November 1918: A German Revolution
Begun in France in 1937 and finished in California in 1943, the immense tetralogy November 1918: A German Revolution is Döblin's last Berlin novel and the longest of his works. With a heightened sense of urgency born of the war and the writer's tenuous existence in exile, November 1918 takes up yet again the question of individual action or passivity in an unjust social order. This question is now connected directly to the watershed of twentieth-century German history, the failed revolution of 1918–19. Even before the outbreak of the Second World War, Döblin saw clearly, "With Hitler, the army defeated in 1918 returns to Germany . . . and the war that was only interrupted in 1918 is continued" (Briefe 185). November 1918 is thus a historical novel different in kind from the earlier novels Wang-lun and Wallenstein; its history impinges directly on the time of its writing.
Döblin's Berlin novels, beginning with Wadzek, are a progression in which the relation of the individual to society becomes increasingly real and urgent. November 1918 is the culmination of that progression. In the essays that provide the theoretical underpinning for his novels, we can trace the course of Döblin's thinking about the social role of fiction. In the "Berlin Program" of 1913, he declared imaginative writing to be a "public affair" but promoted, in the "style of stone," a stark confrontation between the reader and a "reality liberated from soul." The author's hegemony was broken; he became nothing but a medium through which "reality" flowed. By 1929, in "The Structure of the Epic Work," Döblin had modified his position to allow the authorial narrator to take an active role, as in Berlin Alexanderplatz, where he explores along with his hero his own place in society. Finally, in the essay "Der historische Roman und wir" (The Historical Novel and Us), written the year before he began November 1918, Döblin formulated the conjunction of the personal and the political we have already seen in Men without Mercy, calling the modern novel a "special report of personal and social reality" (AzL 176). He concedes
even more authority to his narrator, who is now "not motivated by an impulse of illusory objectivity, but rather by the only authenticity that exists for individuals in this world: by the partisanship of the active person " (AzL 182, emphasis in original).
More clearly than ever before, Döblin had a social and political purpose in mind with November 1918, and that purpose was nothing less than to examine the origin of the German disaster in the twentieth century, and to ask what the individual could have done to prevent it. At one point, the subtitle of the tetralogy was to have been "Berlin November 1918,—In Warning and In Memoriam" (Zur Warnung und Erinnerung ) (Briefe 269). Moreover, Döblin's "partisanship of the active person" meant something more than just his life-long sympathy for the poor and the exploited. In the midst of writing November 1918, Döblin experienced a personal and religious crisis that led to his formal conversion to Roman Catholicism in 1941, just before beginning Karl and Rosa, the final volume of the tetralogy. Even the first three volumes reflect his impending turn to Christianity.
November 1918 is substantially different from both Berlin Alexanderplatz and Men without Mercy in the way it frames its fiction in a social and political context. While it resembles the latter novel in its conjunction of the personal and the political and in a central hero who is representative of the middle class, it has abandoned the abstract anonymity of time and place that weakens Men without Mercy . The structure and narrative method of November 1918 at least superficially hearken back to Döblin's masterpiece Berlin Alexanderplatz . In addition, a connection between the two novels is suggested by the identical initials of their heroes (Franz Biberkopf and Friedrich Becker) and by Döblin's own remarks in the late essay "Epilog": "My intention was to lay out the old landscape and to have a man move through it, a sort of Manas and Franz Biberkopf (the probe), in order to experience and test himself (me)" (AzL 394). This sentence also points to the unusually close identification of Döblin himself with Friedrich Becker. Like Berlin Alexanderplatz, November 1918 features a montage-like multiplicity of characters and documentary details that surround the narrative of the central character.
But the superficial similarity between the two novels is misleading. Rather than to Berlin Alexanderplatz, November 1918 bears resemblance to the multiple and mutually independent narrative strands of Hermann Broch's Huguenau oder die Sachlichkeit (Huguenau or Ob-
jectivity) and Anna Seghers's Die Toten bleiben jung (The Dead Stay Young), two other German novels that try to come to grips with the legacy of world war and revolution. Friedrich Becker, the wounded veteran and high school teacher, is less constantly the center of his novel than is Franz Biberkopf. The suggestive referentiality of the montage in Berlin Alexanderplatz raises Biberkopf's life to exemplary and tragic significance. Becker's life, although also meant to be exemplary, is lived out in counterpoint to a great historic tragedy. The Becker narrative is interwoven with numerous parallel narratives of both historical and fictional figures who in one way or another invite comparison to him: Rosa Luxemburg, Karl Liebknecht, Erwin Stauffer, Hans Maus. The parallel lives only fleetingly hinted at in Berlin Alexanderplatz are treated in extenso in November 1918; there is no clearer example of the concatenation of the personal, the sexual, and the political than the novel's portrayal of Rosa Luxemburg.
The structure of Berlin Alexanderplatz is determined by three increasingly severe blows of fate against Franz Biberkopf; its time frame is 1927–28, a year chosen at random by the narrator. By contrast, the structure of November 1918 is provided by the political crises of the German revolution, and its chronology adheres closely to the historical record. The first novel of the tetralogy, Soldiers and Citizens, begins on November 10, 1918, the day after Kaiser Wilhelm II abdicated and fled to Holland, the first day of the first German Republic. The second novel, Verratenes Volk (A People Betrayed), ends with the aborted right-wing putsch of December 6, 1918, and its attendant killing of left-wing demonstrators by government troops. The third novel, Heimkehr der Fronttruppen (The Troops Return), springs forward in time to end with the Versailles peace conference and the death of Woodrow Wilson. The fourth, Karl und Rosa, reaches its climax in the murders of Karl Liebknecht and Rosa Luxemburg on January 15, 1919. The narration of Friedrich Becker's final years, which follows these murders, is a kind of postlude whose legendary tone and hazy chronology burst the bounds of the tightly controlled and detailed treatment of time in the bulk of the tetralogy. We will examine this postlude below, when we take up the religious aspect of the novel. For the vast majority of the tetralogy, as in the fictional revolution of Men without Mercy, Döblin lets the public, historical dimension of his theme provide the framework for the individual life of the hero. Becker's fate is important as it relates to the fate of the revolution.
