Patrick Roth

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Patrick Roth (2010)

Patrick Roth (born June 25, 1953 in Freiburg im Breisgau ) is a German writer and director .


Patrick Roth grew up in Karlsruhe and attended the humanistic Bismarck-Gymnasium , where he passed his matriculation examination in 1972. Immediately after graduating from high school, he went to Paris to learn the French language and a. to pursue a private film course at the Cinémathèque , which included four to seven films per day. From 1974 he studied English , German and Romance studies at the University of Freiburg im Breisgau .

In 1975 he received a one-year scholarship of the DAAD for the University of Southern California in Los Angeles , where he filmmaking and director studied at the Cinema Department. After the scholarship expired, he decided to settle permanently in the United States.

In 1978 he made his first own short film The Boxer , in 1980 the film The Killers , an adaptation of the short story of the same name by Charles Bukowski . From 1981 to 1984 he trained as an actor with the director Daniel Mann and worked as a co-author and dialogue coach on various productions.

Since the 1980s Roth has written a number of radio plays for German radio stations and plays , most of which he staged himself. He worked as a film journalist for German newspapers, first as a foreign correspondent for Cinema Magazin , then later v. a. for the Süddeutsche Zeitung . From 1986 to 2015 he was a member of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association and the Motion Picture Association of America and was therefore eligible to vote at the Golden Globe Awards.

Roth has been known as a writer since the 1990s. He publishes short stories , novels , short stories and narrative cycles that combine biblical-mythical material with film motifs and link the opposing spheres of everyday life and transcendence.

In 2001 he held the poetics lectures at the University of Frankfurt am Main , and in 2004 he held the poetics lectureship at the University of Heidelberg . In the summer semester of 2008 he taught at the University of Hildesheim , also as part of a poetics lectureship .

In 2006 he returned to his cinematic beginnings and shot the autobiographical film essay In My Life - 12 Places I Remember on behalf of ZDF , a tracing of his path as a German writer in America.

Patrick Roth has been a member of the PEN Center Germany since 1999 . Since 2007 he has been the Resident Scholar of the CG Jung Study Center of Southern California and a member of the Board of Directors. He lived in Santa Monica near Los Angeles until 2012 and moved back to Mannheim in the spring of this year .

In 2012 the University of Heidelberg appointed him for the second time as a poetics lecturer, with the topic Inside - America - Night . In the same year the novel Sunrise - Das Buch Joseph appeared , which marks a new section in Roth's work.

The American journey appeared in 2013 . Stories of a film-obsessed , a look back at Roth's American years (1975–2012), his enthusiasm for cinema and finding his way as a writer.

Artistic creation

Cover of the poetry lectures by Patrick Roth

Roth's literary career began with a love of cinema, which was deepened in private film studies at the Cinémathèque in Paris (1971–1972) and professionalized in film production and directing at the Cinema Department of the University of Southern California (1975–1976) . The first artistic works are two short films, for which Roth is responsible for the script, direction, editing and production. The Boxer (1978) tells the story of an ex-champion who, after twenty years, demands revenge from his former rival. On Santa Monica Beach they meet again, which unexpectedly leads to an epiphany under the pier. The Killers (1980), a film adaptation of the short story of the same name by Charles Bukowski , on the other hand, represents the swan song for any redemption: the plan of two harmless tramps to rob a Beverly Hills mansion ends in an unforeseen orgy of senseless violence.

Roth's first book, The Vigilant trilogy , was published in 1990 by Edition Suhrkamp . The first of the three monodramas named, Paul - Human History in a Vigil , is about the loneliness of a security guard in an underground nuclear weapons silo in the USA. Looking back on his debut in 2007, Roth recalled the creation of his first literary text: “Was a role model for speaking in complete solitude, for bending over images that came out of the darkness, also for bending under their burden Beckett's madder . "

As a writer, Roth caused a sensation with his Christ Trilogy , which consists of three texts: Riverside. Christusnovelle (1991), Johnny Shines or The Resurrection of the Dead (1993) and Corpus Christi (1996). They were summarized in 1998 under the overall title Resurrection ("Resurrection"), the leitmotif of the trilogy, and reissued. In them, the author processes New Testament motifs in the context of criminal acts in a novel mixture of art and colloquial language.

