The Will To Sickness
Gerhard Roth burst on the German-speaking scene in the early 1970s with three fiercely experimental novels, among them our present DER WILLE ZUR KRANKHEIT (1973). It is here that Roth developed his “objective” prose, his aggregates of minute observations and impressions. The subjective narrator perceives, notes, thinks. Representation eludes his perspective. The effect is surreal with an undertone of Angst: “i am preparing a slow disintegration of the external world inside my head.”
Roth was part of the literary group known as “Forum Stadtpark” (later renamed Graz Writers’ Collective) where Peter Handke and Elfriede Jelinek also first made their mark. He has continued to explore the Austrian psyche and especially the fragile nature of “reality” and the political aspects of what society puts forward as such and what it glosses over. The genres he works in range from children’s books to screenplays, and, most impressively though also more traditionally, to the seven volumes of Die Archive des Schweigens. This “Archive of Silence,” which comprises a photographic anthology, a collection of essays, a biography and four novels, is widely considered Roth’s masterpiece.
Over the course of his career he has been honored with (among others) the Alfred Döblin, Marie Luise Kaschnitz, Peter Rosegger, and Bruno Kreisky prizes.
Tristram Wolff graduated from Brown University in 2004. He lives in rural Vermont, and travels often. This translation is his first publication.