Although the German revolution began with a sailors' mutiny in the Baltic and North Sea ports, its fate was to be decided in the capital, Berlin, and it is there that most of November 1918 takes place. We need to ask how the image of the city is transformed by this explicit historical dimension.
Most of Soldiers and Citizens, the first volume of the "Berlin novel" November 1918, is in fact set far from Berlin. The tetralogy begins in a small, unnamed Alsatian town on the periphery of the German Revolution. This beginning has partly autobiographical origins: Döblin himself was stationed in the Alsatian town of Haguenau at the end of World War I and experienced the end of the war and the beginning of the revolution from this vantage point. He wrote about it in a 1919 feuilleton entitled "Revolutionstage in Elsass" (Days of Revolution in Alsace; SPG 59–71). This essay contains many scenes and figures later incorporated into the fiction of Soldiers and Citizens .
More important, it also shows that the officer Alfred Döblin was initially just as nonplussed by and contemptuous of the revolution as his hero Friedrich Becker at the beginning of November 1918 . What he reported in Haguenau was primarily the petty greed and hypocrisy of the local population and the naiveté of the German soldiers who are simply glad that the war is over: "They don't intend to be chewed out by the officers anymore, that's over and done with. And if somebody is late returning from leave, he won't be locked up anymore. That was all" (SPG 60). "Early in the morning my orderly has disappeared with twenty marks; that's how they're celebrating the revolution" (SPG 63).
Döblin sets the first volume of the tetralogy in Alsace not only because of these memories, but because this microcosmic setting gives him the opportunity to focus on miniature "revolutions" of naiveté, greed, and self-interest without having his story overwhelmed by the immensity of Berlin. But this means that Döblin's hero Friedrich Becker reaches the same provisional conclusion about the revolution that Döblin himself did in his 1919 essay. A marching group of Socialist voters struck the writer as participants in "a small-scale club affair" (SPG 70); Becker calls a similar group "churchgoers" (November 1:194). The revolution is examined skeptically in its smallest constituents before it has even got properly underway.
In the first volume, the metropolis toward which the soldiers and
civilians of the small town look is not Berlin, "the gigantic, gray and dreary city" (November 3:17; Woods 1:315), but Strasbourg, repeatedly apostrophized as lovely and charming (November 1:118, 129, 176; November 2:39; Woods 1:30). Although this formulaic characterization is challenged by the arrival of a delegation of sailors from Kiel to form an Alsatian Soldiers' Soviet, Strasbourg remains too bourgeois and Francophile to succumb to the German revolutionary fever: "This Alsace, their dear homeland, proved to be a hard nut for the revolutionaries to crack. . . . The city rejected what it didn't want with cold determination" (November 1:218, 221). The characterization of Strasbourg as "lovely," however, is not primarily a political and social designation but rather serves to identify the city with a particular character, the nurse Hilde from the military hospital where Becker lies wounded. She is a native of Strasbourg, and when she returns to the city after the chaotic evacuation of the small town, she feels both an inner peace and unity of mind and body. Through the fluid imagery of the narrator, Hilde is joined to the city itself and becomes its genius loci:
For an unimaginably long time, since her childhood, she had not felt so in possession of her limbs, such a reconciliation between her body and her feelings. She strolled pensively along the little gray-green river.
And as she walked along and moved her body, she became wedded to the slow, opaque current, to the old Church of St. Nicolas. At the Kaufhausgasse, she turned in toward the center of the city and was drawn along the Küfergasse. . . .
She had lived four years on the edge of death.
Now her former life rushed back upon her, with a vague sense of well-being she flowed toward her former life.
The center around which this city stands—both the actual center and the metaphorical center for the believing Catholic Hilde—is the medieval cathedral, where she goes to pray even before going home. Her religion is one of pure devotion and surrender:
What did she feel as she left the Kammerzellhaus and ventured out onto the square, the huge building above her, beside her? She approached a gigantic, protective, overshadowing being. Nothing in her but thankfulness, happiness and rapture. . . . the cathedral took her to itself, the dark, gigantic hall seized her and enclosed her. Out of her overflowing heart she . . . wished to pour out and surrender the excess of strength and happiness that she felt.
As is to be expected in light of Döblin's treatment of women, Hilde's pure surrender has connotations other than the purely religious. Indeed, there is a great deal of unresolved ambiguity in this character, as we shall see. Here it suffices to say that the correlate of Hilde's religious devotion is her sexual surrender. In the final days of the garrison town, she has loved a dying pilot, bestowed sexual favors on Friedrich Becker, and been raped by his friend Lieutenant Maus. In Strasbourg she will soon be confronted with her prewar lover Bernhard; she had become an army nurse to escape from her sadomasochistic relationship with him. Behind this affair looms the figure of Frau Anny Scharrel (November 1:328ff.), Bernhard's aunt and an embarrassingly conventional femme fatale: "Frau Scharrel was still beautiful, exotic. . . . It was evident that southern blood flowed in the veins of Frau Scharrel" (November 1:329).
Thus Döblin's fictional Strasbourg, through its identification with the character Hilde, becomes a two-sided image: charming and naively devout, but also bourgeois and treacherously sensual. We will take up the theme of sensuality below. For the theme of revolution, however, Strasbourg is a dead end, because it would soon be occupied and annexed by the victorious French, an event that the socialist mayor Peirotes accepts with resignation while the bourgeoisie looks forward to it with unconcealed delight. The true revolutionaries leave in disgust for Berlin (November 1:292).
The shift in Döblin's conception of his task as a novelist that is suggested by the phrase "partisanship of the active person" is clearly evident in the way he treats Berlin in November 1918 . We have already seen how the geography of the city in Men without Mercy is ideologically organized. November 1918 continues this process, but now in a much more convincing way. From small details of technique to programmatic statements about the city, the novel places the fictional city in the service of its view of the revolution and, ultimately, of its Christian faith.
