Juli Zeh: Gaming Instinct (Spieltrieb)

Per Olov Enquist Award
Prix Cévennes for Best European Novel

Juli Zeh
Gaming Instinct (Spieltrieb)


576pp (151,000 words)

English sample translation (pdf)

English sample translation (pdf)

> Prix Cévennes (France) for best European novel
> Finalist for the ANGELUS Central European Literature Award
> ZEIT Best Seller List, #1
> SPIEGEL Best Seller List
> ORF Best Seller List, #2

Set in the heart of the west of the German Republic at a high school in Bonn in the present day, this is the breath-taking story of students Ada and Alev and their obsessive dependence on one another: initially it leads to a readiness - then to a compulsion - to perform acts which overstep all moral bounds, all human compassion, and are beyond any form of predictable behaviour. The two youngsters select their teacher, Smutek, as victim of their ingenious blackmail. A malicious game begins.

SPIELTRIEB is a major novel about immorality and its consequences and it questions the continued validity of traditional principles and values and poses one of the most significant questions of our time: who today can say what is good and what is evil, and how can they know?

»Juli Zeh is one of the most exciting voices to emerge in German writing in recent years. After her dramatic debut ADLER UND ENGEL, her new novel SPIELTRIEB is a daring literary achievement, questioning the very heart of contemporary German society with a powerful story of sexual exploitation. She writes like nobody else about the post-nihilist emptiness of the new European fun generation, exploring the vacuum of values with shocking honesty. SPIELTRIEB gives us a compelling and provocative view of the future, with a rare kind of philosophical insight.«
Hugo Hamilton

Juli Zeh has been honoured with the prestigious Thomas Mann Prize (endowed with 25,000 EUR) for her »multi-faceted work of prose focusing on questions of individual freedom and responsibility, social values and orientation. With her cleverly composed novels and conclusively argued essays Juli Zeh succeeds in creating lucid analyses of the present. In this she takes her turn in the best tradition of engaged literature – for a world desperately needing authors like her.«
Previous laureates include Daniel Kehlmann, Ruth Klüger, Günter Grass or Christa Wolf.

Rights sold

Brazil (stage rights) - Paso d'Arte/CIA Teatro Epigenia
Georgia – Ibis

paperback – Random House/btb
audio book – Der Audio Verlag
stage adaptation - world premiere at the Deutsche Schauspielhaus Hamburg
film rights - Tele München

Previously published (rights reverted)
France (trade & paperback) - Actes Sud/Babel
Brazil - Record
Czech Republic - Odeon/Euromedia
Denmark - Samleren
Greece - Opus Magnum
Italy - Fazi
Norway - Gyldendal
Poland - W.A.B.
Slovenia - Ucila
Spain (Castilian World) - Kailas
Sweden (1st ed.) - Norstedts
Sweden (2nd ed.) - Weyler
The Netherlands (trade & midprice) – Ambo|Anthos
Turkey - Metis

book club – Büchergilde Gutenberg

» Contact


»Mind-blowing, admirable, revealing a razor-sharp intellect. Juli Zeh is an exceptionally gifted writer. In her Musil-like language, plastic and rigorous, a self-reflective, ironical game develops: fast-paced, high frequency, with maximum stakes. SPIELTRIEB stands symbolic for a new generation that has not yet been categorized. They know everything. But they believe in nothing. A poetic reflection on philosophic questions of existence, ethics and identity.«

»Even more impressive: the way she manages to analyze existential questions in such a crystal clear, unpretentious manner.«
Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung

»Such intense, exciting writing of the highest literary calibre, this novel is impossible to put down. Reminding the reader of the dramatically precise language of Robert Musil, this stunning and alarmingly credible novel illustrates how innocuous students can turn into terrorists. Written with scenic humor and psychological sensitiveness, enriching our perception and our fantasy.«

»Juli Zeh has written a true major novel of distinguished literary style, disturbing and suspenseful, mirroring the social status quo of the ›new‹ Europe... Not only has Juli Zeh composed a great literary work, but at the same time a highly intelligent diagnosis of our time.«
Oberösterreicher Nachrichten

»SPIELTRIEB continues the subversive tradition of German literary and philosophical masters. At the highest stage of literary skill, it draws a fascinating, pitch dark image of modern life... A ground-breaking talent!«
Berliner Zeitung

»Juli Zeh’s debut novel ADLER UND ENGEL already was a worldwide success, for which film rights have now been sold. That’s what happens to an author who is intellectually gifted in all respects – and very possibly the cleverest writer of her generation. Juli Zeh’s accomplished literary style can only be compared to the classics.«
Frankfurter Rundschau

»A densely composed novel about the hybris of two adolescents using their daunting intelligence to cross all moral boundaries.«
Frankfurter Rundschau

