On the Brink
Gerhard Roth, born in Graz in 1942, is one of Austria’s most important and controversial authors. His ninth novel, On the Brink, was published in 1986 as the seventh volume in his “Archives of Silence”, a cycle of novels, essays and photographic documentation all centering on the theme of silence in its many aspects: the cloak of silence cast over the past, the silence of denial, the silence of impotency, or states of amoral or inner detachment. The theme of normality is another constant running through this series and one Roth touches on in particular in the third volume, A Common or Garden Death, where he also introduces the main characters of the present work: the law student and serial killer Alois Jenner, and his schizophrenic friend Franz Lindner. Lindner recounts there:
"My friend advanced the opinion that when a crime is committed, it just brings up the question of normality. The crime is viewed as a normal case when it is committed by someone who is considered normal. But whenever the crime is considered to be outside the normal run of things the culprit must also be deemed abnormal, and cannot be held responsible accordingly to the legal notion of normality. My friend can picture a pure crime performed purely for crime’s sake, which the offender perpetrates simply out of inquisitiveness."
In On the Brink, Jenner attempts to escape normality through murder, while Lindner escapes into madness. Both choose to remain silent about the law student’s appalling crimes.
This novel includes three drawings by Franz Lindner, done by the artist Günter Brus.