Book Review: Bright Magic: Stories makes a fitful case for the influential Alfred Döblin

Alfred Döblin is obscure to non-academic readers of modernist literature, even by the standards of German-speaking writers who are known in this country mostly through their influence on other German-speaking writers; he has neither the name recognition (a term used loosely here) of Robert Musil nor the devoted following of Robert Walser. For whatever casual readership exists for translations of early 20th century fiction, his reputation is based entirely on Berlin Alexanderplatz—and even then, it’s often not the novel itself, but the TV miniseries adaptation by Rainer Werner Fassbinder. But Döblin, a Milhouse Van Houten-looking doctor who continued to practice in a working-class neighborhood of Berlin even as he became a respected literary figure in the 1910s and 1920s, wrote all kinds of stuff, including historical novels (which directly influenced the epic theater of Bertolt Brecht) and science fiction.

Bright Magic, a slim anthology of short stories edited …

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