*Alexanderplatz. Large, central square in the east central part of Germany’s capital city, Berlin. During the late 1920’s in which this novel is set, this square was a center of commerce, traffic, and working-class neighborhoods from which streetcar lines connect the entire city. Alexanderplatz is also the center of the novel, which revisits it countless times. The area is constantly under construction; a subway station is being built, and existing shops and houses are torn down to make room for new ones.
Döblin successfully captures the full atmosphere of the square, with its fast life, advertising slogans, popular songs playing in its cafés, and the cries of street vendors and newspaper agents, as well as random conversations among the passersby. This modernist collection of episodic slices of life fully evokes the bustle of human activities in Alexanderplatz, where life is hectic, transitory, and often devious. Burglary plagues Berlin, where no place is safe from plunder. The unwilling presence of the ex-convict Franz Biberkopf at one of these locations changes his life for the worse. Places outside Berlin have a remote quality; they tend to be locations of retreat or violence.
Alexanderplatz’s public houses of food and drinking serve as homes away from home for many characters. Many social activities occur in these places, all of which Döblin describes with a keen eye for atmosphere. These places typically have backrooms in which shady deals are...
(The entire section is 624 words.)