Since 1974 Gerhard Roth has frequently employed the genre of the crime novel to explore contemporary individuals and their relation to society. In The Plan, Roth’s main character, Konrad Feldt, is not properly a criminal – his supervisor privately hands him a stolen Mozart autograph along with the name of an art dealer prepared to purchase it, before he commits suicide in Feldt’s presence; however, Feldt is indirectly complicit in the crime by not reporting it and by not surrendering the costly artifact. He takes the autograph and travels around the world to Japan in hopes of exchanging the invaluable autograph for a million dollars. For Feldt, a middle-aged, middle-class civil servant, a librarian in Vienna’s Nationalbibliothek addicted to reading, this prize represents a fleeting opportunity to alter his structured, hollow existence. But our educated European finds himself in an unfamiliar environment – the inscrutable language and culture of Japan – where his perceptions and thus his rational “plan” for wealth and a new life are jeopardized.
In the wake of the unexpected success of Stieg Larsson’s novels, American literary critics foresee increased reader interest in European murder mysteries, a trend that would clearly include many of Roth’s outstanding novels, first and foremost The Plan.
Gerhard Roth was born in Graz in 1942, the son of a medical doctor and a nurse. He originally intended to study medicine, but soon discontinued his studies. For ten years Roth worked as a computer programmer to support his growing family, but since the mid-1970s he has been exclusively a writer. His major works consist of a cycle of seven novels, Die Archive des Schweigens (The Archives of Silence), and another novel cycle, Orkus (Hades), with all eight of the projected novels now published. His work has earned many literature prizes, including the Döblin Prize (1983) and the Kreisky Prize (2002). For the past twenty-six years he has been living in Vienna and in a small farmhouse in Styria.
Cover design by George McGinnis