Let us first compare the montage of Berlin Alexanderplatz with the use of documentary material in the tetralogy. Like the earlier novel, November 1918 makes extensive use of such documents as speeches, newspaper articles, handbills, and popular songs. In Berlin Alexanderplatz such material is mounted into the text without narrative mediation. It is the direct representation of urban multiplicity that the nar-
rator as well as the reader must confront and come to terms with in the course of the novel. The montage elements are in principle anonymous and thus available to everyone rather than being simply the private experience of one particular character.
November 1918 is much more conventional in the way it incorporates such material into the text. Here, documentary texts are almost always tied to a specific character, situation, and narrative intention. In Soldiers and Citizens , for instance, a long list of copper and brass household articles to be impounded for use in wartime production is perused with profound Schadenfreude by an old man whose wife is simultaneously looting the abandoned barracks (November 1:92–95). Similarly, a young hatmaker reads through a pile of old newspapers. The narrator cuts back and forth in the style of Berlin Alexanderplatz among reports from the front, classified advertisements, and a serialized romantic novel (November 1:102–5). But the entire passage, like the list of impounded articles, serves the narrative intention of underlining the irony of the German defeat: "A German lady who was paying up her account had left her a pile of newspapers. The lady had collected them as souvenirs of victory, but now there was no victory, only the newspapers" (November 1:102). The narrator of Berlin Alexanderplatz never gives us this kind of explicit interpretation of his documents.
Newspapers, the quintessentially urban sources of information that Döblin had often praised in the 1920s as "the daily bread of all people" (AzL 288) and had used extensively in Berlin Alexanderplatz , are regarded with much more skepticism in the tetralogy. To be sure, much of the narrative of November 1918 is based on contemporary newspaper reports. Manfred Auer has spoken of the "omnipresence of sources" to characterize Döblin's use of documentary material to chronicle the course of the German revolution. He emphasizes that while Döblin bases his narrative of events on the reports of largecirculation, liberal newspapers like the Berliner Tageblatt , his evaluation of those events is much more indebted to the newspapers of the radical left, especially to Die Rote Fahne , the organ of the Spartacists. Within the fiction, and especially in Soldiers and Citizens , newspapers become a motif of misdirection, of the abuse of public credulity, a screen of unreality between an event and its significance. The German press had consistently misled the people about the progress of the war. After the cease-fire, the druggist of the Alsatian town flatters his vanity
by publicly reading the latest newspapers from Strasbourg that exult in the German defeat (November 1:35–37). One of Becker's first acts after he is introduced into the novel is to order an "auto-da-fé" (November 1:111), the burning of the newspapers from which his friend Maus reads him the shameful conditions of the ceasefire. Maus, clinging desperately to his newspapers, cannot see beyond his outrage at Germany's shame, while Becker categorically rejects these immediate "truths" (November 1:110) for the greater truth that the war is over, thereby becoming, paradoxically, "the victor" (November 1:111).
November 1918 contains none of the large-scale city montages that articulate the structure of Berlin Alexanderplatz and make Berlin itself a character in the novel. We have seen how the city montage at the beginning of book 2 of Berlin Alexanderplatz allows the city to speak for itself in a multitude of voices. It is up to the reader, in the course of the novel, to construct the significance of the city from such data. In the tetralogy, Berlin is initially an emblem of uncertainty, seen first through the eyes of the returning soldier Hans Maus and wrapped in a symbolic fog (November 1:235, 236). When the narrator at last gives us an overview of the city, it is in the context of a particular historical event, the funeral of the proletarian victims of the first few days of revolutionary street fighting. It is the bird's eye view of an omniscient and controlling narrator with a specific agenda in mind:
Thousands of people crowded the sidewalks and hung from the windows. The black, solemn, threatening procession trundled past them like a giant bowl of food, and they sniffed at it. For this was a mighty city, stretching for miles in all directions, with long streets, poor ones and rich ones, lined with decaying and new buildings, innumerable gray apartment blocks, flanked by dark courtyards, added wings, and connecting buildings. Here factories and workshops, shops, warehouses, slaughterhouses, dairies had developed. Gas lines, electric lines had been laid, water lines, sewers connected the buildings. Subways, streetcars, buses traveled incessantly back and forth in the city, telephone lines stretched between people in different parts of the city, they could talk to each other from their rooms. They had gradually created something called a metropolis, with hard work, with stubborn effort, it had come into being by the work of their hands, through their indefatigable diligence. For they worked, worked beyond all bounds, knew only work, desired only work, thirsted and hungered for work alone. If they felt natural hunger and thirst, they considered them a nuisance, disposed of them, and devoted themselves again to their urge to work. They hung around gloomily when they couldn't find work. They schemed at making money. Many desired honor, luxury, and those too were motives to work. To whip themselves up and because they didn't know what was
happening to them, they became absorbed in the clamor of the newspapers, that gave them feelings of irritation, hate, rancor, occasionally enjoyment, malicious joy. They went to the movies and the screen showed them love, beauty and adventure. In the streets they were confronted with prostitution. They went to the circus and watched boxers knock each other down.
They lined the sidewalks by the thousands and gaped. Led by a band, the majestic, gigantic beast of public life, the open-mouthed dragon, crawled past them. They had experienced the howling, flag-waving giants of the war; skeptically they watched the new monster—the revolution that looked so much like war.
Here the event of the funeral gives rise not to a montage, but to a narrative critique of the modern capitalist metropolis whose inhabitants are enslaved by their need to work and narcotized into acceptance of their lot by the newspapers and cheap entertainments that supply them with second-hand emotions. Although the description of the city is generalized (it could apply to any large industrial city), its intent is to provide an explanation for the outbreak of revolution.
Collectively, the inhabitants have built the city in its innumerable parts, but they have lost control of their lives. Their communality is a false one, the "gigantic beast of public life" that Döblin had attacked as a "Moloch" even before his exile (UD 418–21). At the end of Berlin Alexanderplatz , Franz Biberkopf watches anonymous masses, of indeterminate political persuasion, march past his gatekeeper's window. He seems determined to avoid being absorbed by them, to seek his own kind of solidarity with the "proper comrades" apart from any particular party. The metropolis is a microcosm, ceaselessly generating the raw material out of which Biberkopf must construct his new life. How he will accomplish this is left tantalizingly open. In the tetralogy, the marching masses have acquired specific political identity but Berlin has in a sense become anonymous, a somewhat abstract backdrop before which the tragedy of revolutionary failure will be played out.
