The Characters

(Literary Essentials: World Fiction)

The author-narrator is a narrative device, employed by Alfred Döblin to emphasize the authorial impotence of the modern writer, who is neither omniscient nor able to master the plot and maintain the fiction of his work like a traditional novelist. The figure of the author repeatedly admits to having second thoughts. The author is part of the fiction of the novel, or Erzahlwerk (narrative work), as Döblin preferred to call it. As a narrative device, the figure of the author justifies the deliberate fragmentation of the novel, causing abrupt changes in perspective and mixing historical documents with mystic visions.

Friedrich Becker, the main protagonist, is a Faustian figure. The end of part 3 contains a wager with Satan, reminding the reader of Johann Wolfgang von Goethe’s Faust (1808, 1833). Goethe’s Faust figure also has “two souls, alas! residing in his breast,” he also concludes a wager with the Devil, which he loses, and his soul is also saved in the end. The use of the traditional Faust myth has a parallel in Thomas Mann’s Doktor Faustus (1947; Doctor Faustus, 1948), which was written not only at approximately the same time but also in the same city. Doctor Faustus, as well as Karl and Rosa, was written in Los Angeles, California, where both authors lived in exile during World War II. It is doubtful, however, that these men exerted any influence on each other, because they were rather distant,...

(The entire section is 427 words.)


(Great Characters in Literature)

Hatfield, Henry. Modern German Literature: The Major Figures in Context, 1966.

Heilbut, Anthony. “A German Novelist of Revolution: A People Betrayed: November 1918, A German Revolution,” in The Nation. CCXXXVI (May 21, 1983), p. 642.

Kort, Wolfgang. Alfred Döblin: Leben und Werk, 1965.

Osterle, Heinz D. “Alfred Döblins Revolutionstrilogie November 1918,” in Monatshefte. LXII (1970), pp. 1-23.

Pawel, Ernst. “The Renaissance of Alfred Döblin: A People Betrayed: November 1918, A German Revolution,” in The New York Times Book Review. LXXXVIII (April 17, 1983), p. 11.

Prawer, S.S. “The Way to Catastrophe: Alfred Döblin, A People Betrayed and The Troops Return, November 1918—A German Revolution, Parts I and II; Karl and Rosa: November 1918—A German Revolution, Part III,” in The Times Literary Supplement. December 26, 1986, p. 1457.