Berlin Alexanderplatz

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This article is about the novel. For the place in Berlin, see Alexanderplatz. For the railway station, see Berlin Alexanderplatz station. For the 1980 TV serial, see Berlin Alexanderplatz (miniseries).
Berlin Alexanderplatz
File:Doeblin berlin alexanderplatz.jpg
Reproduction of the 1st edition cover
Author Alfred Döblin
Cover artist George Salter
Country Germany
Language German
Genre Novel
Publisher S. Fischer Verlag, Berlin
Publication date

Berlin Alexanderplatz is a 1929 novel by Alfred Döblin and is considered one of the most important and innovative works of the Weimar Republic.[1] The story concerns a small-time criminal, Franz Biberkopf, fresh from prison, who is drawn into the underworld. When his criminal mentor murders the prostitute whom Biberkopf has been relying on as an anchor, he realizes that he will be unable to extricate himself from the underworld into which he has sunk. In a 2002 poll of 100 noted writers the book was named among the top 100 books of all time.[2]


The novel relates the story of Franz Biberkopf, an ex-convict, who has to deal with misery, lack of opportunities, crime and the imminent Nazism lived in Germany during the 1920s. During his struggle to survive against all odds, life rewards him with an unsuspected surprise but his happiness will not last as the story continues.


The novel is set in the working-class neighborhoods near the Alexanderplatz in 1920s Berlin. Although its narrative style is sometimes compared to that of James Joyce, critics such as Walter Benjamin have drawn a distinction between Ulysses’ interior monologue and Berlin Alexanderplatz's use of montage.[3][4] It is told from multiple points of view, and uses sound effects, newspaper articles, songs, speeches, and other books to propel the plot forward.

Film adaptations

The novel has been adapted twice for film, the first time in 1931 in a movie directed by Piel Jutzi.[5] Döblin worked on the adaptation, along with Karl Heinz Martin and Hans Wilhelm. Berlin Alexanderplatz starred Heinrich George, Maria Bard, Margarete Schlegel, Bernhard Minetti, Gerhard Bienert, Albert Florath and Paul Westermeier.

The second adaptation, Berlin Alexanderplatz was directed by Rainer Werner Fassbinder. Produced for and shown on German television in 1980, it has also been shown theatrically. It runs for 15½ hours, and when it was released in New York, ticket holders were required to come to the theatre for three consecutive nights to see the entire film. Berlin Alexanderplatz is considered by many to be Fassbinder's magnum opus.

Both films were released in November 2007 by the Criterion Collection in the US in a multi-disc DVD set. A Region 2 edition of the Fassbinder version was released in the UK by Second Sight in October that year.

See also



  1. Jelavich 2006, p. xii; Schoeller 2011, p. 339; Sander 2001, p. 9, 180; Bernhardt 2007, p. 88–9
  2. The top 100 books of all time, Guardian Unlimited, May 8, 2002
  3. Benjamin, Walter (1999). Michael Jennings, Howard Eiland, and Gary Smith, ed. Selected Writings, vol. 2. Cambridge, MA: Belknap. p. 301. 
  4. Fore, Devin (2006). "Döblin's Epic: Sense, Document, and the Verbal World Picture". New German Critique. 33 (3): 189. doi:10.1215/0094033x-2006-015. 
  5. Berlin Alexanderplatz (1931) at the Internet Movie Database


  • Bernhardt, Oliver (2007). Alfred Döblin (in German). Munich: Deutscher Taschenbuch Verlag. ISBN 978-3-423-31086-4. 
  • Jelavich, Peter (2006). Berlin Alexanderplatz: Radio, Film, and the Death of Weimar Culture. Berkeley: University of California Press. ISBN 978-0-520-25997-3. 
  • Sander, Gabriele (2001). Alfred Döblin (in German). Stuttgart: Reclam. ISBN 3-15-017632-8. 
  • Schoeller, Wilfried F. (2011). Alfred Döblin: Eine Biographie (in German). Munich: Carl Hanser. ISBN 3-446-23769-0. 

Further reading

  • Dollenmayer, David B. The Berlin Novels of Alfred Döblin: Wadzek's Battle with the Steam Turbine, Berlin Alexanderplatz, Men Without Mercy, and November 1918. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1988. Print.
  • Dollenmayer, David B. (May 1980). "An Urban Montage and its Significance in Döblin's Berlin Alexanderplatz". The German Quarterly. 53 (3): 317–336. doi:10.2307/404909. 
  • Hermes, Manfred (2014). Hystericizing Germany. Fassbinder, Alexanderplatz. Berlin: Sternberg Press. ISBN 978-3-9567-9004-1. 
  • Jelavich, Peter (2009). Berlin Alexanderplatz: Radio, Film, and the Death of Weimar Culture. Berkeley: University of California Press. ISBN 978-0-520-25997-3. 
  • Ryan, Judith (November 1981). "From Futurism to 'Döblinism'". The German Quarterly. 54 (4): 415–426. doi:10.2307/405005. 

External links