Roth names the film and the city of film, Los Angeles, as his central sources of inspiration, as well as the literature, the Bible and the depth psychology of the school of CG Jung , especially as read by Edward F. Edinger, the American depth psychologist who wrote Jung's work often commented. Roth's literary role models are Hölderlin , Kleist , Goethe , Hebel , Celan and Joyce . Roth's favorite directors include Charlie Chaplin , Orson Welles , John Ford , Akira Kurosawa , Ingmar Bergman , Alfred Hitchcock and Michelangelo Antonioni .

Traces of these artistic models can be found in almost all of his texts. For example, Kleist's The Earthquake in Chili is transformed into the story The Woman Who Shot the Thief and continues to tell, or Edgar Allan Poe's horror story The Treasonous Heart is carried over to the present of the sixties and retold as the cryptic love story of a Karlsruhe high school student to his English private teacher (both in the narrative cycle Die Nacht der Zeitlosen , 2001). The plot of John Ford's western classic The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance is subject to the novel Johnny Shines or The Raising of the Dead (1993) like a slide : As in the film, the story is told by the protagonist himself in retrospect, how the film sets the novel the end to the beginning, so that past and present come full circle.

The influence of film and depth psychology

My trip to Chaplin (1997) is regarded asRoth'sclearest homage to cinema. The autobiographical narrator describes from the perspective of film students as it Chaplin's film City Lights ( City Lights ) to the artistic revelation was. The climax of the story is the description of the final sequence between the flower girl and the tramp, which is translated into language using film so that the reader begins to see the scene.

Typical of Roth's style is the visual and scenic narration, which transfers the narrative material into series of pictures - a genuinely cinematic narrative principle that brings about the greatest possible immediacy and authenticity . Roth explains this in an interview: “For example, I need to know how light and shadow are distributed when a person enters a room. I see the scene from a certain camera angle or drive with me, stop there. I also ask myself: what can stay in the dark? I never fully illuminate the scene. It's boring and without tension. ”Genuinely cinematic narrative media such as dissolve (“ cross-fading ”) and suspense , which Roth explains as basic literary principles in his poetry lectures, structure his texts. In the Heidelberg lectures Inside - America - Night (2012), which was part of the volume The American Journey. Stories of a film obsessed are printed, Roth pursues his fascination for the film and comes to the conclusion that it is the flow of "inner" (psychic) ​​images that lies behind the outer film images that attracts him and drives him to in images tell.

The cinematic design of the texts is intended to involve the reader emotionally in the action, with the aim of enabling them to experience their own experiences. Roth understands his literature in this sense as a “passage preparer” who is supposed to create a passage into the region of spiritual experience. It is based on the empirical finding of the material inside (in one's own psyche) and outside (in the Bible, literature, film). Roth himself sums up the genuinely empirical basis of his writing in the formula “no fiction”, with which he describes his literature as “not invented” in the sense of “not constructed”. With this commitment to authenticity, Roth stands in stark contrast to the playful tendencies of postmodernism , as Michaela Kopp-Marx emphasizes: “One could easily recognize the roots of Roth's exceptional position within an increasingly market-oriented literature in 'no fiction'. What characterizes his work - the wealth of references to classic Hollywood cinema as well as to the sacred texts of the Bible - at first glance belies the fact that it is a writing that is deeply based on experience, on the experience of something inside, that - with all the means of an accomplished narrator - is given authentic expression. ”This goes hand in hand with Roth's endeavor to charge his art with intensity that does not shy away from great emotion, enthusiasm and pathos . According to Reinhold Zwick, “the author has remained a director, a director of language”. Roth himself attributes his love of cinema, his intensive reading of the Bible and his writing in pictures to his own experiences with the unconscious . In his film In My Life , he tells of a dream that happened to him at the age of 25 and changed his life:

“Suddenly a second center came into view. A secret center appeared, which I had not reckoned with up to this point in my life. New layers pushed upwards had broken through the old and cast a spell on me: My seeing, feeling, writing was - lastingly - influenced. The apartment under the roof was my aornum in Thesprotis, i.e. the place where it led down to the underworld. The dream itself ... - such a source dream must not be betrayed. The books - and his own life - go around him in a circle, circumambulate his central experience, seek to bring him together in ever new image and meaning aspects, this great dream. "

- .

