One of the major figures of German literary modernism, Alfred Doblin, was a doctor, novelist and essayist who authored the novel ‘Berlin Alexanderplatz’ which is considered to be one of the most innovative works of the Weimar Republic. A prolific author whose literary career spanned over half a century, Doblin was truly someone who redefined 20th century German literature. He was very versatile and his works cover a variety of genres ranging from historical novels to drama, from science fiction to travel accounts and from true crimes to philosophical essays. A brilliant individual, he was a qualified doctor who specialized in neurology. He had always loved writing and started writing his first novel while he was pursuing his medical studies. His works were marked with a poignancy and disillusionment that stemmed from his own difficult childhood; he grew up in a broken family in a politically tense environment. He authored several novels but it was ‘Berlin Alexanderplatz’ that catapulted him to an iconic status and cemented his place amongst the literary geniuses of the 19th century Germany. However, some of his fans and critics felt that he did not get the recognition he truly deserved and he spent his final years struggling with financial difficulties in obscurity.
- He was the fourth of five children born to Max Doblin and his wife Sophie. His father was a tailor with artistic inclinations. His parents’ marriage was strained and his father left the family to live with his lover.His mother struggled to provide for herself and the children. The difficulties of his childhood deeply impacted the young Alfred and would play a vital role in molding him into the person he ultimately became.He studied at the Köllnischer Gymnasium high school.Even though he did not like school, he loved to read and write. He was deeply influenced by the works of Spinoza, Nietzsche, Heinrich von Kleist, Friedrich Hölderlin, and Fyodor Dostoyevsky.He enrolled at the Friedrich Wilhelm University to study general medicine. He moved to Freiburg inm Breisgau in 1904 to specialize in neurology and psychiatry. His dissertation, ‘Disturbances of memory in Korsakoff's Psychosis’ was published in 1905.Career
- He started working as an assistant doctor at the Berlin psychiatric clinic in Buch from October 1906. After a few years he started his private practice in 1911.Even though he had started writing way back while studying in medical college, it was only during the 1910s that he could find a publisher to publish his works. The novel ‘The Three Leaps of Wang Lun’ was chronologically his third novel, but the first one to be published as a book in 1915-16.He published a comic novel in 1918 which was a humorous take on the struggle for power between two fictional industrialists in the city of Berlin. The novel dealt with the themes of monopoly, capitalism, modern technology, etc.In June 1919 he started contributing articles on social and political topics to ‘Der Neue Rundschau’ under the pseudonym Linke Poot. These articles were collected and published in the form of a book, ‘Der Deutsche Maskenball’ in 1921.His 1920 historical novel, ‘Wallenstein’, was set in Central Europe during the Thirty Years War. A pacifist at heart, Doblin portrayed the war as the consequence of political, financial, and individual psychological factors which he felt were quite absurd.In 1924 he brought out a science fiction, displaying his talent for covering various genres of writing. This novel, ‘Berge Meere und Giganten’ was experimental in nature and follows the development of human society from 20thto the 27th century. This novel however did not become very popular.He wrote a novel about Franz Biberkopf, an ex-convict, who has to deal with miseries and hardships as he struggles to get a foothold on life after being released from the prison. This book, ‘Berlin Alexanderplatz’ was published in 1929 and received much critical acclaim.After Hitler came to power in Germany in 1933, Doblin left the country and went into exile first in Zurich and then in Paris. While in exile he wrote the novel tetralogy, ‘November 1918: A German Revolution’ in four volumes.His last novel was ‘Tales of a Long Night’ which he had written between August 1945 and October 1946. It told the story of an English soldier who was badly wounded in the Second World War. The novel however was not published until a decade later in 1956.Major Works
- His novel ‘Berlin Alexanderplatz’ is considered his masterpiece and was named among the top 100 books of all time in a 2002 poll. The novel told the story of a small-time criminal who is looking for a fresh start in life after being released from prison, but is yet again drawn in to a life of crime.Awards & Achievements
- He was awarded the Fontane Prize in August 1916 for his novel ‘The Three Leaps of Wang Lun’. The prize included a monetary award of 600 Marks.Personal Life & legacy
- He became romantically involved with Friede Kunke, a 16 year old nurse, while working in Buch. However, due to family pressures, he got engaged to Erna Reiss, the daughter of a wealthy factory owner. Unknown to him, Friede was pregnant when he left her to get engaged to Erna and later gave birth to a son in October 1911.He married Erna Reiss in January 1912 though the guilt of leaving Friede haunted him for life.He developed Parkinson’s disease during his later years and died in June 1957. His wife committed suicide a few months later.
How To CiteArticle Title- Alfred Doblin BiographyAuthor- Editors, TheFamousPeople.comWebsite- TheFamousPeople.comURLLast Updated- November 17, 2014
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