Read A People Betrayed by Alfred Döblin John E. Woods Online


Set in Berlin after Germany's defeat in World War I, Doblin makes vividly real the public and private dramas of a nation on the brink of revolution. He brings to life a fascinating cast of characters that includes both the makers of history and the historically anonymous....

Title : A People Betrayed
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ISBN : 9780880640084
Format Type : Paperback
Number of Pages : 642 Pages
Status : Available For Download
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A People Betrayed Reviews

  • Jonathan
    2019-03-07 02:04

    Because my big, excellent looking copy just arrived in the post...From the NY Times 1983: A PEOPLE BETRAYED November 1918: A German Revolution. By Alfred Doblin. Translated by John E. Woods. 642 pp. New York: Fromm International Publishing. Cloth, $19.95. Paper, $10.95.WHEN Alfred Doblin, high on the Nazi hit list, fled Germany in 1933, he was one of the country's best-known authors, a serious contender for the Nobel Prize. He returned in 1945, an unwelcome revenant and all but forgotten; ignored for the rest of his life, he was unable even to find a West German publisher for what turned out to be his last novel. His death in 1957 went virtually unnoticed. It took 20 years and a new generation to rediscover him. Today most of his books are back in print, the body of his work is being academically dissected, and in a moving tribute to him prefaced to this novel, Gunter Grass speaks of ''the gratitude a pupil feels toward his teacher.''As a practicing neuropsychiatrist whose doctoral dissertation dealt with memory disturbances among psychotics, Doblin should not have been unduly baffled by the vagaries of fate and fame. Born in Stettin in 1878 of Polish-Jewish parents, he had a brief, traumatic childhood that ended when his father, a tailor, ran off to America, leaving the mother nearly destitute and with five small children to support. She sought refuge in Berlin, and the dire poverty in which Doblin grew up made him a lifelong champion of the poor, his one and only consistent ideological commitment. He worked his way through school, became a doctor and from 1911 until his flight in 1933 practiced medicine in a Berlin slum district, with time out for service in World War I.Through it all he wrote - incessantly, compulsively, in classrooms, hospitals, between patients, at the front. His offbeat stories stirred the avant-garde, but among the public at large he first made his mark as a novelist. ''The Three Leaps of Wang-Lun,'' published in 1915, was acknowledged by Bertolt Brecht and later by Grass as a significant influence on their work. It won two prestigious literary prizes and was followed by a prolific outpouring that included epic novels, polemics and reporting, culminating in the 1929 best seller ''Berlin Alexanderplatz,'' an immense success with the critics and the public.Three years spent among the dead and dying on the Western front, however, had turned Doblin's visceral horror of militarism, power and privilege into political passion, and he ardently welcomed the overthrow of the Kaiser in the brief 1918 revolution. But his initial enthusiasm quickly turned to rage as he watched the new leaders sell out their followers and reinstate the same cabal of bunglers and assassins that had engineered the war. With a savagery that defied party politics - he remained an unaffiliated radical, a self-styled anarchist - he fought the Weimar Republic's drift into dictatorship until his worst fears came true and he found himself forced to flee for his life.It was the bleak despair of exile and defeat that made him look back to November 1918, that fleeting moment of hope when Germany's fate - and, as it turned out, that of the world - hung in the balance. What was it that tipped the scales? That question he set out to explore in the epic trilogy ''November 1918,'' of which this volume contains the first two parts (called here ''A People Betrayed'' and ''The Troops Return''). A novelist's view of history, it deals not with issues and forces but with human beings forced to make choices. And while the stress on individual guilt and responsibility may seem simplistic, it results in one of the most graphic accounts ever written of what led from Weimar to Auschwitz.THE first volume, completed in Paris before World War II, is a panoramic vision of disaster and betrayal that blends realism and fantasy to stunning effect. Its structure evokes John Dos Passos' ''U.S.A.'' - a nexus of multiple destinies, traced in brief segments and intercut with camera-eye views of history being unmade, an almost hour-by-hour log of 10 days that failed to change the world. The portraits of the Social Democratic leaders - Friedrich Ebert, Gustav Noske and Philipp Scheidemann - are etched in acid, but Doblin does not spare their opponents. Though openly siding with the left opposition led by Karl Liebknecht and Rosa Luxemburg, he finds them fatally flawed by indecision; revolution is no job for esthetes.In fact, what he implies - and what his rather wayward caricature of Karl Radek, who was sent by the Soviet Communist Central Committee to lead the German Communist movement, spells out in so many words - is that the German revolution failed because there was no Lenin to guide it. This debatable proposition foreshadows Doblin's own yearning for authority, for a fixed point of reference in the midst of mounting chaos. And since in the end even Lenin proved mortal, the need for less fallible guidance must have suggested itself with an inner logic, though Doblin resisted it for some time. ''The Troops Return'' seethes with the soul struggles of the agnostic Jewish radical reluctantly yielding to the appeal of Christian socialism. Doblin's skill at conveying the drama of mass action remains unimpaired, but the focus increasingly shifts to the fictional protagonist, a hallucinating and suicidally depressed war veteran. Torn by doubt and self-hatred, haunted by Satan's argumentative emissaries, he is ultimately saved by the apparition of Johannes Tauber, a saintly 14th-century mystic whose spirit leads the veteran to Christ.This second volume took several years to complete, its writing interrupted by the outbreak of World War II, the author's flight to the United States, and personal tragedy: One of his sons was killed in action with the French. Doblin spent the war years in Hollywood, where he proved unequal to the exalted literary standards of the movie industry and was eventually reduced to living on the charity of his more prosperous fellow exiles. In 1941 he formally converted to Catholicism. Four years later he returned to Germany as head of a French mission charged with re-educating the defeated populace. Bent on practicing his newfound faith, he preached forgiveness rather than vengeance, but his call for humility and prayer succeeded in the end in antagonizing friends and enemies alike.The final volume of his trilogy, ''Karl and Rosa,'' published in 1950, reflects his own spiritual about-face. It charts the bloody finish of the revolution, marked by the murder of Liebknecht and Luxemburg, but the emphasis shifts to more transcendental concerns. The hero, defying his own hard-won principles of Christian pacifism, joins the armed uprising of the Spartacist rebels and atones for it by renunciation and martyrdom. Doblin, in effect, revised the message of the book: The revolution failed, not - as he initially set out to prove - because it was carried out by Germans, by a Liebknecht rather than a Lenin, but because it was bound to fail. The true revolution can only take place in the hearts of men.The present English version, handsomely produced and splendidly translated, does not include ''Karl and Rosa,'' which lacks the rich and evocative vitality of the earlier sections. Literary judgment may justify the decision to delete it; moral judgment must take issue, since the omission significantly distorts the author's final intent. Even in this truncated version, however, ''A People Betrayed'' is a brilliant work by a major writer who grappled with the roots of darkness in our time.

