“Für Immer Juli” is a novel about the modern man. The conflicts between a David Beckham-esque metrosexuality, and a Sean Connery style smooth talker, able to build a fire and fix your car simultaneously without breaking into a sweat.
For how should a man know how to behave in this modern, uncertain world?
Julian Hartmann is a music journalist from Tuntenhausen, in southern Bavaria. His long-term girlfriend Emma leaves him for Marc, a patriarchal figure, and shortly afterwards, Julian’s boss says he’s too soft to write for a rock magazine. Julian Hartmann’s world has been turned upside down. He’s sensitive, he likes to cook, he takes care of his appearance and enjoys the odd spa day or two. But maybe this isn’t what a woman wants. Maybe a woman wants a neanderthal-style man who doesn’t groom, who doesn’t give two monkeys about good food, and who is nothing less than an alpha male. And so he tries to be more masculine, in the old-fashioned sense of the word. He pretends to shun massages, while secretly enjoying Ayurvedic sessions at Das Kranzbach. Essentially, he loses his sensitive side.
And thus, while it’s a novel full of comic happenings, it’s also a novel that requires some afterthought. GQ wrote an interesting article on modern masculinity last year, stating that modern men are “portrayed as victims. Of our inflated egos, ineptitude and priapic urges. We’re presented as boorish, gonad-scratching Neanderthals who can’t multitask, cope with flat-pack furniture or dress ourselves properly. Women, meanwhile, are painted as glamorous, capable go-getters who roll their eyes at silly menfolk”. The topic of the modern man is a contemporary one. Being a man in 2013 is hard.
The book is a fantastic read for men and women. When I first heard about the novel, I (wrongly) assumed I wasn’t the target audience for the book. However, at a book reading by author Bernhard Blöchl at Das Kranzbach, I found it to be a warming, droll novel, with plenty to reflect on for both sexes. It’s only available in German (you can order it from the MaroVerlag here, or pop into any good book store to pick up a copy) but I found it an easy read for my English eyes. And I mean that purely from a linguistic point of view – the novel isn’t an airy Mills & Boon, there is plenty of substance to it, and plenty to be discussed. An ideal novel for a book club.