Dr. Juli Zeh

Germany

Writer, lawyer

DAAD Scholarship 1999, DAAD Scholarship 2000

Dr. Juli Zeh DAAD


Juli Zeh's first novel Adler und Engel (Eagles and Angels) became a literary hit on its publication in 2001. The story about the lawyer Max, who is thrown completely off track when the great love of his life commits suicide, has been translated into 28 languages. It marks the beginning of an impressive career as a writer. Even as a young child, Juli Zeh enjoyed writing, but after leaving school she decided to study law. However, before passing her first law degree in Leipzig, she enrolled at the city's Institute of Literature. Adler und Engel became her graduation thesis. Numerous prizes and awards followed, including the German Book Award (2002), the Ernst Toller Award (2003), the Carl Amery Prize for Literature (2009), the Thomas Mann Prize (2013) and the Hildegard von Bingen Prize for Journalism (2015). "It is purely by chance that you hit a nerve among readers – and suddenly they like the book. You can't predict this," said the author in an interview.

In Krakow I learned Polish and increased my interest in Eastern Europe.
Juli Zeh

Juli Zeh comes from a family of lawyers. She was born in Bonn in 1975 as the daughter of the former director of the German Bundestag, Professor Wolfgang Zeh. Her studies in law at Passau and Leipzig concentrated on international law. She went to New York City and Krakow in 1999 and 2000 on a DAAD scholarship. In the Big Apple, Juli Zeh worked as an intern at the United Nations; in Poland she graduated from an Eastern Europe degree programme at the Jagiellionian University of Krakow. Both were enormously enriching experiences. "It was in New York that I abandoned the idea of later working for the United Nations as a lawyer. I found a lot of this to be far too bureaucratic. And in Krakow, I learned Polish and increased my interest in Eastern Europe."

Her openness for what is new reveals itself in Juli Zeh's works. She doesn't fit into any literary pigeonholes. Places and experiences from her life often find their way into her books. And so her travel journal Die Stille ist ein Geräusch (2002) (Even Silence Is a Sound. Travels through Bosnia) is the product of a trip to Bosnia and Herzegovina. A secondary school in her home town of Bonn is the setting for her novel Spieltrieb (Gaming Instinct), which was published in 2004. One year later, her Kleines Konversationslexikon für Haushunde (The Little Encyclopedia for Household Dogs) gives the dog lover an opportunity to explain how her four-legged friend sees the world.

She submitted a complaint of unconstitutionality against biometric fingerprints on identification cards and strongly supported a coalition of the SPD and Alliance 90/The Greens during the 2005 Bundestag election. She commented on the arrest of Radovan Karadžić and worked on a new German constitution in her free time. She wrote her doctoral thesis on the status of Kosovo from the perspective of international law and has expressed her opinion in numerous essays on subjects such as data protection, surveillance and the NSA affair. In 2014 she published a selection of essays under the title Nachts sind das Tiere.