughter of the former director of the German Bundestag , Wolfgang Zeh . She attended Pädagogium Otto Kühne School in Bonn and put there the Abitur. She then studied law with a focus on international law in Passau , Krakow , New York and Leipzig . In 1998 she passed the first state examination in Saxony as the best of the year. After an internship at the UN in New York, she completed a postgraduate course in law in “Law of European Integration”, which she completed as a Magisterium of Law ( LL.M.Eur. ). Zeh began studying at the German Literature Institute in Leipzig in 1996, before completing his law degree, and graduated in 2000 .

2010 toe at the University of Saarland in Saarbrücken to Dr. iur. PhD. Her dissertation deals with the legislative activities of UN interim administrations. For this she was awarded a German Study Prize from the Hamburg Körber Foundation . She is a member of the PEN Center Germany and the Free Academy of the Arts in Hamburg .

Zeh has lived in Barnewitz , a village in the Havelland in Brandenburg , since 2007 ; she had previously lived in Leipzig for many years. She is married to photographer and author David Finck and has two children.

On December 12, 2018, Juli Zeh was elected honorary judge at the constitutional court of Brandenburg by the Brandenburg state parliament at the suggestion of the SPD parliamentary group and sworn in on January 30, 2019 in the Brandenburg state parliament.

Artistic work

July Toe (2011)

Juli Zeh's debut novel Adler und Engel - translated into 35 languages ​​- is set in the milieu of international lawyers and the drug mafia. In line with the author's biography, the novel has a legal content: It addresses international law and thus a “very special legal form that actually only half deserves the character or name of law” because it is “still emerging every second” is to see "constantly confronted with [his] own downfall" and "with [his] own ineffectiveness."

The scene of playfulness is a school in toe hometown Bonn. The protagonists are students and teachers of the school, whose behavior and attitudes exemplify the legal philosophical question of the objective existence of right and wrong. With an excerpt from the novel, Juli Zeh took part in the Ingeborg Bachmann Prize in 2004 . Your text received a mixed response from the jury. However, the novel reached a wide audience and received mostly positive reviews in the German feature pages. Bernhard Studlar developed a play of the same name from this novel, which premiered on March 16, 2006 at the Deutsches Schauspielhaus Hamburg and has also been shown at the Junge Theater Bremen since the beginning of 2007 . The novel was filmed in 2013 by Gregor Schnitzler under the original title Spieltrieb with Michelle Barthel in the leading role.

The travel diary The Silence is a Sound is the product of a trip to Bosnia and Herzegovina in the summer of 2001. It is about the deep disturbance of the people in the face of the non-respect of the country by the international community, the not being seen by Europe . A dog runs through the republic is an anthology published jointly with David Finck and Oskar Ters with stories from young Bosnians in German about the situation in their country. The Small Conversation Lexicon for Domestic Dogs with photographs by David Finck was published in 2005. In it, Othello, a writer's house dog, explains the world as it really is - from a dog's point of view. Everything on the lawn , published in March 2006, is an anthology of 30 essays .

The novel Schilf , published in 2007, combines a criminal plot about two elite physicists with reflections on the phenomenon of time. It was dramatized by Bettina Bruinier and Katja Friedrich in the year of publication and premiered on December 13, 2007 at the Munich Volkstheater . Bruinier was awarded the "Star of the Year of the Munich Evening Newspaper " for its production . The Austrian premiere took place in 2012 at the Wiener KosmosTheater .

The play Corpus Delicti takes place in the year 2057. The method has become the basis of the entire state system , that is, the state forces its citizens to take preventive measures and treats even smoking a cigarette as a crime. The drama premiered at the Ruhrtriennale in 2007. The novel of the same name Corpus Delicti: a process was published in 2009. Corpus Delicti - A sonic novella she developed together with the band Slut in 2009 as a mixture of radio play and music. The live implementation also contained elements from video art and theater. In spring 2020, Antje Thoms finally staged an adaptation of the play at the Deutsches Theater Göttingen as a car theater course to be driven through in a local underground car park - due to the current COVID-19 pandemic requirements .

