Alfred Döblin bigraphy, stories - German expressionist novelist

Alfred Döblin : biography

August 10, 1878 - June 26, 1957

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.

Life

Early life

Bruno Alfred Döblin was born on 10 August 1878 at the house at Bollwerk 37 in Stettin (Szczecin), a port city in what was then the Province of Pomerania. He was the fourth of five children born to Max Döblin (1846–1921), a master tailor from Posen (Poznań), and Sophie Döblin (1844–1920), née Freudenheim, the daughter of a merchant. Their marriage was characterized by a tension between Max's multifaceted artistic interests—to which Döblin would later attribute his and his siblings' artistic inclinations—and Sophie's cool pragmatism.; The Döblins were assimilated Jews, and Alfred became aware of a broad, societal anti-Semitism early on.

His parents' marriage dissolved in July 1888, when Max Döblin eloped with Henriette Zander, a seamstress twenty years his junior, and moved to America to start a new life. The catastrophic loss of his father was a central event in Döblin's childhood and would be formative for his later life. Shortly thereafter, in October 1888, Sophie and the five children moved to Berlin and took up residence in a small shabby apartment on the Blumenstraße in Berlin's working-class east. Döblin's parents briefly reconciled in 1889, when Max returned penniless from America; the family moved to Hamburg in April 1889, but when it came to light that Max had brought his lover back with him and was leading a double life, Sophie and the children returned to Berlin in September 1889.

The sense of being déclassé, along with rocky experiences at school, made this a difficult time for Döblin.; Although he had early been a good student, starting in his fourth year of Gymnasium his performance tended toward the mediocre. Furthermore, his oppositional tendencies against the stern conventionality of the partriarchal, militaristic Wilhelminian educational system, which stood in contrast to his artistic inclinations and his free thought, earned him the status of a rebel among his teachers. Despite his hatred for school, Döblin early became a passionate writer and reader, counting Spinoza, Schopenhauer, and Nietzsche, as well as Heinrich von Kleist, Friedrich Hölderlin, and Fyodor Dostoyevsky among his most important early influences. He wrote his first novel, Jagende Rosse (Rushing Steeds), before completing school and dedicated it to the "Manes of Hölderlin". He sent a copy to the prominent critic and philosopher Fritz Mauthner who returned it a few days later. However, wishing to hide his artistic inclinations from his mother, Döblin had sent the manuscript under a false name, and was not able to retrieve it at the post office; he thus had to rewrite it entirely.

Living octopus

Living octopus

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