Dream images and visions are repeatedly woven into Roth's texts. They refer to the reality of the unconscious, which is hidden behind the surface and which breaks through from time to time. “The intrusion of something greater, divine into human reality” is a specific feature of Roth's literature. The underlay of his stories and novels with a second layer of meaning has also earned him criticism and has been criticized on various occasions as symbolic overload. The author describes opening the visible reality to another, more comprehensive reality as one of his central artistic concerns, which he seeks to realize with the cinematic means of dissolve : “As a writer, I aim to find this other one - always waiting below Layer - to allow the layer of meaning to shine through in the written, as if I were holding the act described in a permanent or repeated dissolve. "

Roth's narrative dissolve technique strives for the state of “being at the same time”, which has a transforming effect on the subject: “Separate-opposing worlds are endured for a longer period of time with the effect of penetrating into the transcendent sphere.” The union of areas, which are perceived as contradicting each other is a trademark of Roth's literature. The "combination of the poles of the Bible and Hollywood has just become Roth's label in public" (Hans-Rüdiger Schwab).

The influence of the Bible

The world of the Bible and the Apocrypha is next to the cinema and the psyche the third important source of reference for Roth's writing. Biblical salvation events such as the resurrection and the raising of the dead, Christian mysteries such as the Eucharist and baptism are recurring motifs that are either directly staged or indirectly alluded to. Roth consistently draws on Christian themes, ideas and images, without being classed as a distinctly Christian literature. His “special position in today's literary business” is due not least to the fact that - against the fashions of the time - he rediscovered the subject matter of the Bible for contemporary literature and gained new interpretations from it.

Roth's view of this central cultural asset is symbolic : "Patrick Roth reads the Bible as a mythological text, as a reservoir of concise patterns and values ​​that exemplarily depict the basic principles of human existence and spiritual experience, similar to alchemy, fairy tales and myths." Timeless as they are, mythical images return in new clothes. In the story Mulholland Drive: Magdalena am Grab , the film milieu of the 1980s is combined with the world of the Bible, as the Easter scene from John's Gospel becomes the subject of a drama rehearsal in which the director and actress discover a secret.

In making biblical images linguistically present, Roth often follows the principle of archaization. The syntax, with its inversion of subject and object, and the strong rhythm and elementarization are reminiscent of the style of Hölderlin's hymns. The alien, consciously unusual, poetic language has the function of expressing the sacred as the per se non-everyday.

The latest novel Sunrise - The Book of Joseph takes the project of regaining the transcendent and sacred for literature on a new level , which has been pursued since the Christ Trilogy . In the description of the story of Joseph , central contents of the Christian myth (sacrifice of the son, death on the cross, resurrection, resurrection) become focal points of the narrative: “Those numinous processes that touch the boundaries of what can be represented and represented, Roths is capable of pictorially and poetic as well as haunting -to visualize accurate storytelling in such a way that the reader can experience it, but the secret is kept. ”Following the Marbach conference The Rediscovery of the Bible (2012), Roth himself said that for him literature goes beyond the aesthetic, relates to one Must have absolute. "I don't see any separation between literature and religion."

In a later interview, the underlying thought of transgression is absorbed and deepened: “[...] the aesthetic dimension of the text or film must - in my opinion - first of all 'serve', that is, it must strive for the most attentive correspondence to the content. And then, ultimately, this aesthetic dimension has to be broken. Towards something else, something that surpasses us. This other, this experience of the other, is then also binding - ethically binding. "

The literary process of referring to biblical material is that of updating and rewriting: “The preliminary balance sheet shows that the biblically based novels and stories by Patrick Roth remove the traditional images from their traditional contexts. Not only are 'long-serving certainties' and 'rock-hard interpretive atmospheres' dissolved, the texts seek to make the foreign numinous as well as the familiar of the Judeo-Christian myth 'new and yet authentic' tangible. "

The specific feature of all of Roth's novels and stories is not only the connection with myth, but above all the independent further development of mythical material and procedures: “Patrick Roth has tracked down the forgotten dynamics of mythical representation, its occurrence in the biblical narratives and theirs Flashes in dreams and in people's souls. With recourse to the mythical form of representation, he succeeds in illuminating the dark, emotional and emotional interior. "