Also in 2009, Zeh and Ilija Trojanow published the book Attack on Freedom: Security Mania, Surveillance State and the Dismantling of Civil Rights . In the context of the book presentation, the two authors criticized the fact that the state was increasingly penetrating the privacy of its citizens under the guise of counter-terrorism .

In 2010, she was asked about the causes of rampages in the documentary Amok - Anatomy of the Incredible .

The novel Zero Time , published in 2012, depicts a triangular relationship from two different perspectives that develops during a diving holiday in Lanzarote. According to the author, the novel is both a “ psychological thriller ” and a “relationship box”. It also reflects Juli Zeh's enthusiasm for scuba diving, which she learned in 2010.

The social novel Unterleuten , published in 2016, describes the social fabric of a Brandenburg village twenty years after reunification. The novel is divided into six parts, which in turn are divided into eight to thirteen chapters, which bear the name of the character from whose perspective the story is told. This change of perspective shows the readers that all figures make assumptions about their counterparts that later turn out to be wrong. Jörg Magenau saw “the real charm of the novel” in the change of perspective. The text relies “entirely on plot and psychological figure drawing”, is “linguistically rather simple and conventionally knitted”, which, however, is not inappropriate for a village novel. Juli Zeh commented their image as author of Among people in the Neue Zürcher Zeitung as saying: "I see myself as an entertainment writer, I always wanted to be." She had passages from the 2015 by it under the pseudonym Manfred Gortz published "Guide “Flow in. In 2020, the film adaptation Unterleuten - The torn village was broadcast in three parts on ZDF in March.

The novel New Year was published in 2018 . He tells of the everyday overwhelming demands of a family man and of an early childhood trauma that leads to panic attacks in the protagonist's later life. The two narrative strands are linked by a déjà vu, at this point the novel breaks down into two almost independent narratives.

In May 2020 a book followed under the title Questions about Corpus Delicti , in which the author once again deals with her play Corpus Delicti , its creation and the numerous questions that have arisen since then.


Zeh's writing revolves around the antagonism of chaos and order; it asks whether and how meaning and morality can be rebuilt when traditional values ​​have become meaningless. Recurring motifs are the questions of getting lost, of cohesion and the supporting norms and the living environment in a society of individualization and globalization, in which no joint responsibility for the future of a global community is recognizable. In the program Philosophical Quartet on the subject of "Are societies capable of learning?", Juli Zeh expressed her "favorite phrase" in May 2011:

“Democracy is not a process to really achieve a good goal. [...] Democracy is not the method of finding the best outcome, just a method of dispersing power. "

According to Zeh, literary writing is only communication with oneself at the time the texts are written. In literary theory, the author sees herself in harmony with “fashion”, not as a follower of “intentional writing with a view to a specific message ", But rather answers the" famous question "that one always poses in German lessons -" What does the author want to tell us? "- the answer" Nothing at all! "At the same time, the author assumes that you don't write stories because "something works well", but always only about what "doesn't work." For her, it is "formative" that she finds the "difference between fiction and reality marginal". Zeh always read a lot and, as a child, “saw himself as a character in a novel”.

Political statements

Juli Zeh also uses her literary reputation politically. In the 2005 Bundestag election campaign , she was one of the authors who signed Günter Grass's appeal to support the red-green coalition . In 2009 she was a member of the 13th Federal Assembly for the SPD. In addition, she lends her voice to the Four Paws Foundation as the “animal welfare ambassador” .

In January 2008, Zeh filed an unsuccessful constitutional complaint against the biometric passport with the Federal Constitutional Court , as in her opinion the compulsory collection of fingerprints was a “senseless encroachment on fundamental rights”. The Federal Constitutional Court did not accept the complaint for decision because the reasons for the constitutional complaint did not deal sufficiently with the relevant provisions of the Passport Act and thus the formal requirements for the presentation of the alleged violation of fundamental rights were not met.