  • Nick
    2019-03-08 01:09

    Like Celine, Alfred Doblin was a doctor, and a keen observer of the urban malaise of Europe in the 1920s. Unlike Celine, he lived with German nationalism and was immune to its dubious charms. "A People Betrayed" takes place during the German Revolution of 1918, following the abdication of Kaiser Wilhelm. The Social Democrats took power, balancing between the defeated Army that was returning from the front and the more radical Spartacist League of Rosa Luxemborg. Luxemborg has a cameo, and other historical figures have fuller roles: General Hindenburg (he of the Weimar Republic), Karel Radek, the Russian emissary later murdered by the Stalinists, a passel of Social Democratic politicians, even Woodrow Wilson. Doblin sought to humanize this immense novel by bringing to life some ordinary victims of the time, a soldier with PTSD, a nurse, a revolutionary-turned-businessman, various lowlifes who would take pleasure fighting it out with Franz Biberkopf of Doblin's "Berlin Alexanderplatz." It's the larger set-pieces that are memorable: the demonstrations and rebellions, Wilson's struggle for the League of Nations, the machinations of the Social Democrats, their essential and unstable relationship with the military, the return of the soldiers. Vivid as they are, none of the minor characters stays on the stage long enough to command it (with the exception of the soldier with PTSD, who seemed to me to be on stage too long). This is a novel lost in its own sweep; its minor characters could use a little of the ferocity with which Biberkopf tries and fails to have a place in the city.