The literary intention

Roth touches extremes: Germany and America, myth and present, film and literature, everyday life and transcendence enter into syntheses in his work . The author understands the bringing together of what is separate as the actual goal of his artistic work: “What is my job as a writer? Again and again in relating the unconscious, impersonal-numinous and timeless with the consciousness, with the personal-individual, with the utterly temporal, creating, discovering, and exposing interfaces of the becoming conscious of these opposites that determine us all. "

The appearance of the opposites, e.g. B. the sudden breaking of a relationship that was believed to be safe or a whole plan of life runs through Roth's stories like a red ribbon. Often the action begins in a state of dissolved chaos, which begins to rearrange itself in the course of the story. At the end of the narrative process, what was broken has come together to form a new order. New insights were gained, a meaning in life was revealed.

The assumption of a divine principle in human existence as well as the conviction that life is based on a hidden pattern that gives it meaning and that must be discovered is shared by Roth with the existential literature of the American author Thornton Wilder . In Roth's epilogue to the new translation of Wilder's novel Die Brücke von San Luis Rey , entitled After the Story (2014), the narrator, a German living in America, once again recalls his uncanny encounter with the Jewish World War II with his American friends. Participant Saul revive, which happened in the mid-1970s in Marina del Rey, California. The redeeming reconciliation between the traumatized Jewish man and the young German film student reads as a congenial confirmation of Wilder's apotheosis of love as the only bridge between the “land of the living” and the “land of the dead”.

The redeeming sense of purpose that is gained in going through crises and conflicts is a characteristic feature of Roth's storytelling. It becomes particularly clear in the story cycle Starlite Terrace (2004), the publication of which the literary critic Hubert Winkels took as an opportunity to summarize the uniqueness of Roth's literature:

“Biography, film style and apocalyptic vision interpenetrate to form a picture of the world in which every detail is unconsciously part of something great. The ashes in the pool turn into a canopy of stars, the universe condenses into a snorting horse's head, the party fire into a purifying world fire. It is such excesses that one wrongly fears in literature. Literature is allowed to ride the sublime and the pathos like a star steed - if it can. And Roth can do it like no one else. In marketing terms, that's his unique selling point. And the admiration for this is not diminished even if one does not share the excess of the meaningfulness of world events, which borders on madness. This extremely charged literature can remind us that even the most trivial relationship crisis [...] means communication with what is bordering on the absolute. It is almost a memory model and process that can be experienced while reading. She emphatically demands the active immersion she talks about. You can block yourself, but you cannot remain untouched. "


