Patrick Roth


Writer, director

DAAD Scholarship 1975

Patrick Roth DAAD

In the beginning there was film. 1975 saw the 22-year-old student of English and Romance languages, Patrick Roth from Freiburg im Breisgau, go to Los Angeles on a DAAD Scholarship. However, he dedicated less time there to his language studies, preferring rather to follow his passion for the cinema. In the movie city, where he still lives today, he took drama and direction courses and worked as a film journalist, before realizing his own first film projects as screenplay writer and director: The Killers, a night-long film based on and with Charles Bukowski, was a sensation in the United States in 1981.

Writing is the search for death.
Patrick Roth

Roth only began to make an appearance with his writing, which was to make him known among the German public, after living in the United States for around 15 years. Literary writing was a "project of self-preservation". According to Roth, he was above all driven by a fear of losing his mother tongue into which he "sought refuge" by writing German texts. Between 1985 and 1990 he first wrote radio plays that were produced and broadcast in Germany. He mostly directed them himself.

His literary breakthrough came in 1991 with the so-called Christ novella Riverside. Two more stories followed in 1993 and 1996 in which, as Roth himself says, "Jesus appears". Together with Riverside, these go by the name of the "Christ Trilogy" and are considered Roth's opus magnum.

Besides film, it is above all the Bible which provides Roth with the material for his more recent stories and essays. In these, he succeeds "in using cinematic suspense to draw new appeal from the genre of biblical stories," found the jury that awarded Roth the Literature Prize of the Konrad Adenauer Foundation in 2003.

"Writing is the search for death," said Roth in poetry readings that he held at Goethe University Frankfurt in 2002. "Death is what, buried deep inside me, no longer touches any consciousness. Paradoxically, this 'death', which I search for, collect and input is only a me death, that is dead but simultaneously absolutely alive." The author is Orpheus, who enters the underworld in order to bring his lost soul back to life. The Frankfurt series of lectures was held under the heading Ins Tal der Schatten (Into the Valley of Shadows). Two years later in Heidelberg, in a three-part lecture cycle Zur Stadt am Meer (To the City on the Sea) Patrick Roth reported on the experience of the unconscious that is fundamental to his writing. Both lecture series have been published as books by Suhrkamp. In 2012, he again received a poetics lectureship in Heidelberg and addressed the subject of Erzählen in Bildern (Narrating in Pictures).