This mid-rave feeling of being utterly present, devoid of any sense of time, place, or ego, is exceedingly difficult to capture in any sort of strictly representational art form, but German writer Rainald Goetz’s 1998 novel Rave manages to convey the black hole of a dissociative dance floor experience with clarity ... Instead of trying to forcibly carve a narrative of the madness and hedonism of techno’s early days, Goetz embraces the transience of a night out. What unites the disparate locales is a combination of chatter and somatic response ... in a nod to the collectivism inherent in the act of raving, Goetz doesn’t even center his ostensible protagonist ... he tells the story of those days by loosely following each stray glance and overheard phrase from those around him, piecing together a mosaic of this scene that avoids idealization ... In Rave, Goetz lays out the polar contradictions of a lifestyle dedicated to nightlife, cycling through flashes of enlightenment and tenderness to despair and cynicism ... Goetz’s novel succeeds in translating into black and white an embodied and ineffable experience, something prose isn’t especially equipped to accomplish.
Rave , recently translated by Adrian Nathan West into English for the first time, is Goetz’s 1998 fragmentary novel about nightlife. Like Irre, it circles around the idea of disintegration. By the end, the book seems to self-destruct, a vision as much about rave culture’s dissolution as about the psyche’s. This takes place at the level of language ... the book’s arc is hacked up excessively and deliberately. Snatches of prose intersect with dialogue, intertitles, and scenes strung out and interrupting themselves ... the book’s frenetic scenes resonate and invite us to dissolve our attempts at spectatorship ... Spilling out and trying to contain, understanding and rejecting the offered narratives—this is all part of a push and pull we use to learn about the self. It’s in this madness, and not aside from it, that Goetz thrives.
In 1991, after spending a year in London, Goetz returned to Munich and began hitting up clubs like Babalu and Ultraschall several nights a week; soon he began fantasising about creating a novelistic form that would not only encapsulate but also imitate the immediacy of the dancefloor, the flickering of a strobe light, the ‘cross-fades’ and ‘cuts’ made by DJs, and the fleeting but often hilarious conversations one has with passing acquaintances ... With Rave, Goetz realised this goal, splicing fragments together to create an endless stream of micro-events: we learn that 'the brown tablets apparently have heroin mixed in with them'; we watch 'Desiree [root] around…the plush teddy bear Jana [is] sporting as a backpack'; we follow a lone cigarette as it exchanges hands, gets stuck behind an ear, falls to the ground, and gets picked up a few minutes later by another person ... Goetz is so busy making his writing sound like techno that he forgets to write about how techno sounds ... This somewhat ahistorical bent makes Rave a confounding read in our own time ... Even though Rave might be an ideal read for those of us searching out the next underground party, it’s a strange fit for our period of political uprising and historical awareness. But maybe, just maybe, it will inspire someone to write a novel worthy of the present, a novel that can more fully investigate the way sounds can cross oceans, intersect, and create something new.