Berlin Alexanderplatz by Alfred Döblin

Source – Library

Translator – Eugene Jolas

Alfred Döblin is probably one germany’s greatest writers he was born in the in later 1880 he lived in berlin as a youth,studied as a doctor and served as a doctor during first world war ,he had an interest in psychology and philosophy and was very influenced by James Joyce ,this book was first he wrote after reading Joyce .

Berlin Alexanderplatz is set in the area of Berlin around Alexanderplatz ,which was a working class part of the town ,the main character is Franz Biberkopf a small time criminal who at the start of the book is released to the dark world he left to go to prison ,he deals with other criminals prostitutes .This isn’t the  world of Isherwood’s Berlin no this a dark threatening world ,Franz is a man caught in the system but wanting to escape ,the book is full of the everyday life news ,posters from the street mentioned we discover his inner turmoil .the book is not in chronological order you dart but this isn’t as jarring as other books like this I ve read .Another criminal Reinhold an acquaintance of Franz but a much nastier and more criminal man altogether a bad influence on the naive Franz that leads to dark consequences .

Thus Franz Biberkopf ,the concrete-worker ,and later furniture-mover ,that rough ,uncouth man of repulsive aspect ,returned to berlin and to the street ,the man at whose head a pretty girl from a locksmiths family had thrown herself ,a girl whom he made into a whore ,and at last mortally injured in a scuffle .

the close of the first of nine books that make up Berlin Alexanderplatz

This book isn’t an easy read, but are modernist novels ever ? ,it made me think as I read Doblin does such a good job painting this dark seedy world .He worked in the streets he described after the first world war so I imagine Franz is a mix of people he saw or treated over that time he worked there ,this is a clever study of the human soul and what happens when it is drawn the wrong way ,on the surface Franz is a healthy man hard-working but Naive and easily lead and maybe without a true moral code .I was recommend this book by F C Delius the German writer when I ask him to recommend some German books he had enjoyed and had influenced him on twitter late last year .The book was translated by Eugene Jolas she was a friend of Joyce and translator.The book has been made into two films the second a 15 hour tv series by Rainer fassbinder in the 80’s considered his masterpiece ,I must watch this at some point .

Have you read this book ?

do you like modernist fiction ?

14 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Max Cairnduff
    Mar 30, 2011 @ 13:25:29

    I do like modernist fiction so this is very much on my radar. How long is it Stu? You mention nine books. Is this a mammoth undertaking in terms of the time it needs?


    • winstonsdad
      Mar 30, 2011 @ 15:48:52

      No Max its bout 380 pages in all not sure if it was published in small parts originally hence books ,thought be up your street or one you’d read ,all the best stu


  2. Max Cairnduff
    Mar 30, 2011 @ 17:12:46

    Cool, thanks.

    If you scroll down to the comments here at Kerry’s blog there’s some interesting stuff coincidentally about how this connects with Dos Passos:


  3. Kerry
    Mar 30, 2011 @ 18:50:42

    This is definitely on my TBR. Thanks! (And thanks, Max, for the link.)


  4. Max Cairnduff
    Mar 30, 2011 @ 19:06:06

    I blogged Manhattan Transfer over at mine Stu, I’d say it’s more accessible than the USA trilogy though Kerry knows better than I do having read the trilogy too.

    What’s Blaugast?


  5. Tom C
    Mar 31, 2011 @ 07:16:43

    Yes, I enjoy modernist fiction – and this one sounds just up my street. I’m having a Kindle phase at the moment however and its not available. I’m sure I’ll be back to real books before long!


  6. Lisa Hill
    Mar 31, 2011 @ 09:22:13

    This one’s on my TBR, STu, so I’m keeping this review to read for later. I usually have enjoyed the modernist fiction I’ve read. I like the challenge.


  7. Geosi
    Mar 31, 2011 @ 12:58:01

    I have not read this, however, I do like modernist fiction. All the best, stu.


  8. Max Cairnduff
    Nov 05, 2012 @ 12:43:15

    Stu, I’ve seen this translation criticised for overuse of American slang. Do you have a view on that? Is it a fair criticism, or did the translation work for you?


    • winstonsdad
      Nov 05, 2012 @ 13:41:37

      I feel Jolas did use slang but only to put want might been slang in the orginal German I don’t have a problem with Americanism in fiction as they pay lot more for translations than uk houses so lot fiction in translation in American English .I feel Jolas Knew what döblin had in mind Jolas was a modernist writer himself and knew Joyce who was the largest influence on the book as döblin wrote this after reading Ulysses all the best stu


  9. Trackback: Berlin Alexanderplatz by Alfred Döblin new translation | Winstonsdad's Blog

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March 2011


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