Behind the Hedge Is the World

Gianna Molinari

German, Aufbau Verlag, Berlin, 2023

“Dora asks, what remains of the Arctic expeditions for the Arctic.”

“The ice is a memory about to be forgotten, says the oceanographer, rolling up the winch. […] Nothing passes the ice without leaving a trace.”

How are local and global changes connected when growth becomes destructive, standstill becomes commonplace and shrinkage becomes natural? In her second novel, Gianna Molinari creates variations of disappearance, thereby addressing pressing present-day questions.

The village at the edge of the hedge is shrinking. Its last rays of hope, the two children Pina and Lobo, are no longer growing, and their lifeline, the hedge, which once attracted travellers and promised livelihood and growth, is also coming to harm. Dora, Pina’s mother, has already left the village to set off for the world beyond the hedge. She takes part in a scientific expedition to the Arctic to work with a marine researcher to determine changes in the climate using sediment samples. She is accompanied by a photographer, who cannot comprehend seeing the icebergs melting. Historical expedition reports, myths and animal fables are woven into the fairytale-like narrative structure. They create a kind of time capsule that adds a historical depth dimension to the family history and integrates the central themes of the book into a larger context.

Gianna Molinari subtly explores how different worlds are simultaneously connected and separate from one another. She finds the appropriate narrative language by weaving realistic, fantastic and allegorical elements into complex and profound stories. What all worlds have in common is the careful attention that is paid to the ‘outsiders’ – those who remain behind and those who break out.

The novel is based on the author’s extensive research and continues the exploration of current challenges using literary means. Specific problems such as climate change and its consequences, rural exodus and the dissolution of village communities are discussed, as well as more general questions about the limits of growth or alternatives to the belief in civilisational progress. The novel does not provide simple answers to these questions but rather traces the complex relationships between local and global changes and impressively illustrates their concrete consequences for human coexistence.

Gianna Molinari’s book is, at the same time, a precise catalogue of losses and a melancholic remembrance of what has disappeared. Above all, it is a poetic visualisation of a changing environment and the fragility of our living environments.

Text by Lucas Marco Gisi

Hinter der Hecke die Welt
Aufbau Verlag, Berlin
Translation rights
Inka Ihmels,
Publication date
September 2023


Gianna Molinari

Gianna Molinari was born in Basel in 1988 and now lives in Zurich. She studied literary writing at the Swiss Literature Institute and modern German literature at the University of Lausanne. She received the 3sat Prize at the 2017 Ingeborg Bachmann Competition for an excerpt from her first novel. Her debut novel Hier ist noch alles möglich (Everything is still possible here)was a great success; it was adapted for the theatre, received the Robert Walser and Clemens Brentano prizes and was nominated for the German Book Prize and the Swiss Book Prize.

Photo: © Christoph Oeschger