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Berlin Alexanderplatz

3.85  ·  Rating details ·  7,481 ratings  ·  509 reviews
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.

Franz Biberkopf, pimp and petty thief, has just finished serving a term in prison for murdering his girlfriend. He's on his ow
Paperback, 458 pages
Published February 6th 2018 by NYRB Classics (first published 1929)
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Average rating 3.85  · 
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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 fo
Jun 28, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Berlin Alexanderplatz - The German equivalent to James Joyce Ulysees

Berlin Alexanderplatz is considered to be one of the most important and innovative works of the early 20th, with world wide recognition and on the top 100 lists. Therefore I was eager to finally read this amazing book, which didn‘t dissapoint.

Franz Biberkopf in Rainer Wener Fassbinder’s “Berlin Alexanderplatz,” television series

It‘s 1929 in Berlin, when Franz Biberkopf is released from prison for homicide. Out of jail he swears
Nov 13, 2019 rated it it was amazing
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 J
Vit Babenco
Jan 21, 2019 rated it it was amazing
“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 f
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 f
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.
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. ...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

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


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.


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
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 g
Jan 11, 2021 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: germany, 2021-read
One of the most important novels ever written in German, "Berlin Alexanderplatz" tells the story of an everyman getting chewed up in the gears of the big city - and not without his own fault. Döblin, a WW I veteran and psychiatrist, gives us an an expressionist portrayal of Berlin during the Weimar Republic and of the infamous Franz Biberkopf, an under-educated opportunist who mostly wants to live comfortably (the novel was first published in 1929, but we all know where this led, starting 1933). ...more
Aug 27, 2019 added it  ·  review of another edition
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 futu
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 Joyce ...more

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
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
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 tri
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.
Mar 24, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 20-ce, germany, fiction
Essential reading. Up there with Mann, Grass, Sebald, Wolf, etc
Jan 22, 2019 rated it it was amazing
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
Mar 17, 2018 rated it it was amazing
[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 mus
Feb 22, 2021 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A superb novel of the city, in which the clangour and grinding tumult of modernity are mocked as trivialities over which dooming history and imminent catastrophe will prevail, a place where things are so desperately hopeless that even the weather is marshalled against the grotesque futility of human life, where madness, self-harm, depravity and obscene levels of duplicity are amongst countless other routine afflictions, and where our antihero Franz Biberkopf continually invites accelerated self- ...more
João Reis
Jan 14, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This novel is so fabulous I won't even try to describe its awesomeness. ...more
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. ...more
You weren’t born, man, you were never alive. You’re an abortion with delusions.
May 02, 2020 added it
Shelves: nyrb
In which the hammer comes down on us readers.

Why do you put this book off? You know it will be good. You know you will like it. What, not enough time in your day, what, too hard for you? Do little words really make your brain hurt? Does the whirl of this metropolis of letters make your head spin? Well, a good job to you then Döblin!

A book like this almost begs to be adapted to film with its naturally episodic structure and its use of literary montage and juxtaposition as everyone and their mothe
Mar 24, 2019 rated it really liked it
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 n
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 becam
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 helm ...more
Karen O
I have a lot of complicated feelings about this book. The writing is brilliant, the style wonderfully engaging. I had quite a few laughs, although it's definitely not a funny book. The characters are all mostly pretty ghastly people doing terrible things or having terrible things done to them, especially the female characters, but somehow I ended up with a great feeling of compassion for all of them and for all of us, too. The world of Berlin, the world generally, is the real subject of the book ...more
Cymru Roberts
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 mad ...more
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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

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