Everyone is a nihilist to some extent

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Characteristics of the work

Play instinct

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Contents and interpretations too Play instinct[ ↑ ]
In Play instinct it is about the confrontation of opposing views of the world and people. On one side are the high school students Alev and Ada, who regard themselves as the great-grandchildren of the nihilists Nothing believe - in their opinion, the only thing left in humans is the instinct to play. On the other hand is the Polish German and sports teacher Smutek, who embodies a kind of idealism with his belief in the good in people and with his love for his wife.
Ada is unusually intelligent and indifferent for her fifteen year old. Because she beats a boy with a brass knuckles, she has to finish high school at the private Ernst Bloch grammar school, which takes care of cases of hardship like Ada. One year after Ada's new start at the Ernst Bloch Gymnasium in Bonn, Alev, an attractive and astute half-Egyptian who believes that he himself is either God or the devil himself, joins her. He convinces Ada that there is nothing left in the present except the play instinct and initiates her into the theory of the game. Ultimately, Alev gets his chosen one to the point where she agrees to play a 'game' with him. Alev chooses the married Smutek as his opponent, who is fascinated by the intelligence and speed of his pupil, which she demonstrates both in class and during joint running training. Ada gets the job of seducing Smutek. It works. When Smutek and Ada sleep together on a mat cart in the gym, Alev secretly photographs the crime in order to then blackmail Smutek with the photos of evidence. But Alev is not after Smutek's money: Alev wants more - he wants to 'play'. He orders Smutek and Ada to meet again in the gym every Friday to sleep together. Alev constructs a prisoner's dilemma. According to him, he only means well with Smutek: Through blackmail, Smutek could gain the freedom that Alev and Ada already had through their nihilistic worldview. A curious, sadomasochistic triangular relationship develops between the protagonists. Ada and Alev feel drawn to each other from the start, but gradually an attraction develops between Smutek and Ada. After a supposed alliance between the two prisoners Ada and Smutek, Alev determines the end of the game by publishing the photos of the evidence. As a result, Smutek freaks out: he knocks Alev out of several teeth. At the end, the teacher and the two students are summoned to court. Alev and Smutek as accused, while Ada as witness. After a convincing plea by Ada, which declares that Smutek is more of a victim than a perpetrator in the curious incident, Smutek is acquitted and Alev is sentenced to several years' probation as a juvenile.

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Thematic aspects too Play instinct[ ↑ ]

Philosophical and Political Discourses
In the works of Juli Zeh, central philosophical questions and political discourses are negotiated. In Play instinct for example, the nihilists Ada and Alev face the idealist Smutek. Ada and Alev set themselves apart from Nietzsche's nihilism by calling themselves the “great-grandchildren of the nihilists” (p. 305). In contrast to Alev and Ada, Nietzsche's followers would at least have believed “that there was something that they could NOT believe in” (p. 309). The opposing worldview of the two parties is also connected with a different conception of man: According to Smutek, the secret core of all human behavior consists of longing pleading for affection, closeness and warmth (see p. 494). In contrast, according to Alev, cowardice, selfishness and stupidity are the three principles on which humanity is based (see p. 459).
In addition to further philosophical discussions, for example about space and time (see p. 301), political discourses take part Play instinct a high priority - especially the 'America Debate'. Regarding the events of September 11th, Ada states:
“What matters is the form: A couple of insurgents who daring to die in the center are structurally right according to Hollywood laws. […] I say: courageously to die, for example with an airplane, to the center of power. That is David against Goliath, Skywalker against the Death Star, Panem et circenses! "(P. 147-148)
Ada's comment implies that the United States would not represent the "individual fighter against the evil empire, but the evil empire itself" (Smith-Prei and Richter 2013, p. 196). With this extraordinary perspective on the terrorist attacks, she arouses annoyance both with her classmates and with her headmaster.