Volume 2 of the tetralogy, A People Betrayed , opens with a somewhat more specific panoramic description of the city that again clearly serves a specific historical, explanatory intention on the part of the narrator.
Berlin was a proliferation of buildings sprawling low and somber across the sand of Mark Brandenburg. A shabby excuse for a stream, the Spree, flowed between them. The little river took on an iridescent black from the sewage emptied into it, buildings turned their backs on it,
sheds and coalyards lined its banks. In the Hansa district near the zoo the world surrounding its murky, proletarian waters opened up somewhat, and it caught a glimpse of trees and boats and was glad to leave behind the heaps of stone that were the source of the refuse. But for some distance out onto the plain the poor river was hemmed in again by industry, by complexes as big as cities, where still more men and women toiled inside.
The city of Berlin spread out across sand that long ages before had lain at the bottom of the sea. Where fish once swam, men lived now, and in such numbers and on such poor soil that the majority of them were in want, barely eking out their lives by drudgery. To the north, south and east of the city, in a great circumferential band, stood factories erected to supply distant cities and countries. Many of them had been built during the war—the one that had lasted from 1914 to 1918 and now was lost—and many others had been converted to war production. But the war was over. What was to be done with the factories? Neither their owners nor the city had the money to convert them to peacetime production. There were eager buyers, but none who could pay while trade with the outside world was closed off.
So strikes broke out. The hatred of the workers for their employers exploded. There was an immediate danger that they would occupy the factories.
(November 2:9; Woods 1:5)
Again, the narrator views the city from above, as it were, enabling him to summarize it as a polluted, industrial city filled with impoverished workers on the brink of radical political action. This overview is especially important here at the beginning of the middle two volumes, in which the narrative of the failed revolution is most prominent. The growth of the city is characterized by the use of the words Häuser-wucherung and wucherte ("proliferation of buildings" and "spread out"). The verb wuchern denotes wild, rank growth; the nominalized form Wucherung also has the meaning of "tumor," "cancerous growth." Cities in November 1918 are not heterogeneous microcosms like the Berlin of Berlin Alexanderplatz . The tendency is rather to reduce them to unambiguous significance. When the narrative imagery identifies Hilde with the peaceful flow of Strasbourg's "gray-green river," the city becomes an emblem of inner peace and unity between the works of man and nature. This significance finds its natural expression in Hilde's devotions in the Strasbourg cathedral, the center of the city. In the Berlin panorama quoted above, the "murky proletarian waters" of the Spree are the polluted emblem of the shattering of the unity of man and nature (a unity proclaimed as an article of faith in Unser Dasein ) by modern industry and technology. Berlin "spreads out" like a cancer over its buried and forgotten geologic past. Later in
A People Betrayed , the personified Spree has a monologue in which its waves yearn to leave the city and reach the open country. A woman's suicide in the river is its only connection with the city's inhabitants:
How right she is not to want to join in all that commotion up there. We couldn't bear it either. Why do they all come to us looking so serious? They lose their minds up there.
And now we will swim peacefully on out to the tall pines and the gentle hills. We will receive morning, noon and evening, when the sun brings them out to us, and we will enjoy the clouds and all the many stars that the night plays with.
(November 2:205; Woods 1:166)
This passage harks back to the metaphor of the river of death in "On Heavenly Mercy" and to other early stories like "Die Segelfahrt" (The Sailboat Ride), in which drowning is a means of reunification with nature. It also anticipates the end of the tetralogy, in which the bodies of the two main protagonists, Rosa Luxemburg and Friedrich Becker, are both cast into the water.
The emblematic intent of Döblin's portrayals of Berlin in November 1918 reaches its culmination in the third volume of the tetralogy, The Troops Return . The return of the mass of frontline troops to the capital city, beginning on December 10, 1918, appropriately provides the title for the entire volume, for the event brings to a head the struggle for control of the new German Republic. The Ebert regime, in collaboration with the officers of the General Staff, hopes to use these troops to crush the left-wing Spartacist radicals once and for all, while the leftists plan to agitate among the returning soldiers and convert them to the revolutionary cause.
Döblin presents the entry of the troops into Berlin in a magnificent set piece in which the geography of the city becomes charged with political meaning (November 3:152–58; Woods 1:409–14). The divisions begin their march, bands in the vanguard, in the West End, the well-to-do section of Berlin. There they are greeted with wild enthusiasm, showered with flowers by the cheering, singing populace. Both soldiers and onlookers wave the black, white, and red flag of the defunct Empire. When they reach the Brandenburg Gate, they have penetrated to the heart of the imperial city, but it is now metaphorically empty, inadequately filled by the presence of Friedrich Ebert, the new head of state, "a small rotund man in a heavy coat" (November 3:154; Woods 1:411). Immediately upon his appearance, the satiric
tone takes over the narrative, apparent in the increasingly mordant substitutes Döblin invents to replace the phrase "he said":
"Welcome to the German Republic," Ebert shouted. "Welcome home." And as he saw fit, he gave them a mixture of words of welcome, political commentary and admonition.
He flattered the troops. "You could march home with your heads held high. Never have men achieved greater things."
He wooed the soldiers spiritedly, but they, to the extent they heard anything at all, did not think much of the whole affair.
"Your sacrifices have been unparalleled," the brand-new head of state disclosed to them. "No enemy has conquered you. Only when the superiority of the opponent's numbers and materiel became too crushing did you cease to struggle."
Then he rubbed their noses in what had occurred in the meantime.
The old rulers, who lay like a curse upon our noble deeds, have been shaken off by the German people. The hope of German freedom lies now with you. Our unfortunate nation has grown poor. Our task is to rebuild for the future.
Toward the end he let a few words fall about a "socialist republic" that would be a "homeland of hard work." He then called for a cheer for "the German fatherland, for a free and democratic Germany"; the cheers, however, were restricted to the immediate area around the platform.
