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A daily record of what I'm thinking about what I'm reading

To read about movies and TV shows I'm watching, visit my other blog: Elliot's Watching

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Trying to make sense out of Alexanderplatz - Berlin

I'm almost done w/ the first volume (5 "books") of Alfred Doblin's Alexanderplatz - Berlin and to be honest I just am not sure what to make of this novel. Yes, it has some good passages and, yes, it's a document about a time and place - a working-class Berlin neighborhood in the late 1920s - that's not very familiar to Americans and not familiar territory for serious literature and, yes, it's relatively easy to read and, yes, there was enough material here to lead to a famous TV series by Fassbinder and , yes, it was no doubt ahead of its time in its graphic accounts of sex for hire, including a homosexual encounter - and yet - is there anything striking, memorable, or redeeming about the protagonist, Franz Biberkopf? By following him through his various encounters we do get a sense of what life might have been like in that era - and maybe today, to a degree - for an ex-con with no significant family (we know literally nothing about Franz's back story) trying to make it in a tough world of sinners and schemers - but I keep waiting for the various episodes of his life to cohere and to amount to something, to give his life some direction - either up or down, I don't care - but I don't feel, 300 or so pages in - that I know Franz any better now then I did in chapter one. Oddly, I may persist and pick up volume 2 - so something does draw me to this social realism, but I keep wanting more: I know this isn't Ulysses or Mrs. Dalloway, though it shares some of their qualities w/out the high-literary language and referential markers, but is it too much to ask for an arc to a story rather than a series of loosely related episodes, none of which seems to build to a conclusion or resolution, either separate or taken as a whole?

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