The limits of the law
Another central topic in Zeh's works is law or jurisprudence. In Play instinct, corpus delicti and No-stop time Exceptional legal cases are dealt with in which one cannot clearly assign innocence and guilt to the protagonists. In the world of text, the line between right and wrong becomes blurred.
In Play instinct the teacher Mr. Smutek is blackmailed by his students Ada and Alev and forced by them to have sex with Ada, who is 24 years his junior: an unusual case from a legal point of view. Another specialty is based on the understanding of the world and people of the two students. Ada and Alev do not want Smutek bad because, as nihilists, they do not differentiate between 'good' and 'bad'. They just want Smutek to gain his own freedom through blackmail. When the three of them are summoned to court at the end of the novel, the judge Sophie is confronted with a legal exception:
“Smutek and Alev would have been just as good as witnesses as Ada was for the accused, they were people among other people who talked about something that, first, seemed to concern no one but those involved and, third, were based on such strange motives that the legal instruments in the hands of cold Sophie felt like a hammer and chisel trying to build a homepage. "(p. 555)
In connection with the legal 'borderline case' there is also the motif of the 'border' which is used in Play instinct is pictured by Ada as a fine line. Ada explains that she is on a narrow ridge, an "elongated ridge of a mountain massif" (p. 211), to the left and right of her "it would go a thousand meters deep" (ibid.). Most people are of the opinion that this line is “a colored strip between two tracks” (p. 215) on which they would walk “calmly and safely” (ibid.). And that is precisely the point in which Ada differs from most people: She has recognized that this boundary between 'good' and 'bad', 'right' and 'wrong' or 'nothing' and 'something' is merely "Is a ridge that leads over a bottomless abyss" (ibid.), Consequently it "stumbles and in danger of life" (ibid.). When Ada later decides to play Alev's game with Mr. Smutek, the border metaphor is used again: "When she started running, she had already crossed a border and everything that had happened stayed behind her." (P . 296)

The Corpus Delicti
In Zeh's trial stories, the subject of the crime or the piece of evidence is usually the agent of the plot. The Corpus Delicti is not only important in the novel of the same name by Juli Zeh: Already in Play instinct the author works with that motif. In Play instinct the Corpora Delicti are the photos of evidence that Ada and Smutek show during sexual intercourse. They serve as extortion tools for Alev and Ada, and they advance the plot by forcing Smutek to play along. But the Corpus Delicti also appears as a motif in other places, for example after the oral intercourse between Ada and Olaf: “'He splashed me all over, said Ada, lifting her T-shirt in the air like a corpus delicti. Rocket laughed. "(P. 118)

Criticism of the state and people
Juli Zeh provides her language with metaphors and comparisons from the pictorial realm of war, combat and hunting. In Play instinct Ada is “haunted by verbal crusades” (p. 37), Joe smiles “like a hunter” (p. 43) and for Alev “every interlocutor is an opponent and every conversation is a battle” (p. 139). It should be added that 'war' occurs not only on the metaphorical but also explicitly on the thematic level in Zeh's work. Especially in Play instinct War and terror are central themes, for example, they are embedded in current affairs by referring to the beginning of the Iraq war (cf. p. 106), Ada discusses “deployment strategies of the American military” with the brigadier general (p. 190), the younger classes play "George Bush and Bin Laden instead of robbers and gendarmes" in the schoolyard (p. 43) and Ada takes a stand on the rampage in Erfurt (see p. 199).
The 'barbaric' nature of man is also illustrated by the animal metaphors used in Zeh's novels. In Play instinct Olaf sees Ada, for example, with the “eyes of an animal” (p. 115), Höfi tilts his head “like an owl” (p. 206), Ms. Smutek looks “like a horse” (p. 206) and Ada hangs over her cereal bowl "like a dog over its bowl" (p. 496). Here the recurring comparison between humans and animals indicates the pragmatism to which humans have succumbed: “Only, the pragmatic human differs from the pragmatic animal in one important detail. His play instinct does not cease when he reaches sexual maturity. His play instinct lives forever. Whether that makes human pragmatism a dangerous institution - I cannot say. ”(P. 520) The equivalent functions of war metaphors and animal metaphors stand out especially when the fictional characters are pictured as predators:“ The three of them stared into them Cabin like in an open predator cage, specially come here to be threatened by Ada, who perhaps was only waiting for the first movement to jump. ”(P. 58) Kramer's movements also remind“ of the deceptive serenity of a big cat, which, just dozing with half-closed lids in the sun, can go on to attack in the next moment ”(p. 15).

Media criticism
In Play instinct Ada criticizes at one point that, on the one hand, only a very specific selection of people have the opportunity to present their opinion to the public; on the other hand, this specific selection of people would always comment on events in a similar way: Regardless of which event the answer was always the same: We are shocked and deeply affected and hope that the government will take action. ”(p. 199) According to Ada, the opinions and positions represented in the media are too homophonic.
Both Kramer and Würmer are characters who do not make the (German) media business appear in a good light. Kramer is a fanatic who uses the media in a manipulative way to convince the people of his ideology. He uses all the information he receives from Mia as a means to an end. In “common sense” he interprets Mia's statements differently than she meant them or puts them in the wrong context so that Mia appears to the people as a threat. The type of journalism that Kramer does willingly obscures the 'other' side of the story and is therefore neither objective nor truthful. The journalist Würmer is initially on Mia's side, but in the final trial he suddenly testifies against her and knowingly lies. Worms turn out to be the stereotype of the coward. He knows the truth, but doesn't dare to reveal it.

