There hasn't been so much excitement and secrecy about a book for a long time: the new novel "Still awake?" was not only in the media industry. was eagerly awaited by Benjamin von Stuckrad-Barre, until the day of publication almost nothing got out to the public. The book is now on the market. But what does it say? And how explosive is the content? "Still awake?" in the quick check.
We're at a wild pool party at the notorious Hotel Chateau Marmont in Los Angeles, where it feels like every Hollywood star has stayed. Kanye West hangs up, a few guests splash around naked in the pool. "Someone turned on the music, clinking glasses, laughter...": The first-person narrator observes the scene until he finally meets an old acquaintance from Germany who - it's well after midnight - has just received news from her editor-in-chief and is panicking about it device. The narrator reads along on his acquaintance's cell phone:
Still awake? Shit air conditioning come and warm me big miss I'm here
Body to body NOW Where you?
A short time later, the first-person narrator is part of a men's road trip. His friend, whom he describes as the owner of a "riot television station" in Berlin, organized the trip for his management level. They drive from Los Angeles to San Francisco in a convoy of chubby carts. Said editor-in-chief is also there, driving ahead in a Hummer – he insisted on driving a Hummer. The narrator's friend doesn't want to know anything about accusations against his editor-in-chief, he doesn't want a "culture of suspicion" in his company. But the editor-in-chief's reputation already precedes him:
"In tone, infamy and constant agitation, he clearly imitated the American lying preacher Tucker Carlson, SENDERINTERN they called him when he wasn't around: Tucker Carlson for the mentally STILL poorer." He seemed to be made up of equal parts anger and fear (and nothing more) and was so obsessed with power as an end in itself that it was truly chilling to listen to him rant."
Back to the woman who got the nightly news. What preceded them? Has she experienced what the other women have experienced, who gradually confide in the narrator because he has a connection to the boss? Did the sleazy editor-in-chief pull the same scam on the pool woman as on the unnamed trainee reporting at the beginning of the book? Reported how the boss had lunch with her in his office. Every day. How he showed her photos of his kids and his dog. How he was empathetic and sensitive. How he told her heroic stories from his time as a war reporter, how interested he asked her opinion in team meetings, how much he valued her over and over again.
Between the women's stories, the first-person narrator keeps thinking about other convicted and alleged abusers: Woody Allen, Kevin Spacey, Bill Cosby, and of course film producer Harvey Weinstein, because of whom the
"The thing is, you suddenly get exaggeratedly good opportunities in the job, and you have this special connection, everything works, and he does it very skillfully, it's never quite that clear, so of course it's never said out loud. And that's all but somehow it's a kind of counter transaction, you only notice that when it's suddenly over, when he loses interest in you, maybe because you're getting uncomfortable."
From Berlin jumps "Still awake?" again and again to Los Angeles, where Stuckrad-Barre was already hanging around in his novel "Panic Heart". And while Los Angeles may feel far away, one thing that's certainly metaphorical about abuse scandals is the phrase the narrator reads on a sign during the road trip: "OBJECTS IN MIRROR ARE CLOSER THAN THEY APPEAR."
How explosive is that?
The rumor has been hurrying ahead of the book for months that it is a roman a clef in the Causa Reichelt. The former Bild editor-in-chief Julian Reichelt was dismissed after allegations of abuse of power in dealing with colleagues. Reichelt denies the allegations, to this day no official abuse of power has been proven.
Author Benjamin von Stuckrad-Barre himself played a central role in the scandal, had long been friends with Springer publishing boss Mathias Döpfner, and several affected women are said to have contacted the writer directly. "I didn't apply for it, I wasn't looking for it," says Stuckrad-Barre in an interview with Der Spiegel about the book. "Women from Springer-Verlag started calling me - and still do to this day. Women who tell me their story."
Nevertheless, in the foreword he describes the novel as a "fictional story that is independent of real events". The author "created a completely independent new work". This gives the writer the freedom to tell a story that has clear parallels to reality, yet always leaves the reader wondering: Did that really happen? Or just the author's poetry? Do we read about experiences with Reichelt and Döpfner - or are the protagonists artfully put together on paper who only have a core that is inspired by reality? Whether that's enough to avert lawsuits against the book is questionable.
What connection does Stuckrad-Barre have to Springer?
For a long time, the author was one of Döpfner's closest friends. The Springer boss once read a text by him, Stuckrad-Barre says in an interview with "Spiegel". Then he asked him if he wanted to hire his publisher. In 2007, Springer proudly announced the exclusive engagement of the then 32-year-old writer in a press release.
The author is said to have received an immensely high monthly fee, at least according to rumors in the industry. For the 100th birthday of Axel Springer, Stuckrad-Barre co-authored a revue that traced the life of the Springer founder. The writer ended his engagement in 2018, during which time the close friends Döpfner and Stuckrad-Barre must have broken up. Today he blocked Döpfner's number, the author says in the "Spiegel" interview. "There's nothing more to say on the first name."
What to expect after release?
By the day of publication, the content of "Still awake?" one thing above all: a great secret. For a long time not even the title and cover were known, at the beginning of March the publishing house sent out Kiepenheuer
However, it is to be expected that there will be lawsuits against the book now that it has been published. The descriptions of an editor-in-chief who seduces young colleagues and a publishing boss who sticks by his closest employee seem too close to reality. The parallel between the title of the novel - "Still awake?" – and the content of an SMS that Julian Reichelt is said to have written to a colleague. Even if Benjamin von Stuckrad-Barre says in an interview with "Spiegel": "Still awake? It's a classic of SMS communication. Almost everyone who has been out in the nightlife for a while has already written it themselves or one received a message like this."