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Berlin Alexanderplatz

3.84  ·  Rating details ·  6,391 ratings  ·  375 reviews
Biberkopf hat geschworen, er will anständig sein, und ihr habt gesehen, wie er wochenlang anständig ist, aber das war gewissermaßen nur eine Gnadenfrist. Das Leben findet das auf die Dauer zu fein und stellt ihm hinterlistig ein Bein. Die Geschichte des Transportarbeiters Franz Biberkopf, der, aus der Strafanstalt Berlin-Tegel entlassen, als ehrlicher Mann ins Leben ...more
Paperback, 457 pages
Published December 1st 2009 by Deutscher Taschenbuch Verlag (first published 1929)
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Average rating 3.84  · 
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 ·  6,391 ratings  ·  375 reviews


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Glenn Russell


A shocking novel. A disturbing novel. A brutal novel.

And if you click into the novel's ironic/humorous/satiric vibe set in the years when Berlin was Europe's most liberal city featuring avant-garde art, radical politics and sex easily available in any and all varieties, then Berlin Alexanderplaz is, I kid you not, a thrilling, enjoyable romp at breakneck speed.

Oh, the picaresque novel with its epigraphs and episodic adventures of an insatiable scallywag usually from the lower classes. True to
...more
Lisa
Main character: Berlin!

As a foil, you get to know the criminal Franz Biberkopf, who tries his best to be honest. He really does. But he does not have more talent for life than Keith in London Fields, and even less talent at darts. Also, he happens to be born into an era which could have made a better man fail. And what could you possibly expect of Biberkopf then, not being a better man? Not even good? Or passable?

And Martin Amis: I all of a sudden realise that you did not only steal the plot
...more
Vit Babenco
Jan 21, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
“I saw a woman sit upon a scarlet coloured beast, full of names of blasphemy, having seven heads and ten horns.
And the woman was arrayed in purple and scarlet colour, and decked with gold and precious stones and pearls, having a golden cup in her hand full of abominations and filthiness of her fornication:
And upon her forehead was a name written, Mystery, Babylon the Great, the Mother of Harlots and Abominations of the Earth.” Revelation 17:3-5
Berlin Alexanderplatz is a doomsday story of human
...more
BlackOxford
Digging Ourselves Out

It’s unlikely that any writer has been more described in terms of other writers - preceding and following - than Alfred Döblin. Joyce, Dostoevsky, Henry Miller, Bukowski, Martin Amis, Henry Fielding, Upton Sinclair, Céline, Burgess, Smollett, Isherwood, dos Passos, and Conrad among others have been mentioned frequently as influences or being influenced. It seems impossible to pin Döblin down to a definite style or technique. I find him an inspiration for William Gaddis’s
...more
Jaidee
Dec 01, 2016 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition

2016 Book I was Most Afraid To Hate

I just don't have it in me ! I dipped into this book for two months and only got to 13 %.

I cannot do it. I immensely dislike this book despite it being a modern classic. I am going to cut my losses and consider it my Infinite Jest of 2016.
Hanneke
Nov 08, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 1001-read
My admiration for Alfred Doblin's Berlin Alexanderplatz is boundless. I feel that I have to let the novel sink in a bit more before I can write a review.
K.D. Absolutely
Dec 29, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to K.D. by: 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die (2006-2010)
This book is said to be one of the required readings for high school students in Germany. When it was published in 1929, it became a monstrous hit and the book's popularity has been sustained all these years.

Reason: this is the first German book that used the stream-of-consciousness style of James Joyce. This was also one of the reasons why I tried hard to first read Ulysses (serialized from 1918 to 1920) prior to cracking this one up. I found this easier to read despite the fact that I used a
...more
Jan-Maat
Aug 27, 2019 added it
Recommended to Jan-Maat by: Ilse
I starting reading at a slow pace and then slowed down further at times wondering what was going on, then the last third I read in about two days. I was going so slow that it seemed embarrassing even to post updates as I read. In short I read as a potato sits in a cookingpot, not by my own volition but as though controlled by the invisible hand turning the gas up or down.