As a consequence of the NSA affair , in July 2013, in an open letter to Chancellor Angela Merkel , she urged an “appropriate reaction” and demanded “to tell the people in the country the full truth about the surveillance attacks”. On September 18, 2013, together with around 20 fellow writers, she handed over the letter, which was signed by over 67,000 people, to the Federal Press Office. She is one of the initiators of the Charter of Digital Fundamental Rights of the European Union , which was published at the end of November 2016, and is a founding member of the citizens' movement p≡p coop , which aims to achieve automated data protection on the Internet using encryption.

In the course of Martin Schulz's nomination as candidate for chancellor, she joined the SPD in 2017 . She supports the SPD ++ initiative , which wants to promote the modernization of internal party structures.

In the course of the debate about the encroachments on fundamental rights during the Covid 19 pandemic , Zeh participated in a call published in the news magazine Der Spiegel in April 2020 by prominent authors who called for the so-called lockdown to be ended as soon as possible , because "the situation has since stabilized . [...] the number of reproductions [is] below one ”. The contribution takes the view that Covid-19 is "no more dangerous for the population than the flu if certain risk groups and people over 65 years of age are specifically protected from infections". The measures taken would “set the basic rights for the entire population almost to zero in some areas.” The authors call for “new test procedures, state-of-the-art data technology and a broad social consensus on how we want to deal with the new risks and distribute the social burdens fairly . "

Works (selection)



Short stories

Essays and lectures



Children's books

Radio plays

  • Eagle and Angel ( MDR Figaro , 2006)
  • Under glass ( SWR2 , 2008)
  • Blue Mountain ( SWR2 , 2010)
  • No Deco ( SWR2 , 2013)
  • Unterleuten ( rbb / NDR , 2018)

Legal monographs

  • Right to join? Claims by candidate states against the European Union. Nomos, Baden-Baden 2002, ISBN 3-7890-8266-X .
  • The transitional right. On the legislative activity of transitional administrations using the example of UNMIK in Kosovo and the OHR in Bosnia-Herzegovina (= Saarbrücken studies on international law. Volume 48). Nomos, Baden-Baden 2011, ISBN 978-3-8329-6185-5 (also dissertation, Saarbrücken University 2010).

as editor

  • A dog runs through the republic. Schöffling, Frankfurt am Main 2004, ISBN 3-89561-057-7 .



  • Teresa Grenzmann: On the way to wild animals. The director Bettina Bruinier and how she brought Juli Zeh's novel Schilf onto the small stage of the Münchner Volkstheater. In: Kilian Engels, C. Bernd Sucher (Ed.): Political and possible worlds. Tomorrow's directors. Henschel, Berlin 2008, ISBN 978-3-89487-613-5 , pp. 34-43.
  • Aura Heydenreich / Klaus Mecke: Physics and Ethics. Juli Zeh in dialogue with “Schilf”. In: Physics and Poetics. Production aesthetics and work genesis. Authors in dialogue (= literature and natural sciences. Volume 1). Ed. Von dens., Berlin / Boston 2015, pp. 286–308.
  • Günter Helmes : "No author would write a long book if he knew in advance in which way it will be read later ." About narrative efforts, female fantasies and abuses of this and that kind in Juli Zeh's cleverness, play instinct . In: Smart, Smarter, Failed? The contemporary image of schools and teachers in literature and media (= SchriftBilder. 8). Edited by Günter Helmes and Günter Rinke. Igel-Verlag L & W, Hamburg 2016, ISBN 978-3-86815-713-0 , pp. 43–79 (words in locking sentence in the original italic).
  • Christine Mogendorf: About "matter that stares at itself". Postmodern reflections in the novels of Juli Zeh. Aisthesis, Bielefeld 2017, ISBN 978-3-8498-1208-9 .

