July 9: frustrations of an obese god

At the very end of Berlin Alexanderplatz by Alfred Doeblin we read about the hero of the novel Franz Biberkopf: ‘About his life is there nothing further to be reported’ (Weither ist hier von seinem Leben nichts to berichten).  We are being denied access to further information about the life of this character after 700 pages of detailed reporting on his struggles to make ends meet in Berlin of the 1920s. Suddenly, and seemingly, randomly, the writer pulls the rug from under our feet and refuses to tell us more.

The writer can do this. He is the servant of the reader. All is done for the reader but the writer makes all the decisions. He is the dictator of his universe.

The reader is an obese god. He is served on a plate all the offerings of the writer. The reader cannot influence anything. He must consume, consume. It can be frustrating for the obese god at times. He wants to know how the life story of Franz Biberkopf continued but he must accept what the writer offers.

And then there are the characters. These are the slaves, sent hither and thither by the reader. Often they are sent home by the end of the sequences, as in And they lived happily after or And they all paired up and got married or And then he died and his life was over. But sometimes they are left in some indeterminate space beyond the eye of the obese god whodoes not know how those feeble traces of ink continue their existence. In what tiny closet of whose mind is Franz Biberkopf wriggling now?


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s