  • sslyb
    2019-03-09 07:57

    I struggled through this one!

  • Joseph Hirsch
    2019-03-19 08:56

    Historical fiction many times runs aground because the fictional characters are basically just ciphers through which events are related. I have this problem with some of Zola's fiction. Reading one of his books is sometimes like sitting on the sidelines watching a game of "Risk" between two people who debate their moves longer than chess masters. The other problem with such books is that when actual historical figures enter the stage, they are hidebound in their behavior by what we know about them and by what they've actually done. I've rarely seen someone make compelling characters out of people who are real (Teddy Roosevelt solving crimes in Caleb Carr's "The Alienist" is a pretty wince-worthy example).This is a minority report (as a lot of my reviews are), but for me, everything that could go wrong in "A People Betrayed" does go wrong. After a few pages, I got that feeling I get when I try to read Mailer, like someone who has spent a lifetime writing instruction manuals has decided to turn their hand to fiction. This kind of multiple perspective, "God's Eye" view of things can work, as in the truly bizarre science fiction of Olaf Stapledon, or in the historical novels of John Dos Passos. It works in Lovecraft's fiction if only because the anti-human tone is perfect for unveiling his eldritch, otherworldly creations. Doblin is not writing Lovecraftian (sic?) horror, however, from an awe-inspiring and wonderfully misanthropic anti-human perspective, though. He's supposed to be writing a social history through flesh-and-blood characters trying to survive in the aftermath of the Great War.The German writer Hans Fallada is certainly a master at evoking how what Vonnegut called the "hare of history" overruns the more modest ambitions of those who must endure her mercurial whims. But Doblin doesn't pull off the trick. This is a turgid history book posing as a wide-sweeping work of fiction. I usually find some way to qualify a negative review and I hate to tap out before finishing a book no matter how much I dislike it, but I really hated this book and could not finish it. I could not even slog my way through one-quarter of it. I might perforate my eardrums if it were turned into a book on tape, or gouge out my eyes if it were adapted for the screen.

  • Peter Jakobs
    2019-03-20 02:46

    2nd part of the 1918 "revolution" in Germany covers 2nd half of November and early December; this time mostly playing in Berlin. Some folks from the first part made it to Berlin and got into the sphere of Ebert, Scheidemann and Liebknecht - and of course the militia. At the end of this part the faith of Germany is on the edge - more to come!

  • David
    2019-03-02 04:06

    Sprawling, troubling, remarkable. My English edition is actually comprised of two of the original volumes, A People Betrayed and (my translation> The Troops Return Home from the Front, which are the first two of a four-volume set originally in German. Doeblin's history of the German experience at the end of the first World War---what he calls a revolution, and which it surprises me to realize I'd never really thought to describe with that word---is a really monumental piece of historical fiction. I recognize many of the characters from their actual roles in history---Ebert, Scheidemann---and the ones who aren't based on historical figures are certainly recognizable as human, often intensely. The only problem is now I have to finish the sequel, which is very nearly as massive. Strenuously recommended for anyone who wants to understand how the world got from the end of one World War to the traumatic beginnings of the next one.

  • Lucinda
    2019-03-25 04:49

    Oddly, this is three volumes of a four volume book. It doesn't say that anywhere, but after the abrupt ending (two of the main historical characters live despite heaving foreshadowing of their impending demise) I did a little hunting. Karl Liebknecht and Rosa Luxemburg get a volume all to themselves. Hooray--more long German books to read!

    2019-02-27 07:05

    I 1st heard of Döblin when I saw Fassbinder's 15 hr "Berlin Alexanderplatz" based on a Döblin novel. For people wanting to read a series of epic novels about post-WWI Germany, this is probably what shd be read. There's a 2nd volume called "Karl & Rosa".