Bold Innovation: Doubling Döblin

While a singular, first encounter may set the tone for an experience, it’s a series of encounters that ultimately composes a symphony of revelation.

Alfred Döblin, an avant garde, German expressionist writer, is best known for a particularly innovative writing style, one that’s reminiscent of James Joyce while distinguished enough in its own right. His most famous work, Berlin Alexanderplatz, is a complex, piecey novel more commonly referred to as a literary montage, known for its collaged perspectives of the Berlin metropolis and of the urban individual.

As I’m currently reading the chaotic text, living in Berlin and trying to draft my own landscape of this modern(izing) city, I’ve written an additional, brief, perspective to be inserted in (or extracted from) one chosen scene of Döblin’s provocative text. The italics represent some of Döblin’s existing material, and that which precedes and proceeds it is a female—perhaps one of the existing female characters’ (Lina’s?)—view of Franz Biberkopf, the protagonist of Berlin Alexanderplatz.

In this scene, Franz, upon request, propounds a poem (the italics) of his previous jail mate, Dohms. His reciting is received by a marked silence, leaving room for inferred reaction.


P. 66, Revised

Alone she sits, behind cubed glass

On her own, a wenchy lass,

Eavesdropping whilst her man a-sings

Her bowels dropping pigeons’ things.

With rosy cheeks, she knows he speaks

on fornication of elites;

Those at Tegel Prison Hell

did die Gretchenfragen sell

in silly search—des Pudels Kern?

Through la recherché, très moderne.

“He says: “If on this earth you want to be, a creature, male and full of glee, be careful and weigh everything, before you let the midwife fling you toward the daylight, there to grow: Earth is a nest of grief and woe.”

She would have thrown him anyway,

He didn’t let her toss so gay,

Him, into this underworld,

To be fixed, neutered, twirled.

Fashioned to a pitied T

Wrought with abnormality

Of the normal kind, of course,

Franz, this idiot,

Knows the source.

“But I say: it’s a chicken-ladder at best, up and down and all the rest.”


My working with his text in a medium (supposedly) outside of my mind’s space—this mini revisioning—is in itself representative of the “innovation” that cultural insights (perhaps ones inspired by reading period texts) help produce. To internalize, reflect, adapt, reproduce, (insert similar verb(s) here), is to meaningfully contribute post-experience.

Now if you go forth and work with my added material…

Encounter. Engage. Experience .

…and learn about Döblin! Poor Franz! And this whole genre of German lit. HERE



Posted on September 19, 2011, in Uncategorized and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

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