»The plot of this novel resembles a scientific test arrangement, at its centre the existential questions of life: signification, values, purpose – can these coordinates still exist today? Is it possible to differentiate good from evil if they don’t?«
die tageszeitung

»Juli Zeh is the genial exception from the general rule that authors born in the Seventies lack the necessary experience to incorporate social reality into their writing. SPIELTRIEB exposes the condition of present-day society with awe-inspiring epical force. A novel of thought daring enough to question the voids of the present in the face of the future.«
Der Freitag

»Juli Zeh, known as an unconventional, exceptionally articulate author (...), is now stirring up the literary scene once more with her acute prose. In her almost frightfully precise, trained-through-Robert Musil language Juli Zeh shows how intelligent students can indeed turn into terrorists.«
Welt am Sonntag

»A political novel in the best sense of the word: written with heart and common sense, shaping our political awareness and our view of the world we live in.«

»An utterly gripping novel.«
Hamburger Morgenpost

»An unforgettable read.«
Sächsische Zeitung

»Zeh’s language radiates glittering, ice-cold beauty.«
Freie Presse

»A thrilling novel, daring and absorbing. Juli Zeh ranks among the most inspiring authors of German literature.«
Stuttgarter Zeitung

»A book that you won’t be able to put down, a rare and insightful reading pleasure (...). Juli Zeh is the empress of her generation of writers.«
Die Presse/Spectrum

»A provocative remake of the social novel translated into the here and now; a work of analytical brililance.«

»SPIELTRIEB is full of suspense, almost like a crime story - and at the same time opens a philosophical discourse about the arbitrariness of postmodern ethics.«
NDR Kulturjournal

»Zeh’s language is clear, her thoughts stringent, her judgments unobscured. Her novel is loaded with fascinating observations, opening up an entire cosmos of thought. An intelligent and rewarding read.«
Frankfurter Neue Presse

»Again, Juli Zeh gives proof of her tremendous narrative talent. Intense, intelligent, revealing, daunting - full of suspense and harrowing realism!«
Nürnberger Zeitung

»Philosophical, enthralling - characterized by a remarkable linguistic sensitivity.«

»Juli Zeh aptly constructs the psychograph of an obsessive triangle. A gripping and utterly thrilling story of literary substance and ingenious characters, revealing a sharp sense for narrative pace and structure (...) Juli Zeh is truly one of the most remarkable talents among German authors.«
Darmstädter Echo

»Juli Zeh’s books are intelligent, poignant, witty, and surprising.«
bücher – Tomorrow’s 10 most important writers

»Juli Zeh tells of a young generation of media savvies who know how to undermine the conventional order. This book combines dry objectivity with poetical depth, creating an atmosphere of highest tension, reflecting a state of moral disorder and neglect on a micro level.«
Solothurn Literature Award, Jury Statement

Reviews from abroad

»On the chessboard of cold passion, Juli Zeh is the queen. It is not every day, not even every year that one finds intelligence and poetry shoulder to shoulder in one novel. But one does in this novel by Juli Zeh.«

»Est-ce à dire qu’Ada incarne quelque chose de son époque – en l’occurrence la fin du XXe siècle , les toutes premières années du XXIe, de sa génération? C’est toute la force du roman du l’Allemande Juli Zeh que de ne pas poser directement l’hypothèse, de ne jamais faire porter à son personnage un tel poids. (...) La dimension indéniablement intellectuelle de cette Fille sans qualités ne doit pourtant pas inciter à pender qu’il s’agit là d’un exercice romanesque essentiellement cérébral – il entre beaucoup d’humanité et d’empathie dans le récit mené par Juli Zeh, dans les portraits infiniment vivants qu’elle dresse, dans son impeccable narration, tout empreinte d’une aura fataliste.«

»An outstanding novel about intelligence gone astray (...). Taking a solidary view on two highly gifted, economically privileged, extravagating teenagers, SPIELTRIEB is cult book material.«

»Juli Zeh, qui capte tout de suite la sympathie par sa franchise, son sourire en coin, son ton enjoué, est devenue une romancière reconnue et couronnée de nombreux prix.«

More titles by Juli Zeh

Juli Zeh: The Full Monty. Not a NovelJuli Zeh: Eagles and AngelsJuli Zeh: Even Silence Is a Sound. Travels through BosniaJuli Zeh: A Dog Runs through the RepublicJuli Zeh: The Little Encyclopedia for Household DogsJuli Zeh: Gaming Instinct (stage version)Juli Zeh: SchilfJuli Zeh: Schilf (stage version)Juli Zeh: The Land of PeopleJuli Zeh: The Method (Corpus delicti)Juli Zeh: Decompression (Nullzeit)Juli Zeh: TreidelnJuli Zeh: Good Morning, Boys and GirlsJuli Zeh: At Night They Are Animals