André Naffis-Sahely

City Lit

Berlin Alexanderplatz


Penguin Classics 458pp £14.99 order from our bookshop

‘The literary name and fame of the city of Berlin, if not the idea of modern city literature altogether, are founded on the novel in your hands,’ Michael Hofmann tells us in his afterword to his new translation of Alfred Döblin’s Berlin Alexanderplatz. While the first part of that statement is a matter of taste, the second is highly contentious, given the writings of Dickens on London, Zola on Paris and Joyce on Dublin, to name only a few of the more obvious examples. On second thoughts, judging by this book, the first part of that statement is also open to argument. Although Hofmann assures us that Döblin’s Berlin is ‘brilliantly and commensurately styled’, there is little sign of this throughout much of the novel.

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