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Getting out of the filter bubble

The writer Juli Zeh lives in a village in Brandenburg, far from Berlin's cultural scene. And it’ a good thing, too, she says.

The writer Juli Zeh
The writer Juli Zeh © Peter von Felbert

In her novel "Unterleuten" (“Turbine”, but literally: Amongst People), she memorialised the provinces: Juli Zeh, writer and lawyer, known for her strong opinions in socio-political debates. She has been living in a small village in Brandenburg for almost 15 years. While local society appears to be rather tense in her book “Unterleuten”, the author herself has gained much from country life. In a short interview with, Zeh explains why – and what is still lacking.

Mrs Zeh, you said that moving from Leipzig to the country was “a liberation”. In what way?

For one, it gave me many opportunities for self-fulfilment here – greater freedom for my children and my animals. For another, I’ve left the urban-academic filter bubble behind. Here I get to know and make friends with people who I’d never have met in the city because there you only always walk past each other.

As a writer, I want to take part in normal life.
Juli Zeh

Some might think that a successful creative person like you has to live in Berlin – close to other artists, to publishers and networks. How do you manage not to feel cut off from the cultural scene here in Brandenburg?

But I do feel cut off from the cultural scene here, and that has great advantages. I have more time for my writing. And as I don’t write for the cultural scene but for "normal" people, there’s something to be said for taking part in normal life.

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In Germany, as in many other countries, the big cities have an enormous attraction. Medium-sized cities too are becoming more popular, but moving to a village is rather rare. What could make country life attractive again?

The problem in rural areas is the flagrant lack of infrastructure. There are too few schools, too few doctors, too few buses and regional trains. That makes life there very difficult. There’s an urgent need to change this so that people can live everywhere in Germany.

Interview: Helen Sibum


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