Fiction²: The (show) game
In Juli Zeh's novels, the 'play' is a central element on the thematic, motivic and metaphorical levels. In Play instinct the title of the novel already suggests this. In order to understand why the sadomasochistic 'game' between Alev, Ada and Smutek comes about, one has to deal with Alev's view of the world and human beings, in which 'game' and the 'play instinct' play a decisive role. For Alev, the human decision is “nothing more than an excellently studied game” (p. 179), according to him there are “no pros and cons, no reasons for right and left” (ibid.). Alev makes the 'game' his ideology because for him on the one hand it is "the epitome of a democratic way of life" (p. 260) and on the other hand the last "remaining form of being" (ibid.) For humans:
“Only in play is real freedom possible for people. Playing obliges to equality, since all players are given the same conditions, and also realizes the idea of ​​legal certainty, because a game can only take place within its own rules ”(p. 260).
According to Alev, the play instinct has kept us mentally alive since 'God's death', it replaces religiosity, dominates the stock market, politics, the courtrooms and the press world. In order to survive in a world that is dominated by the instinct to play, Alev tries to become a better and better player: “At various schools he had learned to identify and penetrate the centers of power within a very short time, to make contacts and forge intrigues To scout out and exploit interests, to break up ropes and put them back together. ”(P. 168) At the Ernst Bloch High School, Alev finds Ada to be the perfect playmate, because she too Nothing believes that it is "amoral, abnormal and antisocial" (p. 421) and is therefore open to the 'game'. As a warm-up exercise, Alev and Ada turn the class into a playing field (see p. 247): Together they master the classroom discourse. Then Alev looks for a bigger target: Smutek. According to Alev, he does not want Smutek any harm - on the contrary - through the 'game', Smutek gains his personal freedom:
“Now game theory teaches us that only with iterative repetitions does the fear of the opponent come into play and the opportunity for cooperation arises. Otherwise there is only betrayal. From this it follows that only a threatened sanction opens up real options for decision-making. "(P. 343)
In Alev's sense, his plan to 'free' Smutek through the 'game' succeeds - in the course of the 'game' Smutek gradually releases himself from his original values ​​and moral principles:
“The least thing that hindered Smutek in such a conversation was his conscience. The conviction that the gymnastics exercises on a light blue background served, among other things, to help him out of his old skin and to give him the opportunity to get to know the reawakened Snow White for the second time, was so clear and radiant that the foggy moral landscapes behind it pale exceptions like the surrounding desert behind the neon signs of Las Vegas. The Catholic God had never shown himself to be weaker. "(P. 386)
At the end of the 'game' it turns out that Smutek and his wife's relationship was based on lies. Smutek can start a new life with Ada. Alev himself goes out of the 'game' as a 'loser': He is beaten up by Smutek and so badly beaten up in the process that he loses his original attraction, which made the 'game' so easy for him. "I lost to watch you win. You know that ”, (p. 561) he says when saying goodbye to Ada and thus raises the question of whether he allowed himself to be instrumentalized.
In addition to the 'game' as a theme, metaphors are used in the novel that come from the image area of ​​the game. For example, the strategic game of chess serves as a source of metaphors: “It was an ambitious chess player's interest in a well-positioned knight. It hadn't tasted his heart and soul, but the taste of battle and victory. ”(P. 165) Furthermore, both Smutek and Ada are described as“ toys ”(p. 187, p. 235, p. 381) to emphasize that they are being instrumentalized by Alev. Alev himself is the director of the game: he has the “hands in which all threads run together” (p. 400) - at this point the play metaphor comes into symbiosis with the acting metaphor.
The divorce process between Ada's mother and her stepfather is referred to as "courtroom theater" (p. 370) - in Play instinct a legal criticism is suggested, which five years later in corpus delicti becomes even more visible. "It took a while until she was finished and wiped the tears from the corners of her eyes, black and silent surrounded by the faces of the rest of the audience, who saw a faithful circus pony go crazy in the middle of their ring." (P. 369) This metaphorical image , in which the animal metaphor is coupled with the drama metaphor, not only indicates the illusory nature of the judicial process, but also suggests that humans are domesticated and instrumentalized under the (German) legal system.