(November 3 : 155–56; Woods 1 : 412)
As the immense crowd gradually dissipates, the troops march off to their barracks. But now they march through the proletarian neighborhoods in the east and north of the city. Here the flags are red—not black, white, and red—and the onlookers regard the soldiers with silent distrust and even mockery. They are suddenly seen stripped of their military glory, "like some fetish from the jungle, with spears and rattles" (November 3 : 157; Woods 1 : 413).
The satirical deflation of military glory achieved by ideologizing the geography of the city is continued through the simple narrative device of repetition: twice more in the following days, contingents of front-line troops enter the city, and each time is an occasion for the narrator to repeat the symbolic march through the city in increasingly abbreviated form. By the second repetition, the satiric scene disintegrates into horribly vivid flashes of combat memories. Döblin still has the sudden shift of narrative tense and tone and the film-like cuts of Berlin Alexanderplatz at his command, but now the psychological truth they convey is simultaneously a political truth about the sources of both the revolution and of the counterrevolution which would crush it.
They rattled into town, marched in, trumpets blowing: the 4th Guard Infantry Division, the 1st Guard Regiment, the 5th Guard Infantry Regiment and the Reserve Infantry Regiment No. 93. The tread was sharp as they passed through the Zoological Garden in the winter rain.
The war had left its mark on these men. Their bodies were emaciated, their faces stern and morose. They could still hear the cracking of rifle shots, the barking of machine guns, the boom of the heavy shells. Every man of them was armed with hand grenades. The muzzles of their machine guns glow, the steam hisses from drain pipes, bring water tanks, bring water.
Heavy artillery is stationed over in that village, the red cloud of smoke, a man is screaming, why doesn't he stop? Someone get over there fast, he's gone crazy. Direct hit.
Home again you'll start anew, live again as you once did, find a wife so fair and true, and Santa Claus will bring a kid. . . .
Brandenburg Gate. The speaker's platform. And some guy is standing up there in a top hat beside a high-ranking officer, and he mumbles, "You have returned undefeated."
(November 3 : 231–32; Woods 1 : 460–61)
As the religious core of the tetralogy emerges more and more clearly in the figure of Friedrich Becker, Berlin as a presence within the novel fades in importance. Döblin's project in Berlin Alexanderplatz was to reach the universal by way of the most careful attention to particulars; he needed the metropolis as the most intense and concentrated possible collection of details of modern life. It is precisely these details surrounding Biberkopf that make him a vibrant and plausible figure. The first volume of November 1918, written before Döblin's conversion (although already anticipating it in the visionary figure of Johannes Tauler), is the richest in both parallel narratives of relatively equal importance and in its loving attention to minute detail. As Döblin's Christian faith begins to manifest itself more strongly in the subsequent volumes, it provides the universal framework, ready-made, that Berlin Alexanderplatz can only suggest at its conclusion. Döblin explained the process in retrospect: "The clarification was complete. My standpoint was a given. A different world view, a different way of thought had begun" (AzL 395). In these circumstances, the particulars of metropolitan life are less important, because they are no longer at issue. The partisan narrator now has no need for them except as they reflect and underline his two major and interlocking concerns: "Two things ran along beside each other: the tragic petering out of the German revolution of 1918 and the dark distress of [Friedrich Becker]. He faces the question of how in the world he is to reach the point of ac-
tion" (AzL 394), especially as a believing Christian. The personalized "author," in one of his periodic programmatic narrative deliberations, states unequivocally that as far as the religious theme is concerned, all settings are of equal value:
We will try to hold our peace while [the characters from the Alsatian town of volume 1] do battle with their consciences and ultimately, whether we want to or not, we will be swept along in their wrestlings with Satan, in their strivings after God.
It is all the same whether in trying to reassure ourselves we use the mirror of a large city or a small town.
(November 2 : 306; Woods 1 : 228)
The drama of Becker's conversion occurs in Berlin but is played out almost exclusively in the seclusion of his room, his "laboratory" (November 3 : 219; Woods 1 : 454). When his friend Maus persuades him to venture out to a political meeting, Becker calls him "my Mephisto" (November 3 : 29; Woods 1 : 325). We will discuss the Faust parallel below. Here it suffices to say that he is a recluse who leaves his room with the utmost reluctance. The outward reason for Becker's reclusion is that he is still convalescing from a serious wound, but the deeper reason is that he cannot confront both the political turmoil of the city and his own personal "demon" (November 3 : 18; Woods 1 : 316) simultaneously. Only after his private struggle with the devil and his conversion in The Troops Return is he ready to test his new faith among others.
He does, however, make occasional sorties out of the apartment, and one of these shows clearly the change in the role of the city from Berlin Alexanderplatz to November 1918 . Toward the end of the second volume, Becker goes to a military hospital for a checkup and carries away with him what the narrative explicitly calls a "cheerful image" (November 2 : 360; Woods 1 : 259). In the wounded soldiers lying forty to a ward and swathed in bandages, attended by doctors and nurses, Becker discerns the old, positive image of the colony of social insects: "It was an ant colony. The teeming masses of little creatures took care of their larva [sic ] inside parchment wrappings, fussed over them, set them out in the warm sun" (November 2 : 360; Woods 1 : 259).
As Becker walks home from the hospital, he observes the everyday life of the streets. It is "touching and pleasant" and seems to "fit" the image of the ant colony:
Women were washing windows. An old woman walked past with a pram. Two men were taking a rest on a bench. The tram rang its bell merrily as it passed.
People had built all of this by working together. They had sat down together and drawn up a plan and tried it out, and now it works and they live in these houses and ride in these cars along tracks.
(November 2 : 360–61; Woods 1 : 259–60)
It is the image of the good city, the city whose inhabitants live together in peaceful interdependence, like ants in their colony. This image seems to be confirmed in the next moment, when Becker is accidentally knocked down by a bicyclist and a Polish Jew helps him to his feet and stays with him until he has recovered. The image of ant larvae being cared for is now connected to this particular helper figure, "one example of the many forms of help people offer to one another when they live peaceably together. For they form circles, rings and chains, great rounds of dancers, as if listening to music" (November 2 : 362; Woods 1 : 261). This passage seems to push the utopianism of the "good city" too far: it is almost immediately shattered when the Jew tells Becker of a recent pogrom in Lvov from which he has fled to Berlin.
