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Alfred Döblin

Alfred Döblin (1878-1957) was a prolific writer whose œuvre spans more than half a century and a wide variety of literary movements and styles. One of the most important figures of German literary modernism, he is much less known to the reading public than his contemporaries Thomas Mann, Bertolt Brecht, or Franz Kafka. English readers know him, if at all, for only one work: his big city novel Berlin Alexanderplatz (1929). His complete works include a dozen epic novels ranging from 18th-century China (The Three Leaps of Wang Lun, 1915) to the distant future (Berge Meere und Giganten (“Mountains Oceans Giants”), 1924) to the European conquest of South America (Amazonas, 1938). He also wrote several dramas, radio plays, and screenplays; a travelogue; philosophical treatises; and many essays on politics, religion, art, and society. Döblin was in exile from the Nazis between 1933 and 1945—first in France, from which he had to flee in 1940, and then in the USA.

Conversation In The Palace Of Ch’ien-Lung

The session of the High Council which convened on the morrow was unable, through an external circumstance, to give consideration to the Torghut question. Once certain personnel matters which had lain pending for too long had been dealt with, the Emperor was called away to view, together with the Chief Overseer of Eunuchs, the young ladies who had been chosen to replenish the Imperial harem. Seven Manchu beauties of distinguished family trembled on rugs in the vestibule of one of the Imperial houses of women. The Minister named each of them to the Emperor, who nodded thoughtfully. As each was named she stood up, let fall her milk-white veil, exuded the scent of choice perfumes, lifted her gaze.

On Cannibalism

A miner somewhere not long ago slaughtered a young child, sold the musculature as mutton, and some of it, to the horror of every mutton-eating reader, reached Berlin. A similar case has been known since ancient times, when it gave rise to the craziest tragedies. Now lots of mutton turns up in Berlin that actually is not.

Wallenstein Extracts

When the Bohemians were defeated, no one was better pleased than the Emperor. Never had his teeth worked away so nimbly at a pheasant, never had his little eyes in their wrinkled setting flashed so wolfishly from sideboard to plate, plate to sideboard.


The Brooklyn Rail

JUNE 2023

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