After the Second World War, partly influenced by Michel Foucault’s 1961 history of the institutionalisation of madness, fury at medical bureaucracy developed into an anti-psychiatry movement. Patients subjected to tranquilising pharmaceuticals and electrocution were seen as the hapless victims of harsh disciplinary systems. Mental illness itself was understood as an explicable response to a world hopelessly out of joint.
Born in Munich in 1954, Rainald Goetz took doctorates in medicine and history, and worked during his twenties in mental institutions. He left the profession in his early thirties to become a full-time writer, marking the transition with Irre (1983), his first novel, now released as Insane by