Otto Keller has shown how the story of Stefan Zannowich, told to Franz Biberkopf by a similar Ostjude in Berlin Alexanderplatz, is meant to serve as an exemplum for Biberkopf, a prefiguration of his own fall through hubris, but one that he misunderstands and ignores. Becker's encounter with the Jews lacks this kind of global significance in the tetralogy. In fact, it seems at best a sort of half-hearted self-quotation on Döblin's part, especially when one compares the sparse dialogue in this scene with the sense of vibrant Hasidic oral tradition in the story of Stefan Zannowich.
In November 1918, the image of the good city filled with helpers does not really come alive in the figure of the Jew, because it is only a transition from the negative, polluted, capitalist metropolis to something else. It is significant that within the anthill metaphor, Becker identifies himself with the larvae, the inchoate forms ready to metamorphose. His tutelary saint Johannes Tauler speaks to him in a dream: "The pupa in its cocoon, the thin skin rips open. How long still, until the skin rips open and you must leave the cocoon" (November 2 : 370; Woods 1 : 267).
The inadequacy of the anthill metaphor and the good city it repre-
sents becomes clear when one considers another passage reminiscent of Berlin Alexanderplatz . Close to the end of Karl and Rosa, the last volume of the tetralogy, Friedrich Becker has been wounded in the fighting around the police headquarters, and lies under arrest in a prison hospital among other captured Spartacists. The nurse Hilde helps him to escape, and they stroll together in the center of Berlin. In its situation and position within the novel, the passage is very like Biberkopf's reunion with the Alexanderplatz after his release from the psychiatric ward. The narrator of Berlin Alexanderplatz assures us that the teeming life of the city can "help a man get on his feet, even if he is a bit weak, provided his heart is in good condition" (BA 495, EJ 627). Becker is similarly elated to be free in the city: "What bliss just to be alive. There was the square with its teeming humanity. The trolleys and cars drove merrily up and down" (November 4 : 567; Woods 2 : 468). Yet the everyday life of the city does not help Becker "get on his feet," nor does he any longer use the metaphor of the ant colony. Now the men in hospital beds are Spartacists, waiting helplessly for the club to fall.
Since his vision of the good city in volume 2, he has both been converted to Christianity and made a spontaneous decision to fight on the side of the revolutionaries in police headquarters. Now the everyday life of the city is perceived as a veneer of normalcy and insouciance that allows the populace to ignore the murder of the Spartacist prisoners, the death of the revolution, and the imminent murders of Karl Liebknecht and Rosa Luxemburg: "They held their newspapers before their noses, and what terrible things were printed there, all of it happening a quarter hour away from them. They'll read about me this evening. The wounded were lying in Moabit Hospital and in the barracks the prisoners were waiting for the blow of the club" (November 4 : 568; Woods 2 : 468). The possibility of a good city filled with helpers proves too insubstantial in the face of the tragic historical situation. The city is reproached and its destruction foretold by a long quote from the prophet Jeremiah: "The whole city shall flee for the noise of the horsemen and bowmen; they shall go into thickets, and climb up upon the rocks" (November 4 : 568; Woods 2 : 468).
It is appropriate that Jeremiah is evoked here, in Becker's final appearance in book 8 of Karl and Rosa . Its last three chapters are devoted to the murders of Liebknecht and Luxemburg, and then in book 9, the last of the novel and the tetralogy, Becker reappears, after
a hiatus of three years, as himself a latter-day Jeremiah. We will treat this legendary epilogue below. Here suffice it to say that at the end, the city Becker attains, the city toward which the whole tetralogy has moved, is the heavenly Jerusalem, promised him by the angel Antoniel:
The holy city, it lies afar, no man can take it by force.
The holy city beyond the mountains, beyond the snowy peaks. It lies there, showered in flower petals. All the blood of the martyrs and saints rains down upon it. The city lies afar, the hovel of God.
(November 4 : 661; Woods 2 : 547)
The difference between the treatment of the city theme in Berlin Alexanderplatz and in November 1918 is related to differences in the character of the narrative voice that speaks within each novel. By turns satirical, historical-documentary, naturalistic, realistic, grotesque, and explicitly religious, November 1918 is in its narrative style a much more heterogeneous work than Berlin Alexanderplatz . We have seen that although the earlier novel makes an initial impression of a babel of narrative voices, upon closer reading a consistent narrative stance emerges. The narrator of Berlin Alexanderplatz is a monteur who carefully arranges the multitudinous fragments of urban reality, carries on a dialogue with his hero Franz Biberkopf, and gradually becomes identified with the figure of Death. Moreover, the end of the novel makes clear that the narrative standpoint coalesces with that of Biberkopf, that the narrator is in the end no more foresightful than his hero.
The narrator of November 1918 is both more and less traditional than the narrator of Berlin Alexanderplatz . On the one hand, he has the mannerisms and attitude of the traditional omniscient narrator. Typical of such mannerisms is his frequent use of the first person plural, whose effect is to create a conspiracy between the narrator and the reader at the expense of the independence of the fictional characters. Here, for instance, is the old porter's wife, Mother Hegen, as she participates in the looting of the abandoned German barracks in the small Alsatian town that is the setting for Citizens and Soldiers: "Our quiet old woman, the wife of the pastor's porter, where do we find her? The woman who punctually looked after the blind Captain for a decade and carefully collected horse manure from the street, annoyed at any
disturbance in her routine—what had gotten into her? What a transformation at her age, a revolution in miniature" (November 1 : 140). As we shall see, the satire of such a personal "revolution in miniature" becomes a leitmotif. The narrator's "we," intended ironically, ends up sounding patronizing.
In another remarkable passage in the first volume, the narrator positively rubs his character's nose in her dependence on his whims, and in the process reveals much about his own stance. He directly addresses Hanna, the daughter of respectable middle-class parents, as she weeps over the departure of her lover, a junior officer in the fleeing German garrison:
Why so nervous, dear child? Why make things so difficult for yourself? You've got too much imagination. And on the other hand, you don't have enough imagination, or you would know, for example, that you will soon stand up, look through the house in desperation for someone who can help you, with whom you can talk, and maybe even cry. . . .