Different concepts of sexuality and love
Sexuality and love are important themes in Juli Zeh's work, which are negotiated in different ways. On the one hand, it stands out that the relationships between the protagonists in the novels often show hierarchical and sadomasochistic tendencies. Sadomasochism can be seen in connection with Zeh's border motif, since the border between violence and tenderness plays a central role in sadomasochism, as well as with the theme of the game. On the other hand are in Play instinct, corpus delicti and No-stop time mainly triangular relationships (or polygonal relationships) in focus. All in all, many different concepts and regulations of love and sexuality are presented in the three novels. What can, what may and what should be? Questions that are of great concern in our contemporary society.
First of all, in Play instinct the love triangle between Ada, Alev and Smutek. There is a relationship not only between Ada and Alev and between Ada and Smutek, but also between Smutek and Alev, who feel a kind of unotic love-hate relationship for one another. However, one can also include the characters Olaf, Odetta and Ms. Smutek in the network of relationships: “While Smutek was uttering further introductory sentences at the beginning of the school year, Ada noticed that Olaf was watching her watching Alev. A delta of lines of sight was created between three corners of the room ”(p. 123) Odetta is not only Alev's accomplice, she also comes into sexual contact with him. In contrast, Olaf and Ada have an asexual (love) relationship at the beginning of the novel. The relationships between Olaf and Ada and Odetta and Alev are rather one-sided: Ada and Alev do not reciprocate the feelings of Olav and Odetta, or not as strongly. At the end of the novel, Smutek and Ada as well as Olaf and Odetta come together; Alev ends up alone.
Interesting is in Play instinct not only the network of relationships itself, but also the nature of the relationships. The relationship between Ada and Smutek is characterized by an unusual hierarchy, as the fifteen-year-old schoolgirl has power over her teacher twenty-four years her senior. Not only is Smutek over two decades older, he is also an authority figure as a teacher. Still, Ada him in the hand. Ada and Alev's relationship with Smutek could be described as sadistic, as the two do harm to Smutek, but want to give him pleasure by blackmailing him. Ada and Smutek's behavior, on the other hand, could be characterized as masochistic, as Ada voluntarily makes herself a “prisoner” through the photos of evidence and Smutek also enjoys the blackmail from time to time. What is also unusual in the relationship between Ada and Alev is the lack of a sexual component, since Alev is impotent. In addition, the relationship between the two is characterized by a kind of obsession that makes Ada “sick” (p. 134): “It was only certain that she wanted something that Alev called his own. That was not love, but an attempt at annexation at first sight. "(P. 137)

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Formal aspects too Play instinct[ ↑ ]

The narrator or: A boundary between closeness and distance
In the narrative analysis of Zeh's novels, the main focus is on the (in) reliability of the narrator. Furthermore, it can be stated that Juli Zeh prefers the authorial narrative situation and lawyers as narrators. Through the unreliability of the narrator, the use of certain rhetorical means and through breaches of illusion, Zeh often creates a distance between the reader and the work.
In Play instinct does the narrator initially not reveal her identity: “I leave open who I am. I ask for your understanding and apologize for any inconvenience. "(P. 8) She takes the perspective of an authorial narrator: She provides insights into the thoughts of the protagonists, reproduces the characters' memories and makes proleptic hints:" All those involved felt, how the new year looked over their shoulders. Not all of them would survive. Nobody would leave it as it was before. ”(P. 248) The narrator is only unable to reproduce Alev's inner thoughts. Since the figure Alev lives through its mystification, it remains inscrutable for the recipient, as well as for Ada: "As long as he did not speak, she had no idea what was going on in him." (P. 394) Another narrative device , which reinforces the impression that it is an authorial narrator, is the pluralis modestiae: “In the next moment, however, she was gone, switched off like a bedside lamp, out of reach for herself, out of reach for us.” (p. 287)
Towards the end of the novel, on page 517, a chapter is suddenly inserted which is told from Judge Sophie's first-person perspective. This insertion suggests that the omniscient narrator was a homodiegetic narrator all along, namely “cold Sophie”. The brief change of perspective is thus a breach of illusion: the narrator suddenly no longer seems reliable, because cold Sophie cannot know about the inner workings of the characters. In addition to this breach of illusion, the reflective chapter headings carry such as “Smutek stays clear. His Snow White wakes up and greets him as a recovered patient. The Catholic God has never shown himself to be weaker ”(p. 379) contributes to the fact that the distance between the reader and the story is greater. According to Gérard Genette, paratexts such as chapter headings are to be assigned to an indefinite zone, a zone "between inside and outside, which itself has no fixed boundaries inward (to the text) and outward (the world's discourse about the text)" (Genette 1992, p.10). From this it can be concluded that Juli Zeh works with 'boundaries' not only on the motivic but also on the narrative level; the paratext in this case is a “vestibule that offers everyone the opportunity to enter or turn around” (ibid.).