Berlin Alexanderplatz I felt was a curiously old fashioned modernist work, the authorial voice commenting on the fate and
...more
Paul Bryant
A hundred years ago there was a craze for giant plotless novels that tried to slice through an entire city or even country and look down at the thousands of humans milling around like badly dressed ants and itemise them all. These huge novels (Ulysses by Jimmy Joyce, U.S.A by Johnny Dos Passos, The Waste Land by Tommy Eliot - not a novel but the same kind of thing) use newspaper clippings, adverts, random dialogue, doggerel, children’s rhymes, radio announcements, political proclamations, Greek ...more
Jonfaith
Oct 17, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
1997 was a rushing tide of hefty novels sweeping under to revel in their wake: most of Pynchon and the Grass Danzig troika are dated here. Doblin's feat is an episodic steamroller, the estranged reader is as tethered as anyone by the mechanized operations of the strange, new Berlin. (Brave New Bono, Beware)

I returned to the novel a few years ago after viewing the Fassbinder film. Doblin's novel remains a formidable feat. A few of my friends have recently made mediocre efforts. Looking aghast, I
...more
Matt
Feb 01, 2017 rated it it was amazing

Franz Biberkopf is an ordinary man, a strong working man, former mover of furniture and whisker of cement; small potatoes really. In a fit of rage he killed his girlfriend and had to serve four years for manslaughter. His release from prison marks the beginning of the story. It’s the year 1928 and the place is Berlin.

Biberkopf wants to lead a decent life from now on. He’s fed up with his previous life; honest pay for honest work; that’s the plan. And it actually worked out somehow, at least for
...more
Lee Klein
Jul 16, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Required reading in Germany I'd never heard of until I saw it on a list of recommendations by Roberto Bolano, maybe in The Last Interview. Bought a copy with too small print, too tight margins, didn't read it. Got this more friendly formatted copy and recently saw it recommended by Sesshu Foster, whose Atomik Aztex I loved. Finally started in on its 635 pages a few weeks ago and now am finally done. It's well worth it. At first I wasn't sure what I was in for. It's not really anything like ...more
Nathan "N.R." Gaddis
review three today. keeping it short.

odd that some of us come to döblin via schmidt. you get the impression that döblin > joyce for schmidt. you sort of see why. döblin weren't no one=hit wonder but by the way he seems to have been treated, you'd never know. ba gets itself 5077 gr=readers and the next famous one, die ermorderung usw, 125. and what i thought was his famous one (even gifted it, unknowing, to my mother once), a people betrayed, gets 40 gr=readers (i'm among the guilty). and the
...more
P.E.

- The Eclipse of the Sun, George Grosz (1926)


THE STORY :

Berlin, 1929. Franz Biberkopf served his 4-year sentence for the involuntary homicide on his spouse. Out of jail, he swears to be honest, to give up political activism and petty criminal shenanigans. And he relapses.


MY MIND ON THE BOOK :

Since the story is about the life of a common, if crude man, subject matter and form go hand in hand here. A former worker, furniture remover, construction worker and procurer in the interwar period, Franz
...more
Ruth
Jan 11, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I read this because I was watching the Fassbinder film, and discovered I had been ignorant of a novel which is considered a masterpiece of modern German literature, published in 1929.

It’s not an easy read, Doblin’s style is reminiscent of James Joyce, hopping about between POV, interior monologue, sound effects, newspaper articles, songs, speeches, and other books, but it’s worth the trouble.

Apparently the original was written in colloquial German with a heavy dose of working class Berlin slang.
...more
William2
Mar 24, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 20-ce, fiction, germany
Essential reading. Up there with Mann, Grass, Sebald, Wolf, etc
Caroline
Mar 17, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
[I read the Michael Hofmann translation from NYRB, but in an afterword Hofmann is very respectful of Jolas’s translation, so you’re probably fine either way.]

In a Berlin tavern:

But Franz is reluctant, he says he doesn’t like these political discussions. The grizzled anarchist persists: ‘This isn’t a political discussion. We’re just having a chat. What job do you do?’

Franz sits up on his chair and reaches for his beer mug, he fixes the anarchist with a look. There is a reaper, Death yclept, I
...more
Dax
Bildungrsroman- a novel dealing with one person's formative years or spiritual education.

That about sums this novel up perfectly. For the majority of the novel, the characters of BA, and particularly our deeply flawed Franz, believe there are forces outside of their will that are controlling their destinies. Call it fate. But by the novel's conclusion, our friends have learned that an individual makes his own luck. A tragic story with a lot of unlikeable characters, but a tragedy was needed for
...more
Greg
Dec 16, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
This book is so good. It's like if Dos Passos decided to do USA with one character, and set it in Berlin, and to write sort of in the style of Joyce but also realize that he needed some German so threw in a bunch of devices from Brecht, and then from the future Chris Adrian decided to pay a visit and tweak parts of the story from out of nowhere. A great reminder that Modernism can be so much fun.
Jonathan
You weren’t born, man, you were never alive. You’re an abortion with delusions.
Christopher
Mar 24, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Hey, there’s plot in this one. And I still liked it. Who would have thought?