And then an envirous and indignant creature within you will raise its head, and at its behest and urging you will put on your best coat, get your pretty boots, powder yourself, put on lipstick, don your hat and go to town. There you will drink hot chocolate, not look at the clock, and without noticing it, you will become more and more mellow until you're quite mellow indeed . . . The poet knows all this. It is nothing new for him, he almost always wanders about quietly like this, and within him, figures are forming, still vaguely, they move within him as if in a pleasant, moist garden, a hothouse, but after a while he opens the door—he has to, to make room for new ones—and they move out, he follows them, embraces them with a loving look, they disappear.
I predict, and I take my watch in my hand and can say to the second when you will stand up, tortured and confused, when you will go to the closet, open it, which coat you will choose. And I must admit, Fräulein Hanna, although I have taken part in your conversations and assignations in the most decent possible way, with the discretion proper to a narrator, that I am now delighted to see you get up, and commanding your body that is so delicate yet shapely, I will help to dress it—for I do help you to pull on your fur boots, I tug your hat into place in front of the mirror, I look into the mirror with you and dab your pert little nose with powder and accompany you along the street to carry you off from your grief.
(November 1 : 114–15)
In his theoretical statements about prose composition, and most notably in the essay "The Structure of the Epic Work," Döblin always stressed the inaccessibly subconscious origins of the work of art. In this passage, however, where the narrator characterizes himself as a
protean "poet" and preens himself on the fertility of the "pleasant, moist garden," the "hothouse" of his imagination, he puts Hanna, the product of that imagination, into her place with patronizing superiority. Unlike the narrator of Berlin Alexanderplatz , who only played with the idea of omniscient foresight in the passage on Max Rüst, this narrator can indeed foresee what is to come. This foresight is both his pride and his curse: in the fiction, his foresight is a function of his imaginative control over the narrative, as he makes abundantly clear in this passage, but in the context of the whole tetralogy, the privileged foresight of the narrator is his despairing knowledge of the revolution's failure, a fact he is powerless to change.
His pleasure in his power over the private lives of his fictional characters is all the more keen. The passage is an indication of a narrator whose primary pose, at least here at the beginning of the tetralogy, is that of the puppet-master disposing over the fates of his marionettes. In addition, it is not merely fortuitous that he chooses to make this statement apropos a female character. For all his protestations of decency and sympathy with the products of his imagination (he "embraces them with a loving look"), there is an element of indecency in his enjoyment of "commanding your body that is so delicate yet shapely." The verb in German is gebieten , which suggests only command and domination. But the omniscience that the narrator flaunts here is seldom so explicitly expressed (the passage is unique in the tetralogy for its use of the first person singular, thus drawing all the more attention to itself as a programmatic statement of narrative control). In fact, as the tetralogy progresses, many of the secondary narrative strands begun in the first volume, among them Hanna's, are simply dropped without being brought to a conclusion. The narrator concentrates more and more on his central character, Friedrich Becker, and on the historical figures for whom he has the most sympathy, Karl Liebknecht and Rosa Luxemburg. In the process, the pose of omniscience is gradually abandoned, so that among other things, the tetralogy is the record of a changing narrative stance.
Although the narrator of November 1918 is more omniscient and controlling than the narrator of Berlin Alexanderplatz , he is also more heterogeneous in his modes. His characterization of the world at the beginning of volume 3 also describes his method for encompassing that world in his fiction: "The world, howling with realities, sweating
facts in a thousand places at once, would not have been the world had it not produced a jumble of figures—mock-heroic ones, tragic ones, unsullied ones" (November 3 : 9; Woods 1 : 309). As we shall see, the narrator assigns his figures to such categories and then treats them in the appropriate mode: satire, tragedy, burlesque. Some historical figures like the Social-Democratic politicians Friedrich Ebert, Philipp Scheidemann, and Gustav Noske are presented only in fierce satire. Others, like Kurt Eisner, are treated with sympathy. Rosa Luxemburg, as we shall see, is made into a religious mystic and martyr. Curiously enough, Wilhelm Groener, Paul von Hindenburg, and the other officers of the General Staff are treated with restrained, objective realism. There are wonderfully funny grotesqueries and brutally straightforward descriptions of political assassinations. The metaphysical struggles of Friedrich Becker with the Devil alternate with the banal ladies'-magazine prose of the narrative of Erwin Stauffer.
Thus November 1918 is very different from Berlin Alexanderplatz or from a novel like Anna Seghers's Die Toten bleiben jung , in which all the characters, whatever their politics, are treated in the same realistic fashion by a narrator who refrains from any explicit declaration of sympathy. Döblin's tetralogy stands or falls with its technique of disjunct narrative. This technique is in one sense radically modern: it blocks any possibility of reading November 1918 as a chronicle of historical movement, like Seghers's novel, or as history in the process of becoming myth, like Thomas Mann's biblical tetralogy Joseph und seine Brüder , two novels also written in exile during the Third Reich. In November 1918 the chronicle of the German revolution is constantly shattered and thrown into question by the shifts in style.
But although the technique is modern, its problematic aspect is related to the traditional omniscient narrative stance so prominent in the first volume of the tetralogy. By treating different characters in different narrative modes, Döblin stacks the deck from the beginning, making clear his own sympathies and antipathies. His narrator, exercising the "partisanship" promoted in the essay "The Historical Novel and Us," controls the reader's response to a historical character like Ebert in the same overbearing way that he controls a fictional character like Hanna. Fully realized and complex characters like Becker and Rosa Luxemburg stand next to one-dimensional straw men like Ebert, Noske, and—on the positive side—Woodrow Wilson. To a certain ex-
tent the one-dimensionality of these latter figures compromises the credibility of the former. Let us look in more detail at the major groups of characters in the tetralogy and how our response to them is controlled by the narrative mode in which they are presented.
Döblin, like many other Weimar intellectuals, had been initially enthusiastic about the changes promised by the revolution: "If what is happening now, socialism, is carried to completion, if the disease is eradicated, then for the first time in history one can speak of real progress" (SPG 79). His disappointment was all the more bitter when the revolution failed to bring about a new society. The essays he wrote from 1919 to 1921 under the pseudonym Linke Poot were a caustic commentary on the failure of the political leadership to effect a real change in the militaristic German state that had plunged the country into the disastrous war. In fact, by 1927 his bitterness had reached the point where he declared himself glad that the revolution had been suppressed.
