This fascinating exploration of a work that was the epitome of German literary modernism illuminates in chilling detail the death of the Weimar Republic's left-leaning culture of innovation and experimentation. Peter Jelavich examines Alfred Döblin's Berlin Alexanderplatz (1929), a novel that questioned the autonomy and coherence of the human personality in the modern metropolis, and traces the radical discrepancies that came with its adaptation into a radio play (1930) and a film (1931). Jelavich explains these discrepancies by examining not only the varying demands of genre and technology but also the political and economic contexts of the media—in particular, the censorship practices in German radio and film. His analysis culminates in a richly textured discussion of the complex factors that led to the demise of Weimar culture, as Nazi intimidation and the economic strains of the Depression induced producers to depoliticize their works. Jelavich's book becomes a cautionary tale about how fear of outspoken right-wing politicians can curtail and eliminate the arts as a critical counterforce to politics—all in the name of entertainment.
List of Illustrations
1. The Novel Berlin Alexanderplatz
2. Politics and Censorship at the Berlin Radio Hour
3. Cultural Programming and Radio Plays
4. The Radio Play The Story of Franz Biberkopf
5. Film Censorship in the Weimar Era
6. Nazi Threats to Film
7. The Film Berlin Alexanderplatz
Peter Jelavich, Professor of History at Johns Hopkins University, is author of Berlin Cabaret (1993) and Munich and Theatrical Modernism: Politics, Playwriting, and Performance, 1890-1914 (1985).
"This is cultural history at its best. Jelavich offers a compelling case study that illuminates the 'death of Weimar culture' in chilling detail. No other work informs us so masterfully about the mechanisms of media censorship and authorial self-censorship during the last years of the Weimar Republic."—Bernd Widdig, author of Culture and Inflation in Weimar Germany
"Jelavich's unique approach constitutes a brilliant achievement. He constructs a prism of the novel, radio play, and film of Berlin Alexanderplatz that reflects the political, social, and cultural conditions of the disintegrating Weimar Republic against the rise of Nazism."—Michael H. Kater, author of Hitler Youth
"Berlin Alexanderplatz represents historical and cultural scholarship at its best. Though meticulously researched and documented, Jelavich does not drown the reader in historical data. This is a stimulating and persuasive read."—Lutz Koepnick, author of Dark Mirror: German Cinema between Hollywood and Hitler