Berlin Alexanderplatz

Berlin Alexanderplatz


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The inspiration for Rainer Werner Fassbinder's epic film and that The Guardian named one of the "Top 100 Books of All Time," Berlin Alexanderplatz is considered one of the most important works of the Weimar Republic and twentieth century literature.

Berlin Alexanderplatz, the great novel of Berlin and the doomed Weimar Republic, is one of the great books of the twentieth century, gruesome, farcical, and appalling, word drunk, pitchdark. In Michael Hofmann's extraordinary new translation, Alfred Döblin's masterpiece lives in English for the first time.

As Döblin writes in the opening pages: 

The subject of this book is the life of the former cement worker and haulier Franz Biberkopf in Berlin. As our
story begins, he has just been released from prison, where he did time for some stupid stuff; now he is back
in Berlin, determined to go straight. 

To begin with, he succeeds. But then, though doing all right for himself financially, he gets involved in a
set-to with an unpredictable external agency that looks an awful lot like fate. 

Three times the force attacks him and disrupts his scheme. The first time it comes at him with dishonesty and deception. Our man is able to get to his feet, he is still good to stand. 

Then it strikes him a low blow. He has trouble getting up from that, he is almost counted out. And finally it hits him with monstrous and extreme violence.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781681371993
Publisher: New York Review Books
Publication date: 03/06/2018
Pages: 480
Sales rank: 108,062
Product dimensions: 5.10(w) x 7.90(h) x 1.10(d)

About the Author

Alfred Döblin (1878–1957) was born in German Stettin (now the Polish city of Szczecin) to Jewish parents. When he was ten his father, a master tailor, eloped with a seamstress, abandoning the family. Subsequently his mother relocated the rest of the family to Berlin. Döblin studied medicine at Friedrich Wilhelm University, specializing in neurology and psychiatry. While working at a psychiatric clinic in Berlin, he became romantically entangled with two women: Friede Kunke, with whom he had a son, Bodo, in 1911, and Erna Reiss, to whom he had become engaged before learning of Kunke’s pregnancy. He married Erna the next year, and they remained together for the rest of his life. His novel The Three Leaps of Wang Lun was published in 1915 while Döblin was serving as a military doctor; it went on to win the Fontane Prize. In 1920 he published Wallenstein, a novel set during the Thirty Years’ War, which was an oblique comment on the First World War. He became president of the Association of German Writers in 1924, and published his best-known novel, Berlin Alexanderplatz, in 1929, achieving modest mainstream fame while solidifying his position at the center of an intellectual group that included Bertolt Brecht, Robert Musil, and Joseph Roth, among others. He fled Germany with his family soon after Hitler’s rise, moving first to Zurich, then to Paris, and, after the Nazi invasion of France, to Los Angeles, where he converted to Catholicism and briefly worked as a screenwriter for Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. After the war he returned to Germany and worked as an editor with the aim of rehabilitating literature that had been banned under Hitler, but he found himself at odds with conservative postwar cultural trends. He suffered from Parkinson’s disease in later years and died in Emmendingen in 1957. Erna committed suicide two months after his death and was interred along with him.

Michael Hofmann is a German-born, British-educated poet and translator. Among his translations are works by Franz Kafka; Peter Stamm; his father, Gert Hofmann; Herta Müller; and fourteen books by Joseph Roth. A recipient of both the PEN Translation Prize and the Helen and Kurt Wolff Translator’s Prize, Hofmann’s Selected Poems were published in 2009 and Where Have You Been?: Selected Essays in 2014. In addition to Berlin Alexanderplatz, New York Review Books publishes his selection from the work of Malcolm Lowry, The Voyage That Never Ends, and his translations of Jakob Wassermann’s My Marriage and Gert Ledig’s Stalin Front. He teaches in the English department at the University of Florida.