The adaptation of the language style to what is being told
Juli Zeh's linguistic style is characterized above all by its variability: The linguistic style is adapted to the narrated. The language style in Play instinct characterize, for example, hypotactic sentence constructions, sophisticated jargon, dense imagery and the frequent use of rhetorical means such as personifications and anaphors: “Weeping willows bent their neatly trimmed Beatles hairstyles over massive masonry” (p. 99). The style of language is functionalized in Juli Zeh's work. In Play instinct a language style is chosen which is appropriate for the intelligent judge Sophie. In this way, the complex matter, which includes the multi-layered discourses, is appropriately reproduced.

Intertextuality and authenticity
Two different forms of intertextuality are used in Juli Zeh's works: on the one hand, the novels contain references to pretexts, other genres and pieces of music; on the other hand, the novels contain cross-references to one another.
Most of the intertextual references in Play instinct refer to Robert Musils The man without qualities, because Alev and Ada's view of man and the world develops primarily from the philosophical considerations of this novel, which are based on Nietzsche. Ada often thinks of the man without qualities, "to whom she felt related, as if she were a reincarnation of the found Agathe" (p. 374) and Smutek gladly accepts Alev's suggestion that the novel be treated in German class (cf. p. 124 ). Intertextuality in Play instinct is referred to several times in the research literature. Stephan Brockmann, for example, recognizes the thematic similarity between Play instinct and Youth without God von Ödön von Horváth: "Spieltrieb also resembles another twentieth-century Austrian school novel, Ödön von Horváth’s Nazi-era Jugend ohne Gott (Youth without god, 1937), which deals with the conflict between an idealistic teacher and his nihilist students." (Brockmann 2011, p. 70) The name of the main character Ada as an allusion to Ada or The Desire (cf. Pause 2012, p. 235), the Lolita-Motives (cf. Biebuyck 2013, p. 253 and Alt 2009, p. 378) and “citations of Nabokov’s idiosyncratic style” (Biebuyck 2013, p. 253) also show parallels to Vladimir Nabokov's work. In addition, Dostoevsky may have served as wellThe demons As a template: Like Kirillov, Alev is also convinced that after the 'death of God' he will be God himself (cf. Alt 2009, p. 386).
On a name and thematic analogy between Zehs Play instinct and Dostoevsky'sThe player has not been drawn attention in research up to now, but it would be productive to compare the two types of game - Alev's power game and the game of chance (roulette) -, the two players - Alev and Aleksej - as well as the gambling instincts and addictions. The common "ale" at the beginning of the name also indicates a connection between the characters.
Furthermore, texts on game theory take intertextual points of reference Play instinct a. Robert AxelrodsEvolution of Cooperation for example, on Alev's orders, Ada should work through to become a better player. One can see some works referenced in Play instinct pointed out, use it as a key reading in order to grasp more fully the philosophical problems that are explored in the novel.
Unlike most of her school colleagues, Ada reads almost exclusively works from the 19th century, among other things TheHuman comedy by Honoré de Balzac. In Alev's boarding room, Ada discovers “a couple of old friends” (p. 170): “Machiavelli, Nietzsche and Derrida.” (P. 170) References to the readings of the protagonists serve to make their character and intellect more vivid. Another intertextual method that makes Ada's inner world more tangible is the insertion of melancholic and (auto) aggressive Evanescence song quotations: "50 thousand tears I cried." (P. 82)
Furthermore, in Play instinct alluded to the genre of fairy tales. "Princesses" (p. 12), for example, are the names of the pretty girls at the Ernst Bloch Gymnasium. Those fairytale metaphors stand in contrast to the otherwise realistic style of the novel. The fairy tale motif is particularly associated with the figure of Ms. Smutek. Ms. Smutek's attempted suicide in an icy lake has a mystical appeal thanks to the many fairy tale allusions:
"The setting was made for scenes from a fairy tale film, a meeting place for wolves and rabbits to discuss the nature of things, a festanger for elf children beyond parental reach, a backdrop for speaking sources and thinking mushrooms with large, brown hats." (P. 222)
Ms. Smutek is described in this scene as a “Sylph” (p. 223) with a “demonically smiling face” (p. 223) and as an “ice fairy at night bath” (p. 223). The suicide fails because Ada rescues Mrs. Smutek from the icy lake. Ms. Smutek does not recover from the incident for a long time - she falls into a depression, which is illustrated by the metaphor of the long Sleep of Snow White: “Without a word of goodbye, she lay down and has been in a glass coffin ever since. Snow White slept. "(P. 299)

