Alfred Döblin

Franz Biberkopf

Crisis of the Novel

Subject & City

Subject & Masses

The Place


Alfred Döblin

Trained in internal medicine and psychiatry, Alfred Döblin held a practice in working-class East Berlin, nearby the Alexanderplatz.

On the occasion of an exhibition of Futurist paintings in Berlin in early 1912, Döblin published an unqualifiedly enthusiastic article in Der Sturm("Die Bilder der Futuristen"). Alfred Döblin's review of this exhibition in Der Sturm ("Die Bilder der Futuristen"), for which he was a regular contributor, is full of unqualified enthusiasm for a new art that pays proper respect to the representation of objects and that does away with the concentration on the bourgeois subject:

Futurism is agreat step forward. It represents an act of emancipation. It is not so much a direction as a movement. Or more accurately: it is the artist's movement forwards. It is not a matter of the individual works. It is deplorable that the land of "inwardness" has to receive its inspiration to be courageous from abroad. It is from the land of colours and beautiful people that the message comes to us that "the soul is everything." [...] I am no friend of big words and inflated sentiments. But I support Futurism wholeheartedly and unequivocally give it my seal of approval.

In March Döblin wrote the text Futurist Word Technique. An Open Letter to F. T. Marinetti. While he still agrees here with the principal tendencies of Futurism, Döblin maintains in a competitive spirit that its natural impulses can still be furthered, the depiction of battle scenes can be improved. Yet in his  essay "Futurist Word Technique. An Open Letter to F.T. Marinetti," published in the Sturmin 1913, Döblin makes clear where his sympathy for Futurism ends and what he sees as its shortcomings, specifically with regard to the principles stated in the Technical Manifesto of Futurist Literature, which was published in the same issue. Even though this letter, which programmatically advocates "Döblinism" as an alternative to Futurism, received never an answer from Marinetti, it can be regarded as one of the most careful contemporary assessments of Futurist poetics. Starting with this manifesto, the initial, largely enthusiastic reception of Futurism by German writers and artists gives way to an ever more critical evaluation. It becomes also clear, that literaryFuturism is seen much more critically than Futurist painting. Döblin is especially critical of Futurism's grammatical reductionism, as it appears in the program of the parole in libertà.Döblin is not willing to subscribe to Marinetti's call for an impoverished syntax, for this deprives the writer of the true and manifold ways in which language can reflect reality.