Table of Contents

Chapter 1 3

The 41 tram into the city

Still not there

The example of Zannovich

The story is concluded in an unexpected way; helping the freed man to acquire new strength

Markets opening directionless, gradually drifting lower, Hamburg out of bed the wrong side, London continuing weak

Victory all along the line! Franz Biberkopfy buys a veal escalope

In which Franz swears to all the world and himself, to remain decent in Berlin, money or not

Chapter 2 37

Franz Biberkopf enters Berlin

Franz Biberkopf is on the job market, you need to earn money, a man can't live without money. And all about the Frankfurt Topfmarket

Lina takes it to the queers

The Neue Welt, in Hassenheide, if it's not one thing it's another, no need to make life any harder than what it is already

Franz is a man of some scale, and he knows what's what

The scale of this Franz Biberkopf. A match for the heroes of old

Chapter 3 95

Yesterday on the backs of steeds …

Today, shot through the chest he bleeds

Tomorrow in the chill tomb, no, we'll keep our composure

Chapter 4 111

A handful of people round the Alex

Biberkopf anaesthetized, Franz curls up, Franz doesn't want to see anything

Franz, on the retreat, plays a farewell march for the Jews

For as with animals, so it is with man; the one must die, the other likewise

Conversation with Job, it's up to you, Job, you don't want to

And they all have one breath, and man has no more than the beasts

Franz's window is open, sometimes amusing things happen in the world

Hopp, hopp, hopp, horsey does gallop

Chapter 5 153

Reunion on the Alex, bitching cold. Though next year, 1929, will be even colder

Nothing for a while, pause for rest and recuperation

Booming trade in girls

Franz reflects on the trade in women, and suddenly he's had enough, and wants something else

Local news

Franz takes a calamitous decision. He fails to realize he is sitting in a nettle patch

Sunday, 8 April 1928

Chapter 6 203

Crime pays

The night of Sunday

Monday, 9 April

Franz won't go down, and they can't make him go down

Get up, you feeble spirit, and stand on your own two feet

Third conquest of Berlin

Clothes make people, and a new person gets a new set of eyes

A new person gets a new head as well

A new man needs a new job or he needs none at all

A girl shows up, and now Franz is back to strength

Defensive war against bourgeois values

Conspiracy of females, our dear ladies take the floor, the heart of Europe is unchanged

Enough politics, idleness is much more dangerous

The fly clambers up, shaking the sand from its wings; before long it will buzz some more

Forward, in step, drum roll and battalions

The fist on the table

Chapter 7 287

Pussi Uhl, the flood of American visitors, and do you write Wilma with a V or a W?

The duel begins! It continues rainy

Franz breaking and entering, Franz not under the wheels, he's in the box seat now, he's made it

Love's weal and woe

Dazzling harvest in prospect, but miscalculations have been known to happen

Wednesday, 29 August

Saturday, 1 September

Chapter 8 341

Franz notices nothing, and the world goes on its way

A few bonds are loosened, the criminals fall out among themselves

Keep your eyes on Karl the plumber: something's going on with him

Things come to a head, plumber Karl gets caught and spills some beans

So I returned, and considered all the oppressions that are done under the sun

And behold the tears of such as were oppressed, and they had no comforter

Then I praised the dead which are already dead

The fortress is completely surrounded, the last sallies are undertaken, but they are nothing but diversionary tactics

Battle is joined. We ride into hell with a great fanfare

The Police HQ is on Alexanderplatz

Chapter 9 397

Reinhold's Black Wednesday-but this section can be skipped

Buch insane asylum, closed ward

Dextrose and camphor injections, but in the end a different consultant is involved

Death sings his slow, slow song

And now Franz hears the slow song of Death

In which is described what pain is

Departure of the evil harlot, triumph of the great sacrifice, drummer and axe-swinger

Beginnings are difficult

Dear Fatherland, don't worry, I shan't slip again in a hurry

And by the right quick march left right left right

Appendix: Döblin's 'Alexanderplatz' from 'Writer's Relay on the Omnibus' 441

Notes 445

Afterword 447

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