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Press review too Play instinct[ ↑ ]
the novel Play instinct is rated very differently by literary criticism - in the feature sections there are hymns of praise (Zeit) as well as controversial reviews (Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, Die Welt, Welt am Sonntag) and verrisse (Süddeutsche Zeitung). Opinions differ, especially when it comes to the style of language, which is either highly praised or critically examined.
Richard Kämmerlings (Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, December 24th, 2004) is of the opinion that Zeh is “once again on the pulse of the times”, but he feels that the novel's plethora of plot is excessive, criticizes a “chronic use of sought-after and often crooked metaphors” and is annoyed by the "pretentious chattiness with which precocious teenagers' readings are spread without any ironic break". In addition, Juli Zeh raises the bar unreachably high with the "constant literary references" to Musil, Nabokov and Co. Uwe Wittstock
(Die Welt, October 2nd, 2004) the idea of ​​the novel is convincing, but he too, like Richard Kämmerlings, considers the plot to be excessive: “The novel is both a satire on the culture-critical gossip of the present and a story the turmoil of puberty is ultimately far too intricate. Pity". From Robin Detje
(Süddeutsche Zeitung, November 12, 2004) the novel is panned because he classifies it as a "schoolgirl report" that romps in the "scrap yard of linguistic overexertion".
Susanne Kunckel (Welt am Sonntag, 05.12.04), on the other hand, is convinced by the style of language that Kämmerlings and Detje criticize. She characterizes it as "terrifyingly precise". For Kunckel, in contrast to Kämmerlings and Wittstock, the plot does not seem to be too lengthy, because it describes the reading as "570 pages of high tension". Ulrich Greiner (Zeit, October 21, 2014) is so convinced of the “drastic and plastic language”, the “sharp pace” and the “highly educated acumen” of the novel that he advocates that “all students and Teacher" Play instinct should read, because the novel draws "with wit and understanding a bright picture of our dark age".

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Research mirror too Play instinct[ ↑ ]

Philosophical Influences: Nihilism as Child's Play?
In his treatise on nihilistic issues in the works of Andreas Maier, Markus Werner and Juli Zeh, Henk Harbers puts forward the thesis that the nihilism, according to which Ada and Alev are guided, is merely “a play by children” (Harbers 2013, p . 199), "who do not see through that it is above all their own injured need for love that lies at the basis of their so-called 'play instinct'" (ibid.). Ada only gets involved in Alev's game "because and as long as she is in love with him" (ibid. P. 200). According to Harbers, the fact that Alev's nihilistic worldview also results from his need for love is demonstrated by the fact that he reacted “clearly suspicious of jealousy” (ibid.) When Ada told him at a party about the love affair and story between Smutek and his wife. However, Henk Harbers gives in:
“But the novel doesn't make it that easy. Love is a kind of answer to skepticism and nihilism, but not a refutation: it only makes nihilistic uprooting bearable - for the duration of love. After the history teacher Höfling's wife died, he saw no other way out than suicide. "(Ibid.)

The catch-all of the game concept
Sonja Arnold recreates the novel Play instinct a playing field on which the “different readings of the game term are used” (Arnold 2011, p. 220). She describes the function of the novel as an interdiscourse according to Jürgen Link, in which "elements from different discourses in literature" (ibid. P. 211) are brought together and "practiced in a game through trial action" (ibid. P. 212). In this way, there is no mere mapping of the overall discourse: “[E] s are also configured new contexts by including individual discourse fragments” (ibid.). In her essay, Sonja Arnold puts forward the thesis that the various readings which are taken up in the novel - the "game as a test treatment, the game of literature, scenarios from game theory as well as the postmodern connotations of the term game" (ibid. P. 211 ) - would form a pool of different meanings of the term game, in which current discourses would be literarily processed, but also transformed. (see ibid. p. 212).
Arnold then explains the different meanings of the term game, addressing the understanding of literary theory as game theory according to Stefan Matuschek and Thomas Anz (see ibid. P.210): In their literary theories, the actions of the fictional characters are understood as "moves" (ibid.) And instead of "an individual motivation to act there are abstract strategies" (ibid.). Another central literary theory that ties in with the narrative of Play instinct related is that of Tilmann Köppe, who characterizes the interaction of text and recipient as a game, because "like the game, it is guided by certain fictional intentions and conventions" (ibid.).
Furthermore, Sonja Arnold analyzes in her essay the prisoner's dilemma according to Axelrod, which Alev tries to create in his play with Ada and Smutek. If Ada and Smutek cooperate, “their reward is that both of them are allowed to stay at the grammar school. If Ada reveals Smutek, he would have to leave school. She could expect to be able to finish the game […]. At the same time, however, she must also expect that she, too, will be betrayed by Smutek and that her explicitly expressed wish not to have to leave Ernst-Bloch would be nullified [...] ”(ibid. P. 217).
Sonja Arnold sees the storyline of the novel as an "alternative solution not listed in the scheme" (ibid. P. 219) for the prisoner's dilemma, in that "the players unite against the game master" (ibid.). Communication between the two prisoners Ada and Smutek, which is forbidden in the prisoner's dilemma, indicates a cooperation that leads to the end of the game from the game master Alev: “With the communication, the participants have violated a fundamental rule of the game and with it the game overridden ”(ibid.). All in all, the basics of game theory would be "adhered to following the most important theorists, but in the end substantially modified by the alliance of players against the game master" (ibid. P. 220).

