Decompression by Juli Zeh

Juli Zeh

Well here we go I’m trying to break new ground with my reviewing style, with a book that in some ways sums up what  about reading fiction in translation is about for me. that is discovery of books I wouldn’t maybe read if they were in English as much as I agree with the women in translation project and am all for more books by women getting translated, I can never draw myself away from the lit I grew up with which is Burroughs, Kerouac , Burgess and well on the whole male writers, So Juli Zeh isn’t a writer I would usually be drawn too but it is german lit month, I had tried an earlier book by her and failed after a few pages. But the synopsis of this one appeal to me.I was suprised to enjoy this more than I expected too.

As for me, I’m keeping my mouth shut. I’m not talking about literature, I’m not talking about dying. We’re both making an effort. This is going to be a lovely vacation. I won’t provoke him, and he won’t let himself be provoked. armistice

From Jola’s diary on the first day there …

The book is about a take on the classic  love triangle. We have  Jola, she is a beautiful soap star, but with a yearning for more than that entails. She has gone with her Husband Theo to Lanzararote to learn to scuba dive (hence the title of the book ) for her new film about a famous Model come underwater photograph. Thus step in Scuba instructor and third in the ;love triangle of this novel Sven he has been paid a great deal to bring the attractive Jola up to speed on her diving.What follows is a love affair but also given the dangers of being underwater a lot can happen.Will these two break Sven’s peaceful world.?

The love triangle is perhaps one of the oldest stories in fiction and in the world in general. From wuthering heights , Doctor Zhivago and through to even Harry potter a love triangle makes a good plot line.But what lends it strength is the characters that make up the three sides so who do we have here Spolit brat Jola, stunning an actress.But also rather like the lead characters in the Peter Stamm novel from earlier in the month given all the success there is something missing at the heart of this woman.

We don’t have to be on vacation. The old man could get to work on writing a book about the island. I can train for Lotte. That’s the beauty of being in the arts. You can call everything work, and then you can realize it’s shit without being disappointed.

Jola again from her diary she is quite shallow really.

Then we have Sven the classic Laid back drop out yes he studied Law but he then left all that behind to move to the sun and teach diving. One can imagine a number of Characters like this. I loved the bit where he googled the couple, that was maybe one of the pieces that gave this such a modern feel.

Three hundred and eighty-four thousand hits on Google. That was a shock. Even though I didn’t know exactly why it frightened me . In the background, a software program was uploading data from my dive computer. If Antje appeared in the doorway. I could click on the other screen in a flash. I didn’t feel like explaining what I was doing and why. Googling clients wasn’t really my style.

I loved this so now .

Last is the triangle is  Husband Theo , for me I kept thinking Arthur Miller for some reason, I don’t know why but I got that juxtaposed position of his Marriage to Marilyn  Monroe  with Theo’s and Jola’s . He  is in the middle of a huge bout of writers block and has been lashing out at his wife. Maybe drawing Jola into the Arms of Sven whom she has tried to lead astray.She is scared of him as the firrst quote suggests.

As soon as she was finished installing the navigations devices, Jola jumped onto land, pulled Theo off the bench, and sang. “Sailing, Sailing, over the bounding main,” in his face. He lurched into motion , grumbling , a burned down cigarette.

Theo a broken man lashing out at times.

This is a classic tale given a warm setting and almost  like putting a pan of water on boil we wait for the screen to start bubbling and boiling as the three  main characters  start cooking.Juli Zeh has mixed the love triangle  genre and given it the pacing you would expect from a thriller when reading it. In Sven the main narrator she has a laid back character capturing his life falling apart by the arrival of these two. I watch the film version of inherent vice and felt Sven was rather like Doc the lead character in that drawn into a world and situations he didnt’ quite want to be in .

German Literature

Decopression bY Juli Zeh

Translator John Cullen.

12 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. roughghosts
    Nov 23, 2015 @ 06:22:52

    Nice review Stu, you make some very interesting observations about the style of the novel and I love the “pan of water” imagery in the final paragraph. Sounds like an entertaining take on a timeless theme.


  2. Caroline
    Nov 23, 2015 @ 07:35:34

    I need to finally read her and this book. I keep on collecting her novels but for some reasons I never pick her up. Loved the “pan of water” metaphor as well.


  3. lizzysiddal
    Nov 23, 2015 @ 17:29:55

    Or even GLM VI?


  4. Claire 'Word by Word'
    Nov 23, 2015 @ 20:27:06

    Like the new style Stu, with the white space, paragraphing and quotes, looks great, reads great, it is great! Keep it up!


  5. Pat
    Nov 23, 2015 @ 23:51:59

    Hi, I like the easy to read style and the comparative view on love triangles. I enjoyed Decompression but preferred Dark Matter (hope that wasn’t the one you couldn’t get into)


  6. 1streading
    Nov 24, 2015 @ 18:26:21

    I really enjoyed The Method, which I read at the start of German Lit Month, and your excellent review makes me want to read this as well.


  7. Mytwostotinki
    Nov 24, 2015 @ 20:37:47

    Great review, very thoughtful!
    By the way, there is a quite well-known literary critic in Germany who used to publish the most damning reviews about all of Zeh’s books. As soon as she had published something new, wham, another slamming review by this guy. A lot of people got curious because it was obvious that there was something personal about these reviews that aimed at denigrating the author who is not at all a bad writer, in the contrary. Finally it turned out that Mr. Literary Critic had visited the same school as Zeh and once when they were both still kids, Zeh had rejected to dance with the future critic at a school event…so all these reviews were a kind of revenge for a narcissistic insult. My apologies for the digression.


  8. Trackback: 10 female writers for International woman’s day | Winstonsdad's Blog
  9. Trackback: Woman in translation reviews from Sept 15 to July 16 | Winstonsdad's Blog

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

November 2015


%d bloggers like this: