Alfred Döblin  

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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel

Bruno Alfred Döblin (August 10, 1878 – June 26, 1957) was a German novelist, essayist, and doctor, best known for his novel Berlin Alexanderplatz (1929). A prolific writer whose œuvre spans more than half a century and a wide variety of literary movements and styles, Döblin is one of the most important figures of German literary modernism. His complete works comprise over a dozen novels ranging in genre from historical novels to science fiction to novels about the modern metropolis; several dramas, radio plays, and screenplays; a true crime story; a travel account; two book-length philosophical treatises; scores of essays on politics, religion, art, and society; and numerous letters—his complete works, republished by Deutscher Taschenbuch Verlag and Fischer Verlag, span more than thirty volumes. His first published novel, Die drei Sprünge des Wang-lung (The Three Leaps of Wang Lun), appeared in 1915 and his final novel, Hamlet oder Die lange Nacht nimmt ein Ende (Tales of a Long Night) was published in 1956, one year before his death.

Born in Stettin (Szczecin) to assimilated Jews, Döblin moved with his mother and siblings to Berlin when he was ten years old after his father had abandoned them. Döblin would live in Berlin for the almost all of the next forty-five years, engaging with such key figures of the prewar and Weimar-era German cultural scene as Herwarth Walden and the circle of Expressionists, Bertolt Brecht, and Thomas Mann. Only a few years after his rise to literary celebrity with the 1929 publication of Berlin Alexanderplatz, Döblin was forced into exile by the rise of the Nazi dictatorship. He spent 1933–1940 in France and then was forced to flee again at the start of the Second World War. Like many other German émigrés he spent the war years in Los Angeles, where he converted to Catholicism. He moved to West Germany after the war but did not feel at home in postwar Germany's conservative cultural climate and returned to France. His final years were marked by poor health and financial difficulties, and his literary work was met with relative neglect.

Despite the canonic status of Berlin Alexanderplatz, Döblin is often characterized as an under-recognized or even as a forgotten author; while his work has received increasing critical attention (mostly in German) over the last few decades, he is much less well known by the reading public than other representatives of German modernism such as Thomas Mann, Bertolt Brecht, or Franz Kafka.

Selected bibliography of works by Döblin

  • Jagende Rosse, Der schwarze Vorhang und andere frühe Ezählwerke (Rushing Steeds, the Black Curtain, and Other Early Narrative Works). Anthony Riley, ed. Munich: Deutscher Taschenbuch Verlag, 1987.
  • Die Ermordung einer Butterblume (1913)
  • Die drei Sprünge des Wang-Lun (The Three Leaps of Wang Lun) (novel, 1915–1916)
  • Wadzeks Kampf mit der Dampfturbine (novel, 1918)
  • Der schwarze Vorhang (1912/1919)
  • Wallenstein (novel, 1920)
  • Der deutsche Maskenball (The German Masked Ball, as Linke Poot) (essays, 1921)
  • Berge Meere und Giganten (Mountains Seas and Giants) (novel, 1924)
  • Die beiden Freundinnen und ihr Giftmord (1924)
  • Reise in Polen (Journey To Poland) (travel account, 1925)
  • Manas (1927)
  • Das Ich über der Natur (1927)
  • Berlin Alexanderplatz (novel, 1929)
  • "Von Gesichtern, Bildern und ihrer Wahrheit" ("On Faces, Pictures, and their Truth": introduction to August Sander's 1929 Faces of our Time)
  • Die Ehe
  • Unser Dasein (1933)
  • Babylonische Wandrung (Babylonian Wandering) (novel, 1934)
  • Pardon wird nicht gegeben (Men Without Mercy) (1935)
  • Amazonas-Trilogie (Vol. 1 Das Land ohne Tod, Vol. 2 Der blaue Tiger, Vol. 3 Der neue Urwald)
  • November 1918: A German Revolution (Vol. I: Bürger und Soldaten (Citizens and Soldiers), Vol. II.1 Verratenes Volk (A People Betrayed), Vol. II.2, Heimkehr der Fronttruppen (Return of the Frontline Troops), and Vol. III, Karl und Rosa (Karl and Rosa)) (1949–1950)
  • Der unsterbliche Mensch (1946)
  • Der Oberst und der Dichter
  • Schicksalsreise (Destiny's Journey) (autobiography, 1949)
  • Hamlet oder Die lange Nacht nimmt ein Ende (Tales of a Long Night) (novel, 1956)
  • Die Zeitlupe
  • Aufsätze zur Literatur

See also

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