Rainald Goetz

Translated by Adrian Nathan West

French paperback with flaps, 352 pages
Published 18 October 2017 (UK) | 26 June 2018 (US)

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The translation of this work was supported by a grant from the Goethe-Institut which is funded by the German Ministry of Foreign Affairs

Translated for the first time into English, cult German author Rainald Goetz’s debut novel Insane draws upon his clinical psychiatric experience to paint a portrait of the asylum as a total institution. We follow a young psychiatrist, Dr Raspe, who enters the profession dreaming of revolutionising its methods. Confronted by day-to-day practices and the reality of life in the psychiatric hospital, Raspe begins to fray at the edges. The very concept of madness is called into question in a brutal portrayal of patients and psychiatrists and the various treatments administered, from psychotherapy to electroshock therapy. What is madness? And who is truly mad? Diving headlong into a terrifying and oppressive world, Insane is a veritable journey into the madhouse by one of Germany’s most prominent and contentious authors. 

‘Adrian Nathan West has managed an impressive translation of Mr Goetz’s voice – a relentless staccato that can border on the manic … This language accounts for a lot of what makes the book stick in the mind…. [Goetz’s] eloquent depictions of human misery, and his frustration with the seemingly impossible task of helping those who appear beyond help, continue to resonate.’
The Economist

‘Through radical shifts in narrators, subjects and references to culture, Goetz creates a post modern montage, a shattered book mapping a shattered soul. The novel has now been translated into English for the first time in an extraordinary rendering by Adrian Nathan West, and while the sampling and snippeting might seem old hat to us today, Goetz’s book has a profound advantage over contemporary novels of this style: a painful and beautiful, at times vindicating and always truly felt lyricism that shines a light into the grey cosmos of Raspe’s mind.’
Jan Wilm, Times Literary Supplement

‘Foucault stalks the novel’s corridors, informing the reflections on control and normativity, the construction of treatment as carceral, punitive, ultimately unavailing…. If Goetz’s experience can teach us anything, even a generation on, it is to query psychiatry’s apparent resignation at its own failures.’
Literary Review

‘Originally published in Germany in 1983, Goetz’s bold, uncompromising novel retains its serrated edges in this spirited English translation by West…. [R]eaders … will find brilliant, treasurable moments of clarity amongst all the detritus of the mind.’
Publishers Weekly, STARRED review

‘Rainald Goetz is the most important trendsetter in German literature.’
— Süddeutsche Zeitung

‘This book is a hammer.’
— Die Zeit

‘In many passages, Goetz achieves the same intensity and concentration of experience as in the disturbing early novels of Thomas Bernhard.’
— Süddeutsche Zeitung

‘Behind his nervous, tense willingness to experience, there is a broad education and a sensitive historical consciousness that endow his language with a balance of passionate expressiveness, observational coolness and satirical clarity.’
— The German Academy of Language and Literature, on the occasion of the awarding of the 2015 Georg Büchner Prize

‘Many of his texts should come with an epilepsy warning.’
— Die Zeit

‘As a hyper-nervous virtuoso of attentiveness, Rainald Goetz works in the field between authenticity and fiction.’
— Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung

‘He was a doctor, he knew what he was doing.’
— Marcel Reich-Ranicki, commenting on Goetz slicing open his forehead at the 1983 Ingeborg Bachmann Prize

‘Praise is bad.’
— Rainald Goetz

Six questions with Adrian Nathan West on Insane

Rainald Goetz, born in 1954 in Munich, studied History and Medicine in Munich and obtained a doctoral degree in both subjects. He briefly worked as a doctor, but quit this profession for the sake of literature in his early thirties. His first novel, Insane, was published in 1983. In 1998, Goetz wrote the internet diary ‘Rubbish for Everyone’, probably the first literary blog in Germany, with entries on the world of media and consumerism. It was published in book form in 1999 and together with Rave, Jeff Koons, Celebration and Deconspiration belongs to This Morning, his great history of the present. Goetz has been awarded numerous prizes, most notably the Georg Büchner Prize in 2015. He lives in Berlin.

Adrian Nathan West is the author of The Aesthetics of Degradation and translator of such authors as Pere Gimferrer, Juan Benet, Marianne Fritz, and Josef Winkler. His writings appear regularly in the Times Literary Supplement, Los Angeles Review of Books, and Literary Review. He lives in Spain and the United States with the cinema critic Beatriz Leal Riesco.