Of course, yes, Berlin itself as character—the point’s been made by far better talent—so instead my reflection is of poor Emilie Parsunke. Harder to read that section than even the systems level analysis of the slaughterhouse. Such a thing memorializes patriarchy and misogyny at full tilt—everyone participates in this—her parents, Eva, Franz, her patron(s), the plumber, Reinhold (obviously)—even down to denying her her
...more
Cphe
Franz Biberkopf is released from prison and is determined to stay on the straight and narrow. Berlin in the 1920's is a harsh environment to navigate and as Franz discovers it's difficult to get off the merry go round. Fate has other plans in store for him.

Found this a difficult book to find a reading rhythm with. It was an unusual read, biblical references, stream of consciousness, unlikeable characters. It was the setting of Berlin in the 1920's, the seedy underbelly of Berlin life that
...more
Jimmy
Franz Biberkopf is an antihero. And by antihero, I mean the pulling out your hair while thinking to yourself "don't do that Franz, you big Biberkopf, you schnauzer of a one-armed mongoloid, you! Don't you ever learn?" variety of hero. For in fact our protagonist is not a very bright bulb. He's quite average in many ways, and not particularly likeable to start. I mean, he murdered a woman years before the book even begins! Can he fall to lower depths? You bet, because Alfred Doblin is at the ...more
Cymru Roberts
Jul 12, 2015 rated it it was amazing
I found out about this book, like many English speaking Americans, from its mention in 2666. Doblin is mentioned a lot, both as a favorite author of Archimboldi and as having a big influence on Bolano himself. Of all the books I've read based on Bolano's recommendation, I can't name another one with the kind of influence that Alexanderplatz has. Certainly much of Arturo Belano's narrative voice is taken from Alexanderplatz. But what does this mean? Has Bolano just copied syntactical flow, or ...more
Anna
Jun 29, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: m-fractions
Death in Berlin, Atonal Berlin

This is an expressionistic parable about Death’s reluctant service to mankind and a complex reinterpretation of Job’s story, served in Michael Hofmann's brilliant, crispy English translation.

Franz Biberkopf’s two releases from institutional confinement (prison, then insane asylum) mark the beginning and the end of the account of his decline and rise, told with terrible crescendo. The character’s dreadful falls followed by his misdirected recoveries are summarized
...more
James Murphy
Jul 27, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Until a few months ago I'd never heard of this novel or of Doblin. When I learned Berlin Alexanderplatz is a technical first cousin to Joyce's Ulysses I became very interested. In presenting a picture of Weimar-era Berlin through the character of one man, Franz Biberkopf, using elements of stream of consciousness, mythology and Biblical and metaphysical references, he wrote a very impressive novel. He uses Berlin's geography in much the same way Joyce does that of Dublin; I'm sure Doblin's ...more
Bjorn
Jul 01, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: germany
The white zone is for loading and unloading only.
If ya gotta load or unload, go to the white zone.
You'll love it.
It's a way of life.
Nick
Mar 19, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
It simply doesn't get better than this.
Mala
Nov 24, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Mala by: Jonathan
Cursed be the man, saith Jeremiah, that trusteth in man; he shall inherit the parched places in the wilderness, in a salt land, and not inhabited. The heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked: who can know it? (173)

How to add mythic dimension to a common criminal's life? Couch the life story in biblical terms.
How to give meaning to his tragic fate? Invoke the great Greek tragedies. How to convey the essentially tragic nature of human destiny? Try writing a modern version of the
...more
Kimley
Nov 13, 2007 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 20th-century, german
"There really isn't much to tell about Franz Biberkopf, we know the lad already. You can guess what a sow will do when she gets into her trough. Only a sow is better off than a man, because she's just a lump of flesh and fat, and what can befall her later, doesn't matter much, if only the swill lasts: at most she might litter again, and at the end of her life is the cleaver, but that's not really so horrid or exciting after all: before she's noticed anything--and what does an animal like that
...more
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Reading 1001: Berlin Alexanderplatz, by Alfred Doblin 3 23 Jun 23, 2019 07:00AM  
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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 ...more
“So, go on rising, sun, you don't frighten us. We don't care about your many miles, your diameter, your volume. Warm sun, just rise, bright light, arise. You are not big, you are not small, you are happiness.” 6 likes
“He swore to all the world and to himself that he would remain decent. And as long as he had money, he remained decent. But then he ran out of money, which was a moment he had been waiting for, to show them all what he was made of.” 3 likes
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