In­sane

Rainald Goetz Adrian Nathan West (Trans­la­tor)

Foreword Reviews - - Reviews - RE­BECCA HUSSEY

Fitz­car­raldo Edi­tions (JUNE) Soft­cover $20 (340pp) 978-1-910695-31-9

In­sane is a com­plex, mul­ti­voiced, ex­per­i­men­tal look at men­tal ill­ness and the in­sti­tu­tions that try to help its severest suf­fer­ers. Mov­ing, in­sight­ful, and at times deeply trou­bling, it is a novel that chal­lenges its au­di­ence at ev­ery turn.

The novel nom­i­nally cen­ters on Raspe, a young doc­tor at the start of his ca­reer, be­gin­ning his first job at a psy­chi­atric hos­pi­tal. But its scope reaches far be­yond Raspe’s story.

The first of the book’s three equal sec­tions con­tains a se­ries of vi­gnettes and speeches that ap­pear to come from the hos­pi­tal’s pa­tients and doc­tors. Each is pre­sented briefly and with­out con­text, in vary­ing styles and points of view. The sec­ond tells Raspe’s story in a more tra­di­tional, nar­ra­tive-driven style, while the third re­turns to the scat­tered, im­pres­sion­is­tic style of the first, this time with Goetz him­self emerg­ing as a char­ac­ter.

The first two sec­tions, while dif­fer­ent in form and mood, are equally rich in their ideas, char­ac­ter de­vel­op­ment, and lan­guage. The first of­fers glimpses into the hopes, dreams, and strug­gles of pa­tients, po­si­tioned im­me­di­ately next to por­tray­als of the hopes, dreams, and strug­gles of their doc­tors.

Goetz’s lan­guage is var­ied, cap­tur­ing an im­pres­sive range of emo­tions and moods. Raspe’s story in the sec­ond sec­tion of­fers the plea­sures of more straight­for­ward sto­ry­telling as he be­gins his new job with hope and en­coun­ters a se­ries of ob­sta­cles that make him reeval­u­ate the en­tire psy­chi­atric en­ter­prise.

The third sec­tion is less sat­is­fy­ing. Raspe fades into the back­ground, and in his place emerges a con­fus­ing ar­ray of voices, among them the metafic­tional voice of the au­thor, pon­tif­i­cat­ing on writ­ing and cul­ture. Some of these ram­blings are trou­bling in their cruel treat­ment of women and dis­mis­sive at­ti­tudes to­ward peo­ple of color.

Rainald Goetz’s In­sane is a trou­bling, com­pli­cated literary novel that delves into the ex­pe­ri­ence of men­tal ill­ness.

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