Awards and honors



  • Herwig Gottwald: Myth and Myth in Contemporary Literature. Stuttgart 1996.
  • Michael Fisch : author portrait Patrick Roth. In: Lexicon of contemporary German literature since 1945. Edited by Thomas Kraft , Munich 2003, pp. 1056-1058.
  • Georg Langenhorst (ed.): Patrick Roth - narrator between the Bible and Hollywood. Münster 2005. ISBN 978-3-8258-8208-2 .
  • Gerhard Kaiser : Resurrection. The Christ Trilogy by Patrick Roth. The killer will be the redeemer. Tübingen and Basel 2008, ISBN 978-3-7720-8267-2 .
  • Reinhold Zwick : “Everything starts in the dark”. The cinema and Patrick Roth's revolutionary aesthetic. In: Erich Garhammer / Udo Zelinka (ed.): Burning thorn bush and Pentecostal tongues of fire. Biblical traces in modern literature. Paderborn 2003, pp. 161-176.
  • Michaela Kopp-Marx : Black Snow. Farewell and transition in Patrick Roth's “Night of Lights”. In: Patrick Roth: Lichternacht. Christmas story. Frankfurt am Main and Leipzig 2006, pp. 33–54.
  • Michaela Kopp-Marx: The holy-high and the earthy-earthly. An attempt at writing by Patrick Roth. In: Wolfgang W. Müller (Ed.): Search for the unconditional. Spiritual traces in art. Zurich 2008, pp. 137–165.
  • Michaela Kopp-Marx: "I always wanted to live in a black and white film". The cinematic principle in Patrick Roth's work. In: Volker Wehdeking (Ed.): Media constellations . Literature and film in the context of modernity and postmodernism. Marburg 2008, pp. 207-241.
  • Michaela Kopp-Marx (ed.): The living myth. The letter from Patrick Roth. Würzburg 2010 (= volume for the scientific conference in the German Literature Archive Marbach am Neckar, 2007), ISBN 978-3-8260-3972-0 .
  • Michaela Kopp-Marx: About the happiness of storytelling. Patrick Roth and Peter Handke. In: Communio. International Catholic Journal. 5/2010. Pp. 534-546.
  • Michaela Kopp-Marx: Soul Dialogues. A commentary track on Patrick Roth's Christ Trilogy. Würzburg 2013, ISBN 978-3-8260-4864-7 .
  • Michaela Kopp-Marx: Being at the same time. Patrick Roth's Poetics of Metamorphosis. In: Carsten Rohde, Hansgeorg Schmidt-Bergmann (ed.): The infinity of narration. The novel in contemporary German-language literature since 1989. Bielefeld 2013, pp. 301–319, ISBN 978-3-89528-977-4 .
  • Michaela Kopp-Marx, Georg Langenhorst (Hrsg.): The rediscovery of the Bible with Patrick Roth. From the “Christ Trilogy” to “SUNRISE. The Book of Joseph ” . Wallstein, Göttingen 2014, ISBN 978-3-8353-1452-8 .
  • Michaela Kopp-Marx: “Prose should make you see”. Patrick Roth and the film . In: Contemporary literature. A Germanistic Yearbook , Volume 13/2014, pp. 227-253.
  • Thomas Menges, Martin W. Ramb (Eds.): Patrick Roth. The Christ Trilogy. A workbook with teaching ideas for secondary level II in religion and German , Kevelaer 2018, ISBN 978-3-7840-3570-3 .

