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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, March 3, 2015

Who Are These People?: The proto-fascist characters in Alexanderplatz - Berlin

So who are these people, the low-lifes in 1928 Berlin whom I've been reading about over the past week (Alfred Doblin's Alexanderplatz - Berlin)? I've noted that the hapless yet truly hateful protagonist, Franz Bioberkopf, is in some ways a precursor to the alienated postwar European heroes such as Mersault or even to the hero of "protest" novels (I think I mentioned Native Son, without even realizing this is some sort of anniversary - 75th? - of Wright's novel) - but he's without the intelligence and analytic skills of an existential hero and without the justification of an oppressed Southern black man: he's just a nasty, criminal mind and too weak to make anything out of his life or to do anything productive - and this is true of most or perhaps all of the characters in this novel, even the women, who are victimized for sure but not exactly sympathetic, as they sell their bodies, are loose with their affections, and devote themselves to men who are horrible to them (and to others): there's really no good explanation for their behavior, they're not addicts, for example - it's just accepted that there are - or were, in this culture - plenty of people with no eduction, family, or hope, who lived on the margins of society and wasted their lives (and ruined the lives of others in the process). I am by no means expert on German culture during this era, but it occurs to me that these people, the men in particular, were the seed from which Nazism sprouted; politics plays a background role in this novel, though there are a few scenes of political rallies and of barroom confrontations between left and right. These character, Franz in particular, hold no strong views on anything - but I think that, as completely alienated and asocial characters, they were (are) exactly the type that could be easily recruited to rally around a "strong" leader who promises to purge the society of anti-German elements - promising much, putting the blame on others, turning the brutality and stupidity of these people into a pillar of support for a dictatorship and a murderous oppression.

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