Berlin Alexanderplatz: The Story of Franz Biberkopf by Alfred Doblin. Paperback book published 1996.
Whilst travelling, particularly in foreign parts, I like to read something appropriate/relevant to where I am. A good example is reading Brighton Rock (Graham Greene) whilst visiting Brighton (don’t panic, no bad poetry today) or Midnights Children (Salman Rushdie) whilst in India. I don’t think I’m the only person who do this… maybe I am. So a number of years ago I figured that as I was heading to Berlin, it would be a great idea to read Berlin Alexanderplatz in Berlin. What a great read it was. Truly a classic piece of literature. Now some of you are probably aware that my ancestry is German and indeed I have family that are still German and they even live there. So whilst visiting my cousin in Berlin, I casually mentioned that I’d had just read Berlin Alexanderplatz. He paused and carefully considered, before asking me if I had read it in German or English… I of course had read an English translation. Now what is interesting, was his comment, that he couldn’t even begin to imagine how the language would translate into English. Unfortunately my German skills stop at a simplistic ability to converse poorly, so I had no real choice but to read the book in English. It did make me wonder and still makes me wonder what I have missed. From what I read in the English translation along with my poor knowledge of German and having a wild and crazy guess, I think I missed the colloquialisms and dialect. Still, the book was a great read and I did enjoy it.
I’ve only ever found this book on a few occasions, in other words, it’s not a common find, which is probably due to its lack of popularity in the English speaking world. Maybe it doesn’t translate that well…!!! Due to its thickness (635 pages) and format (paperback), the copies I have found are usually very worn and creased… possibly they were read whilst travelling (sounds familiar). From memory the book I read all those years ago was a worn second hand copy. Whilst slightly worn and with a little bit of wear, this copy is in relatively good condition… which is why I picked it up and now have it for sale.