[This page by Michael Wood]

Rainald Goetz was born in Munich in 1954 and is currently active as an author in Berlin. He has won numerous literary prizes, including the Mülheimer Dramatikerpreis in 1988, 1993, and 2000. He studied history, theatre studies, and medicine in Munich and Paris, achieving a doctorate in both history and medicine. He completed his doctoral thesis for history, Freunde und Feinde des Kaisers Domitian; Friends and Enemies of the Emperor Domitian in 1978.

Goetz burst on to the literary scene in 1983. In this year, he appeared as a contestant for the Ingeborg Bachmann Prize in Klagenfurt, Austria, where he gave a lively reading of his short text ‘Subito’. While reading his text in front of a live studio audience, including the likes of Marcel Reich-Ranicki, and broadcast on television, Goetz produced a razor blade from his pocket and cut open his forehead. As he continued to read, the blood poured down his face and on to his manuscript (see: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_BEjgp9MAEY). 1983 also saw the publication of his first novel, Irre; Crazy. Since then, Goetz has largely been identified as one of Germany’s most important ‘pop’ authors. While he is clearly engaged with other ‘pop’ artists and authors, including Andy Warhol and Jeff Koons to name but two, the designation of ‘pop’ is problematic and often very difficult to assign to his works.

Goetz has written prose, plays, and published essays, blogs, interviews, and photography, and has worked with the likes of artist Alfred Oehlen, and DJs such as Westbam and Sven Väth. In his early career, before the publication of Irre; Crazy, he was active as a journalist for Spex and the Süddeutsche Zeitung. One of Goetz’s greatest philosophical influences is the German sociologist and proponent of General Systems Theory in the social sciences, Niklas Luhmann (1927-1998). The German Autumn of 1977, in which members of West German Communist partisan group the RAF undertook some of their most prominent activites, had a huge effect on him, and this permeates through much of his early literary output. Furthermore, the practises of Warhol play a prominent part in both Goetz’s aesthetic and how he goes about collecting material. The main thematic strands of his work include violence and history, investigating the various discursive levels of the world, and the limits of language in reaching into these areas. Much of his work is displays an almost obsessive compulsion to capture and freeze the present, while acknowledging the limitations to such a process: see, for example, his two blogs, Abfall für Alle; Garbage for Everyone (1998-9), which was initially a blog at www.rainald-goetz.de [website is no longer online], and Klage, a blog for Vanity Fair from 2007-8; and his monumental 1989 (1993), for which he noted down words from thousands of hours of television coverage. According to Goetz, in the mid-1990s he rediscovered his youth, and became heavily involved and interested in techno music, raving, and the use of illegal substances as social practices. As a result of this, he became a participant in, and avid supporter of, the Love Parade.

In 2015 Rainald Goetz was awarded the Büchner prize, the most prestigious literary prize in Germany.

Prose, and volumes of interviews and essays, etc. by Goetz include:

Irre; Crazy (1983)

Hirn; Brain (1986)

Kontrolliert; Controlled (1988)

1989 (1993)

Kronos; Chronos (1993)

Rave (1998)

Celebration (1999)

Dekonspiratione (2000)

Jahrzent der Schönen Frauen; Decade of Beautiful Women (2001)

loslabern (2009)

Elfter September 2010; Eleventh of September 2010 (2010)

Johann Holtrop (2012)


Heiliger Krieg (Holy War); Schlachten (Battles); and Kolik (Colic) – collected in Krieg (War) (1986)

Festung (Fortress); Kritik in Festung (Critique in Fortress); and Katarakt (Cataract) – collected in Festung (Fortress) (1993)

Jeff Koons (1998)


Abfall für Alle; Garbage for All (1998/9)

Klage; Complaint (2008)

Further Reading

David Barnett, ‘Text as Material? The Category of “Performativity” in Three Postdramatic German Theatre-Texts’, in Performance and Performativity in German Cultural Studies, ed. by Carolin Duttlinger, Lucia Ruprecht and Andrew Webber (Bern: Peter Lang, 2003), pp. 137-57

Birgit Haas, ‘Contemporary German Drama as Aesthetic Resistance against Right-wing Radicalism’, German Monitor 59 (2004), 239-55

Martin Jörg-Schäfer and Elke Siegel (eds.), Germanic Review 81:3 (2006), Special Issue: The Intellectual and the Popular: Reading Rainald Goetz

Georgina Paul, Perspectives on Gender in Post-1945 German Literature (Rochester, NY: Camden House, 2009)

Web Link in German


Büchner prize citation for Rainald Goetz (2015)