Academic journal article German Quarterly

Todliche Prasens/zen: Uber die Philosophie des Literarischen bei Alfred Doblin

Academic journal article German Quarterly

Todliche Prasens/zen: Uber die Philosophie des Literarischen bei Alfred Doblin

Article excerpt

Dronske, Ulrich. Todliche Prasens/zen: Uber die Philosophie des Literarischen bei Alfred Doblin. Wurzburg. Konigshausen & Neumann,1998. 185 pp. DM 58.00 paperback.

Despite its ambivalence, the book's concluding sentence contains a negative judgment when it states that Berlin Alexanderplatz lacks the "minimal coherence" that is shared by Doblin's other works. What Dronske really thinks of Dublin's other works of fiction remains unspoken since he restricts his analysis chiefly to the mentioned novel and to how it relates to a number of Dublin's theoretical works. The latter is where the real strength of this book lies since it gives the reader a view of Dublin's philosophy of nature and of literature, a view that is both informative and comprehensive considering the large body of relevant texts.

Central to Donske's discussion of Dublin's philosophy of nature are the notions of the UrIch ("Anonymous I of the World") and the beseelte Zeichen ("Individual I's"), which mutually reflect and condition each other. While the latter is in constant motion and breeds violence, the former is static and reaffirms order, with death being the unifying harmonizer between the two forces. Dublin's views on nature are directly connected to his theory of literature, especially his call for a rebirth of epic writing and his concurrent disparagement of the psychological novel. Although Dronske sees a certain continuity in what, at different stages of his development, Dublin defined as "epic style" (including the contemporaneity of events and their concentration on a moment in time as well as the independence of individual narrative parts), he also noted a progression from the writer's proclamation of the "Berlin Program" (the subtitle to the essay "An Romanautoren and ihre Kritiker") of 1913 and his later essay of 1928, "Der Bau des epischen Werks." Dublin's steinerner Stil ("granite style") of sticking to empirical facts gradually gave way to a playful use of the freie Phantasie ("inventive imagination"). The common denominator between the two phases of development, as well as their joint link to Dublin's philosophy of nature, is reflected in the title of Dronske's book. Prasens stands for the author's intended immediacy of his narration in time; Prasenz for the element of the writer's representing "things" in a physically limited space; and todlich ("deadly") refers both to the extinction of the individual in death and its simultaneous unification with the Ur-Ich and to the mortal crystallization of the spoken language (from which the epic emanates) in the literary work (die Verschriftung der Literatur). …

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