cover image Insane


Rainald Goetz, trans. from the German by Adrian Nathan West. Fitzcarraldo (Consortium, dist.), $20 trade paper (340p) ISBN 978-1-910695-31-9

Originally published in Germany in 1983, Goetz’s bold, uncompromising novel retains its serrated edges in this spirited English translation by West. Partitioned into three sections, the mostly plotless novel sinuously traces the overlaps between insanity and artistry, self and other, and the asylum and the society that surrounds it. “Away” inhabits scores of voices that present a resolutely scattered image of the treatment of mental illness, including released patients who cannot reintegrate into society and hopeful young doctors uncomfortable with the practice of electroshock therapy. The second, most straightforward section, “Inside,” focuses on one such doctor, Raspe, whose harrowing experiences in the asylum—the hallways painted with excrement, the incensed patients who bloody his nose—push him past the brink of madness. “Order” chronicles Raspe’s descent into that madness after he stops working at the asylum; he plunges into alcoholism, the seedy Berlin nightlife, and a total loss of his sense of self. The subtle metafictive elements of the novel find full expression here as Raspe’s consciousness blurs with Goetz’s and vice versa. While the novel’s more avant garde elements will alienate some readers, those willing to sift through it will find brilliant, treasurable moments of clarity amongst all the detritus of the mind. [em](June) [/em]