Law as a game
Jan Wittmann states in his essay "One is not right to play! ”, Legal discourses at Juli Zeh states that in Juli Zeh's novels the "self-soothing knowledge of law as the only system of order that protects people from barbaric and immoral behavior as well as the human soul from drifting apart and fraying" (Wittmann 2011, p. 161) is successively deconstructed. This deconstruction takes place in that the playing field 'law' is consistently opposed to anti-systems. In Play instinct This contrast is done, for example, by the figures Ada and Alev, who “remove the basis for jurisprudence and legislation” from the legal system (ibid. p. 166). According to Wittmann, the texts straighten “the image of law as a completely self-sufficient meta-instance” (ibid. P. 175), “by understanding it as a game, just like other cultural phenomena” (ibid.).
The understanding of law as a 'game' goes back to the exercise of law in antiquity. The structure of the novel, framed by 'Exordium' and 'Colophon', refers to the ancient exercise of law, since the focus in court was “not an ideal of justice as a yardstick, but rather the rhetorical performance” (ibid. P. 162). Due to the great importance of rhetoric, a process in antiquity was a “game with rhetorical means” (ibid.). The question of whether the law can be understood as a 'game' is a hot topic in research. Looking back at the Third Reich, the cultural historian Johan Huizinga states:
“That there can be a relationship between law and game becomes clear to us as soon as we notice that the actual exercise of law, in other words legal action, whatever the ideal basis of law may be, the character of a competition to a high degree is own. " (Huizinga 1956, p. 79)
In his essay, Jan Wittmann comes to the conclusion that the law at Zeh is “one system among many” (Wittmann 2011, p. 175), “which has to fight for its justification, legitimation and recognition just like other system constructs that Zeh in contrasts their texts antithetically ”(ibid.).

Outsider
Carrie Smith-Prei and Lars Richter analyze in their essay Politicizing Desire in Juli Zeh’s play instinct a connecting characteristic of the protagonists in Play instinct: your outsider. This outsider is shown on the one hand by a physical, on the other hand by a national-linguistic 'otherness' and creates an intimacy “that is at once both sexual and violent” (Smith-Prei and Richter 2013, p. 193).
From the beginning, Ada's appearance is described as 'different': She does not appear as feminine as the rest of the girls in her level and is explicitly described as "not beautiful" (Play instinct, P. 11). Alev also differs from his classmates through his' exotic 'appearance, but the' feminine awkwardness' (Smith-Prei and Richter 2013, p. 194), which Ada embodies, is understood as' unappealing '(ibid.),' Whereas its male counterpart is beguiling ”(ibid.). In contrast to Ada, Alev's 'different' appearance and demeanor are associated with power and strength by his classmates (cf., ibid.).
Alev is short, while Smutek is over nine feet tall (cf. Play instinct, P. 11) - although these are two opposing features, the features also have something in common: They characterize both Alev and Smutek as 'different'. Smith-Prei and Richter conclude: "The above characterization of the physical difference and corporeal otherness of each of the main figures in the novel is key to the social non-normativity that brings them together, initially in sets of pairs." (Smith-Prei and Richter 2013, p. 195)
According to Smith-Prei and Richter, the national-linguistic “otherness” is related to the “politicization of non-normative relations” (ibid.). What connects Alev and Smutek are their non-German roots (cf. ibid.) - Alev is half-Egyptian and quarter-French, Smutek is a native of Poland. During Smutek's class, Alev intentionally speaks Polish. On the one hand, by using the Polish language, he points out that Smutek is a “non-native speaker of German” (ibid. P. 196) and in this way puts his right to teach German before the others Classmates in question. On the other hand, Alev uses the Polish language “to create a linguistic minority group consisting of only himself and Smutek, the two people within the majority group of German speakers in the classroom who are able to speak Polish language” (ibid. P. 196). Smutek reacts to Alev with the Arabic phrase "Inschallah" (Play instinct, P. 122), which translated means “God willing”. Smith-Prei and Richter interpret his 'train' as follows: "Smutek's Arabic avocation of God's will - countering Alev's will to power - suggests that contemporary moral issues of faith and violence in an age of terrorism are an integral part of Alev's otherness" ( Smith-Prei and Richter 2013, p. 196).
Finally, Smith-Prei and Richter include Ada's comment on the Iraq war, which implies that the United States would not represent the “individual fighter against the evil empire, but the evil empire itself” (ibid. P. 199) in their analysis and place it in the context of your previous analysis results: “Identify-political difference in a confined local space (here, the German classroom) references likewise the global arena in which Western nations (represented by the United States) exercise the violence of hegemonic politics on weaker nations ”(ibid.).