Web links

Commons : Juli Zeh  - Collection of images, videos and audio files


Individual evidence

  1. Landtag Brandenburg - 6th electoral period: Printed matter 6/10075. (PDF; 41 kB) Motion with nomination of the SPD parliamentary group. Election of judges for the constitutional court of the state of Brandenburg. In: parlamentsdokumentation.brandenburg.de. December 5, 2018, accessed December 12, 2018 . Literature by and about Manfred Gortz in the catalog of the German National Library
  2. Juli Zeh: Voting is self-defense . In: Der Spiegel . No. 21 , 2014, p. 17 ( online ).
  3. There were only two left: Spiegel ended its collaboration with columnist Juli Zeh. In: Meedia.de . October 21, 2014.
  4. July Zeh in the Munzinger archive , accessed on December 20, 2018 ( beginning of the article freely available).
  5. Jacqueline Thör: Short Biography Juli Zeh. In: uni-due.de. accessed on January 30, 2019.
  6. Juli Zeh is doing her PhD successfully with Prof. Stein. (No longer available online.) In: europainstitut.de. Europa Institut , 2010, archived from the original on October 29, 2013 ; accessed on January 30, 2019 .
  7. (dpa): Writer Juli Zeh receives German Study Award. (No longer available online.) In: moz.de. Märkische Oderzeitung , November 6, 2011, archived from the original on October 29, 2013 ; accessed on January 30, 2019 .
  8. ^ Members of the Free Academy of Arts in Hamburg. In: akademie-der-kuenste.de. Retrieved June 14, 2016 .
  9. Charlotte Haunhorst and Verena Mayer in an interview with Juli Zeh: “The city is like a big animal.” The writer Juli Zeh lives in the country, but enjoys the feeling of being in the big city. In her favorite Berlin café, she talks about what cities do with people. In: Süddeutsche Zeitung PLANW. Edition 02, 2016, p. 10.
  10. Morten Freidel: Frankfurt Poetics Lecture. Permanent guest in eternity. In: FAZ , June 12, 2013, accessed on December 14, 2018.
  11. Ulrike Hark, Bettina Weber: Conversations 2011. «There is nothing more expensive than a long life». The writer Juli Zeh criticizes the increasing tutelage of the citizens by the state with commands and prohibitions and the lack of will to resist. Society is being pathologized. In: tagesanzeiger.ch , December 28, 2011, accessed on December 14, 2018.
  12. A visit to Juli Zeh. Clash of village cultures. In: Der Tagesspiegel . May 29, 2016. Retrieved November 14, 2017.
  13. ^ State Constitutional Court Brandenburg: Juli Zeh becomes constitutional judge . In: Spiegel Online . December 12, 2018 ( spiegel.de [accessed December 12, 2018]).
  14. Video: Brandenburg State Parliament. Writer Juli Zeh sworn in as constitutional judge. In: rbb24.de, January 30, 2019, accessed on May 28, 2020.
  15. a b c d About law and literature. A conversation with Juli Zeh and Martin Mosebach, led by Britta Lange and Hermann Weber, printed in: Hermann Weber (Ed.): Literature, Law and Music. Conference at Nordkolleg Rendsburg from September 16 to 18, 2005. Berliner Wissenschafts-Verlag, Berlin 2007, ISBN 978-3-8305-1339-1 , pp. 183–204, here: p. 189.
  16. Christopher Schmidt : The Invention of Reality. About Juli Zeh's play Corpus delicti. In: Language in the Technical Age . 46, 2008, issue 187, pp. 263-269.
  17. ↑ The underground car park in Göttingen. Living in a health dictatorship ; Deutschlandfunk Kultur on May 9, 2020. last accessed May 26, 2020.
  18. Peter-Michael Ziegler: New book: "Attack on freedom". In: heise.de . August 12, 2009, accessed April 28, 2020.
  19. Michael Grüttner : Interview with Juli Zeh. In: DiveInside, August 1, 2012, accessed December 6, 2018.
  20. Jörg Magenau: The country idyll where violence is commonplace. In: Süddeutsche Zeitung. March 21, 2016.
