Berlin (dpa) – Cyberbullying has become a modern scourge. Women in particular are threatened, insulted, persecuted with hatred and ridiculed online. If they are in the spotlight, it will be particularly uncomfortable for them.

But even normal women can be targeted. Austrian author Doris Knecht (“Gruber will”) shows in her very current, brilliant and exciting novel “Die Nachrichten” how cyberstalking can become an existential threat and disrupt a life.

Ruth, the protagonist of the novel, like so many other victims, has long had unpleasant experiences with cyberbullying. “I was used to not taking such news seriously,” summarizes the screenwriter and former presenter. “Like all women who even moved a little in public. It was part of being a woman, and defending yourself only got worse; not for the men we opposed, but for the women who dared. “But when one day she receives a message from a totally unknown Ernst Breuer, everything is different. Because this man seems to know the details. most intimate moments of his life. He maliciously points out to Ruth that her late husband is having an affair. Ruth has known about this for a long time, but how does the stranger know? Like arrowheads, more and more more messages come in and each time they get sharper, more insulting, more destructive. Worse, the hate mail now also reaches Ruth’s children and friends, and ultimately even her customers. No question: the insidious attacks by The depths of the web seem to be aimed at destroying Ruth’s existence. At first glance, your daily life seems to offer few possibilities of attack. The accidental death of her husband three years ago still torments her, but she finds penny yours in a loving circle of friends and stepfamily. A new, budding relationship with her son’s psychiatrist and various stays in the big city bring variety to her isolated country life. So which circles should she disturb? A first suspicion falls on the ex-lover of her husband. At least it seems obvious, because it contains the most intimate information. But the construction that would have offered too easy a solution to the riddle soon collapses like a cream puff. Ruth must familiarize herself with an uncomfortable thought: The attacks don’t come from far, but from very near. She must have been betrayed by a loved one. The poisoned news puts everything to the test: Ruth’s past, her marriage, her friendships, her new love. Above all, the question now arises: what can she still believe, who can she still trust, ultimately maybe not even herself? Because she too has long since become suspect for her environment in this toxic story. The novel is written entirely from Ruth’s point of view and it is from this narrative perspective that it gains its great immediacy and impact. Knecht sensitively investigates the disruption and decomposition of cyberbullying to its finer ramifications, but also self-deception in the life of an independent and intelligent woman. She has put together a strong and exciting novel with the qualities of a thriller. Only the end should leave a lot of people a little confused.

– Doris Knecht: The Message, Hanser Verlag, Munich, 256 pages, 22.00 euros, ISBN 978-3-446-27103-6.