Literary parallels: Musil
The influence of Robert Musil's work on Juli Zeh's literature is a popular subject for research on Juli Zeh. Especially for Play instinct Musil is regarded as the “most prominent intertextual sparring partner” (Martens 2013, p. 253). Constanze Alt works in her work on the sociology of literature Diagnoses of time in the novel of the present some parallels between the figures in TheMan without qualities and Play instinct For example, she recognizes the figure Clarisse in Ms. Smutek (cf. Alt 2009, pp. 382-383), Christian Moosbrugger in Zeh's high school director Teuter Musils and Ulrich in Zeh's Ada Musil's protagonist Ulrich (cf. ibid. p. 369). Ada's longing resembles that of Ulrichs - as “with Ulrich, the essence of that longing lies in taking the 'place' of the other 'completely'; it lies in an I-want-to-be ”(ibid. p. 389) - and like Ulrich Ada reads the“ Books Honoré de Balzacs (1799-1850) ”(ibid. p. 385). Further references to Musils The man without qualities are for example the numerous weather descriptions (cf. Arnold 2011, p. 214) and the “complicated magnetism between Mia and Moritz” (Schmidt 2008, p. 268), which Christopher Schmidt, according to Christopher Schmidt, “echoes sibling love in Robert Musil's man without qualities ”(Ibid.) Is. In Play instinct there are also references to musils The Blackbird (cf. Alt 2009, p. 376) and on the novel TheConfusions of the pupil Törless, in which as in Play instinct Students use their power to control and blackmail others. (see Brockmann 2011, p. 69).
The consideration of Musil's narrative literature as pretexts for the novel Play instinct is relevant not only in terms of similar characters and themes, but also because Zeh's and Musil's novels are based on the same philosophical theories. Constanze Alt states that "the uncanny impression of being at the mercy of something nameless and faceless is due to the conception of reality on which the novel is based" (Alt 2009, p. 371). This conception of reality is "related to Musil's idea of ​​(false) reality as a mechanism and test order" (ibid.). It should be added that the narrative situation and the chosen linguistic style - "an explicit nod to modernists like the aforementioned Thomas Mann and Musil" (Martens 2013, p. 253) - show parallels to Musil's work (cf. Breger 2008, p. 109) .

Literary Differences: The New German Pop Literature
In the second half of the 1990s, authors such as Christian Kracht and Ben-jamin v. Stuckrad-Barre caused a stir in the German media landscape with their 'New German Pop Literature'. Play instinct appears in 2004, shortly after the literary criticism declared pop literature to be 'dead' after September 11, 2001: “There is hardly a publisher that still wants to know anything about pop literature, let alone advertises a book as a pop book, hardly a bourgeois feature section, that pop literature has not buried at least once. ”(Die Tageszeitung, March 16, 2003) In sporadic research, however, parallels are drawn between Juli Zeh's novel and the new German pop literature; For example by Stephan Brockmann: “Zeh shares a concern with the perceived meaninglessness of contemporary life with other German authors, for instance, with Sibylle Berg, who, as Emily Jeremiah notes in chapter 9 of this book, writes about characters with 'lives that seem arbitrary and pointless'. ”(Brockmann 2011, p. 63) However, most literary scholars tend to work out the differences between Juli Zeh's second novel and New German Popliterature. Thomas Weitin and Constanze Alt state that the 'presence' both in the New German Popliterature and in Play instinct play an important role, but in different ways. Thomas Weitin emphasizes that it is in Play instinct also “about the reflection of procedures and notation” (Weitin 2012, p. 73), “however, the emphasis on the present is the topic, not the goal of your own poetics” (ibid.). In addition, in contrast to Benjamin von Stuckrad-Barre, for example, Juli Zeh has no intention of “writing literary texts for one or even their generation” (ibid. P. 74). Constanze Alt goes one step further: She not only sees the 'presence' as a common feature, but also the critical view “of one's own generation as a product of their everyday life” (Alt 2009, p. 203). However, this criticism is very different for Zeh and the pop literary writers. As an example, Alt Play instinct next to Christian Krachts Fiber country: “Here, as there, there is indeed a rejection of the given world. But in Kracht this is purely aesthetically motivated, in Zeh it is primarily philosophical. With her, they are not an issue, the brands that Kracht and Buschheuers insist on in debuts. ”(Ibid.)

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