  21. ^ Sieglinde Geisel: The people in the village are more tolerant . In: Neue Zürcher Zeitung . September 6, 2016 ( nzz.ch [accessed November 28, 2018]).
  22. Vacation in the disk house. femundo.de, November 30, 2018, accessed on January 15, 2019 .
  23. Julia Schröder: Trauma and Panic in Lanzarote. Deutschlandfunk , November 9, 2018, accessed January 15, 2019 .
  24. New book by Juli Zeh. Critical defender of the local democracy ; Deutschlandfunk Kultur on May 26, 2020. last accessed May 26, 2020.
  25. Juli Zeh: The difference between reality and fiction is marginal. Workshop talk with Birte Lipinski u. a. Partial volume by Franzobel, Arno Geiger, Katja Lange-Müller, Antje Rávic Strubel, Juli Zeh (= Sabine Doering, Monika Eden [ed.]: In the studio. Contributions to the poetics of contemporary literature. [20] 07/08). Fruehwerk / Splittgerber, Oldenburg 2008, ISBN 978-3-941295-05-6 , p. 26.
  26. Complete text of the constitutional complaint. (PDF; 443 kB) In: zeit.de, January 29, 2008.
  27. Jochen Bittner : Hands off, Otto! In: The time . No. 6/2008, p. 10; Report on the constitutional complaint.
  28. Juli Zeh: Interview - Biometric fingerprint on passport. In: New legal weekly . Issue 35/2008, p. XIV.
  29. Federal Constitutional Court, decision of December 30, 2012, file number 1 BvR 502/09.
  30. Germany is a surveillance state. In: FAZ. July 25, 2013.
  31. ^ The authors march. In: The time. 18th September 2013.
  32. We want to rebuild the network. Dlf contribution to the Internet campaign by Sibylle Berg , May 6, 2018, accessed on May 7, 2018.
  33. Dr. Juli Zeh on the initiative's homepage. In: pep.coop. p≡p project, accessed on November 2, 2018.
  34. ^ July Zeh and Martin Schulz. "I would have liked to see you get excited more often, Martin". Interview: Iris Radisch and Alexander Cammann. In: The time. September 20, 2017. Retrieved November 14, 2017.
  35. ^ Homepage of the initiative. In: spdplusplus.de, accessed on November 2, 2018.
  36. Six celebrities appeal to politics. Appeal for relaxation of the corona measures: Get out of lockdown - as soon as possible. A contribution to the debate by Alexander Kekulé , Julian Nida-Rümelin , Boris Palmer, Christoph M. Schmidt , Thomas Straubhaar and Juli Zeh. In: Der Spiegel . Accessed on April 28, 2020 (beginning of article freely available).
  37. CampusTV Tübingen on youtube, online , (video, 90 min .; the lecture starts at min. 2:30 pm).
  38. ^ Sandra Müller: Tübingen Media Lecturer | Juli Zeh on Narcissism. Take away Trump Twitter! In: SWR2 . Contribution to the lecture, July 12, 2018, accessed on July 14, 2018.
  39. Unterleuten (1–6 / 6) with making-of. In: Kulturradio . October 3, 2018, accessed December 12, 2018.
  40. Poetics lectureship 2010. July Zeh and Georg M. Oswald. In: uni-tuebingen.de, accessed on November 2, 2018.
  41. ^ Juli Zeh receives Hoffmann von Fallersleben Literature Prize. In: focus.online, Focus Online , March 8, 2014, accessed September 25, 2014.
  42. Tomorrow: Kulturgroschen to Juli Zeh, laudator Manuela Schwesig. Press releases. (No longer available online.) In: kulturrat.de. German Cultural Council, June 22, 2015, archived from the original on March 4, 2016 ; accessed on January 30, 2019 .
  43. Bruno Kreisky Prize for the Political Book 2017 goes to Arundhati Roy. OTS message. January 9, 2018, accessed January 17, 2018.
  44. Interview on the train: Writer Juli Zeh receives the Federal Cross of Merit. In: Berliner Zeitung . May 22, 2018 (also the date of access).
  45. Dirk Riße: Cologne literary scene. Writer Juli Zeh receives Böll Prize. In: ksta.de. Kölner Stadtanzeiger , June 7, 2019, accessed on June 7, 2019 .