Individual references / comments

  1. Jung Study Center Members. (No longer available online.) In: Archived from the original on March 25, 2016 ; accessed on March 24, 2016 .
  2. Ulrich Ruedenauer: Patrick Roth: Through the windshield of the author. In: Zeit Online. April 24, 2013, accessed November 20, 2013 .
  4. ^ Homepage of the University of Heidelberg, accessed on November 18, 2012 .
  5. ^ Philipp Anton Knittel: And saw inexpressible words ..., 11/2012.
  6. Excerpts from readings by the author: [1] ; [2] on YouTube .
  7. An interpretive synopsis with screenshots, filmographic information and previously unpublished script sketches can be found in Reinhold Zwick: The Boxer and The Killers . About two early short films by Patrick Roth. In: Michaela Kopp-Marx (Ed.): The living myth. The letter from Patrick Roth. Würzburg 2010 [= volume on the scientific conference in the German Literature Archive Marbach am Neckar 2007] pp. 147–169.
  8. Cf. Patrick Roth: bomb for beginners , in: Renatus Deckert (Ed.): The first book. Writer on her literary debut . Suhrkamp Verlag 2007, pp. 301-306, 302.
  9. Günter Beck describes the achievement of the Resurrection trilogy for contemporary literature: "Patrick Roth is praised by critics for having revived the literary genre of the" Christ novella "and the biblical legend in German literature with an unknown freshness and boldness. His Christ trilogy Resurrection is definitely unorthodox in style, language, and the positive notion of its subject matter. Read as a trilogy they tell climactically first of the healing of the sick, then of the raising of the dead, and finally of resurrection [...] Roth's writings can be regarded as almost analogous to the retold and rewritten versions of the scripture and apocryphal legends in Judaism in their basic structure, but also in their intention: In their function as cultural ecology they reinterpret the biblical versions for the contemporary context and comment thus (ironically) on the present to reveal cultural and universal truths in search for a deeper meaning. " (Günter Beck: "Between New Testament and New World: Representation of Jews in Patrick Roth's Fiction." In: Michaela Kopp-Marx (Ed.): The living myth. The writing of Patrick Roth. Würzburg 2010, pp. 129-131 ).
  10. Patrick Roth: Into the valley of shadows. Frankfurt poetics lectures. Suhrkamp, ​​Frankfurt am Main 2002, p. 12 u. Pp. 136-139. On Edinger's influence cf. ders .: Letter to Dr. Edinger in: George R. Elder, Dianne D. Cordic (Ed.): An American Jungian. In Honor of Edward F. Edinger. Inner City Books, Toronto 2009, pp. 271-272.
  11. ^ Visitation. A conversation with the writer Patrick Roth . In: “CARGO. Film / Media / Literature ”, issue 15/2012. Pp. 22-31. Here: p. 30.
  12. Heidelberg Poetics Lecturer 2012: Inside. America. Night , video
  13. Patrick Roth: In the Valley of Shadows , p. 147
  14. ^ That is the title of the fifth Frankfurt Poetics Lecture. Patrick Roth: Into the valley of shadows. Frankfurt a. M. 2002. pp. 141-170.
  15. Michaela Kopp-Marx: Beyond the Aesthetic: 'No fiction'. An introduction. In this. (Ed.): The living myth. Würzburg 2010. pp. 7-15.
  16. Reinhold Zwick: Everything begins in the dark. The cinema and Patrick Roth's revolutionary aesthetic . In: Georg Langenhorst: Patrick Roth - narrator between the Bible and Hollywood. Münster 2005, p. 51
  17. Patrick Roth: In My Life. 12 Places I Remember . ZDF, 2006. See the film excerpts: , , http: // www.
  18. ^ A b Hans-Rüdiger Schwab: Patrick Roth. In: Kritisches Lexikon der Gegenwartsliteratur (KLG), 2005, p. 2
  19. ↑ In the Valley of Shadows, p. 53
  20. Michaela Kopp-Marx: “Simultaneous Being. Patrick Roth's Poetics of Metamorphosis ”. In: Carsten Rohde, Hansgeorg Schmidt-Bergmann (ed.): The infinity of narration. The novel in contemporary German literature since 1989. Bielefeld 2013, pp. 301–319, p. 311. Kopp-Marx points out that the dissolve not only contains a narrative technique, but also a philosophy: “It describes a view of the World, an attitude or attitude of consciousness that takes into account that other, otherworldly, inner-psychic reality and incorporates it into concrete, everyday life. ”(Ibid).
  21. Gerhard Kaiser: "Resurrection". The Christ Trilogy by Patrick Roth. The killer will be the redeemer. A. Francke, Tübingen / Basel 2008. p. 13
  22. Michaela Kopp-Marx: The holy-high and the earthy-earthly. An attempt at writing by Patrick Roth. In: Wolfgang W. Müller (Ed.): The search for the unconditional. Spiritual traces in art. TVZ, Zurich 2008, p. 147.
  23. Michaela Kopp-Marx: The great unknown. Patrick Roth's Joseph novel . In: Voices of the Time , 12/2012. Pp. 850-853. Here: p. 852.
  24. Angelika Tiefenbacher: I am trying to decipher my dreams . In: Ludwigsburger Kreiszeitung , October 12, 2012. Audio recording of the reading and subsequent discussion:
  25. “The aesthetic must first of all serve. Questions to a solitaire in German literature. ”Patrick Roth in an interview with Rita Anna Tüpper. In: Die Politische Demokratie, No. 519, March / April 2013, pp. 116–123, p. 118
  26. Michaela Kopp-Marx, Georg Langenhorst (Hrsg.): The rediscovery of the Bible with Patrick Roth. From the “Christ Trilogy” to “SUNRISE. The Book of Joseph ”. Göttingen: Wallstein, 2014. p. 10 [foreword].
  27. Martin Mark: Laudation for Patrick Roth, November 5, 2015.
  28. Patrick Roth: To the city by the sea. Heidelberg poetics lectures. Suhrkamp, ​​Frankfurt am Main 2005, p. 78.
  29. See: Michaela Kopp-Marx: Vom Glück des Erzählens. Patrick Roth and Peter Handke. In: Communio. International Catholic Journal. 5/2010. Pp. 534-546.
  30. Hubert Winkels: On the star horse. In: The time. No. 41, September 30, 2004
  31. The picture corresponding to the title "Indianermadonna" by Peter Liebl

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