Berlin Alexanderplatz by Alfred Döblin (1878 to 1957) is Weimer Germany's greatest literary work. It is considered to be the first German literary work to use techniques of James Joyce, an influence acknowledged by Döblin. Döblin was a practicing neuro-psychiatrist. He left Germany just before his books were burned.
Friday, November 11, 2016
The Ballerina and the Body" - A Short Story by Alfred Doblin, 1925, Author of Berlin Alexanderplatz (translated by Damion Searles
My Readings For German Literature VI November 2016
1. The Glass Bead Game by Hermann Hesse
2. Royal Highness by Thomas Mann
3. A Small Circus by Hans Fallada
4. Rosshalde by Hermann Hesse
5. "Did He Do It" by. Stefan Zweig
6. Journey Into the Past by Stefan Zweig (s cond reading, no post, posted on in Nov 2015)
7. The Emigrants by W. G. Sebald
8. "The Ballarina and the Body" by Alfred Doblin
"She went to the hospital the next day. In the carriage she sobbed with rage beneath her blanket. She wanted to spit on her suffering body, she jeered at it bitterly; it disgusted her, this bad flesh whose company she was bound to. Her eyes widened with muted fear when she looked at these limbs now eluding her. How powerless she was, oh how powerless she was."
A bit more than a year ago I read Berlin Alexanderplatz by Alfred Döblin. If you want to experience life in Weimer Germany, read this work of genius. I was very happy to be given a DRC by The New York Review of Books of a forthcoming collection of his short stories. There is a generous selections of stories in the collection, ranging from three to fifty pages. In the advance edition I have there is no first publication data.
"The Ballarina and the Body" is a very hard edged story. The subject of the story was placed in a Ballarina company at age eleven. At the time of the story girls were placed with Ballarina companies partially as a way of "getting them of the family ledger" and also in the hopes they would find a rich husband or benefactor. The original readwrs of the story would have known this, even if modern readers might not. At age eighteen the girl is injured terribly, she is sent to a hospital where she will undergo every painful tteatments. She feels the doctors and others see her as of no value as she can no longer dance. She comes to hate her body. The ending is very powerful.
"As before, when she had thrown cold water over everything voluptuous in the dance, when her taut body had wavered like a flame, she wanted to feel her will again. She wanted to dance a waltz, a wonderful sweet waltz, with the one who had become her master, with the body. With a movement of her will she could take him by the hand once again, this body, the slothful beast, and fling it down, fling it around, and it was her master no more. A triumphant hate churned up from inside her—it didn’t go to the right and she to the left, but she, they, they leapt together. She wanted to roll him on the ground, the hobbling dwarfish barrel, trundle it head over heels, stuff sand in its maw."