By David B. Dollenmayer
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Extra info for The Berlin Novels of Alfred Doblin: Wadzek's Battle with the Steam Turbine, Berlin Alexanderplatz, Men without Mercy and November, 1918
A strange quiet fell over the hill, interrupted by long, spasmodic cries, penetrating cat-like whimpers, the music to breathless helplessness that bites itself in the finger, lets the soul shrivel as if in vinegar, to the frenzy of despair that draws bodies into its maelstrom. (WL 14546) Döblin, whose misogyny is less insouciantly automatic than Marinetti's, has managed to make this rape almost incorporeal. Here the violence is more thoroughly aestheticized than in Mafarka; it is an Expressionist tour de force of acoustical imagesonly the sounds of a mass rape.
Both it and the finch's songs are simply juxtaposed to the primary naturalistic narrative without transition or narrative comment. They are, moreover, carefully spaced and alternated within the story. The river metaphor opens the story, followed shortly by the singing goldfinch. The metaphor recurs after Nasske's suicide, while the goldfinch has the last word of the story. Partly because of this placement, the two modes seem to cancel each other. Döblin's narrator is playing with the form of the story itself, emphasizing these intrusions by locating them at particularly important structural points, yet denying us the key to their importance.
The chest and shoulder measurements are the main thing. Ask your tailor if that isn't the main thing in a coat. " They then stand chest to chest and back to back, but cannot reach agreement and accuse each other of "subjectivity and prejudice" (W 83). Döblin gives their strange relationship unmistakably homoerotic undertones, especially during a scuffle that erupts after Wadzek taunts Schneemann with the threat of going to prison with him: "He pressed the resisting man against himself, tried to hook his knees around his legs, and choked the man into himself, into his throat, so that nothing would remain of Schneemann and nothing of Wadzek.