Döblin's condemnation of the political leadership, especially of the German Social-Democratic Party (SPD) had lost none of its bitterness by the time he wrote November 1918 . The mode in which the narrator treats the official caretakers of what Sebastian Haffner has called the "betrayed revolution" is savage satire. Friedrich Ebert in particular, as chairman of the SPD and leader of the provisional revolutionary government, comes in for Döblin's unmitigated scorn. Ebert's first major appearance in the tetralogy—at the beginning of the second novel, A People Betrayed —sets the tone for his treatment throughout. He is an unimaginative party functionary with petit-bourgeois aspirations, overwhelmed by the surroundings of the Imperial Chancellory in which he suddenly finds himself wielding power. His primary concern is to emulate what he considers the proper, statesmanlike behavior of his imperial predecessors:
The entrance and the removal of the coat still had not gone smoothly. They still handed him the portfolios instead of having the footman follow him in with them. These wretched comradely habits. As if they were still dealing with a meeting of the Party's executive committee on Lindenstrasse.
He sat down in the immense president's chair, where Prince Bismarck, the Iron Chancellor, had once sat. Our people can't learn any-
thing. But it's my fault, too. I have to learn not to hold my arms like that when they take off my coat. And then there's the way I walk and hold my head. . . . But suddenly he stood up, taken by a new and more pleasant thought, and began slowly, slowly to stride back and forth across the carpet, his head laid back, the smoking cigar in his mouth. He said to himself, always one step after the other, left—right, left—right, and never change your expression. When you're thinking, never change your expression. He cast his eyes around the room. Naturally, no mirror to check the effect in.
(November 2 : 28–29; Woods 1 : 21)
The scene is strongly reminiscent of Brecht's comic Hitler figure, Arturo Ui, who takes elocution lessons from a broken-down Shakespearean actor. For Ebert, the revolution has already been accomplished by bringing him and the SPD to power. His concern is not to carry out a real reform of the old order, which would mean breaking up and reorganizing the officers corps and the entrenched bureaucracy, but rather to stabilize and legitimize the status quo, to live up to the dignity of the office he has so abruptly been thrust into, to leave his party past behind him. This means that he perceives his enemies to be not the reactionary officers of the General Staff, but rather the socialists to his left, both the Independents with whom he shares power in the Council of People's Representatives, and the Spartacists under Karl Liebknecht and Rosa Luxemburg who have refused to participate in the government. That is why he feels the need to ally himself via a secret telephone line with Groener, Hindenburg, and the General Staff. He believes he needs their military might to keep the radicals of the Left in check. But at the same time, he knows he is caught in a dilemma. The generals are cooperating with him only as a matter of temporary convenience. They plan to gobble him up at the first opportunity: "I see and hear and know what Kassel is plotting against you, against us all, myself included, because they will no more spare me than the others—and we can do absolutely nothing to stop them, they'll scatter us all like a brood of hens" (November 2 : 154; Woods 1 : 124).
Although they appear throughout the tetralogy, Ebert and his colleagues never change, never grow (it should be kept in mind, of course, that the whole work lasts only two months). Their historical significance, like that of the generals with whom they are joined in a league of mutual distrust, fixes them into permanence. The narrator's ferocity, as we have noted, is directed more toward these feckless and
uninspired SPD politicians than toward the generals themselves, the real source of the reaction. The hostility of the generals to the revolution is a given; they are the incarnate resistance to any change toward a more just and peaceful social order. But it is Ebert and the others who betray their supposed ideals and the trust of the people. He and the temporizing USPD leaders are presented as largely responsible for the failure of the revolution and thus for the social and political deterioration leading to the rise of the Nazis. They commit a "crime against the nation and world peace" (November 4 : 318; Woods 2 : 279). It is a double crime, because they have both bungled the opportunity to begin a new and just society in Germany and laid the foundation for the much greater conflagration of the next war:
Today they would drive the nails from which they would hang the carcass of the mighty, floundering, bloodthirsty creature that wore a spiked helmet on its head and a monocle in its cynical, ugly face.
But as it turned out, the judges and executioners would stumble into the very trap they had laid, would get wrapped up in the noose they had tied. And the perpetrator of the crimes, believing that his own last hour had come, would use this moment to leap forward and tie the noose tight about the neck of his judge and executioner and string up his struggling victim—his victim once again—with all the energy in his practiced hands, string him up, and all with the assistance of the friends of the court. The court was made up of the current republican government, put in office by the revolution, of the ruling Social Democrats whom later generations would curse. The German revolution would hang by its own rope, and with it, though invisibly, millions of other people living in Europe, Asia and Africa."
(November 4 : 305–6; Woods 2 : 267–68)
In contrast to the treatment of the SPD politicians, Quartermaster General Groener and the other officers at the General Headquarters in Kassel are presented in the manner of the "new objectivity." The narrator primarily lets their own dialogue characterize them. They emerge as cold, cynical calculators, exploiting Ebert to preserve as much of their power as possible, waiting for the moment when they can crush the radical workers. Here is Major Kurt von Schleicher discussing Ebert with Colonel Haeften:
He's a reasonable man. He's been out mixing with people for decades and knows what's what.
Schleicher sniffed and replied, "Hm. Curious fellow. Saw him once in Spa with some other Reichstag fogeys who all wanted to get in to have a look at the grand motor-works as it were. Guided tours Mondays from
five to six, the management is not responsible for injury in case of accident."
Haeften: "You know him then."
Von Schleicher, a man in his mid-thirties, passed his hand over his bald head, his very lively eyes laughed. "Like the back of my hand. We appear to have made an almost sinfully good catch with him. I'm told two of his sons fell in the war. He's a sly, respectable fellow and he's got the socialists tied up in his sack. The good Lord heard our prayers after all. Lost the war, but won Herr Ebert."
(November 2:164–65; Woods 1:132)
The embodiment of this elite ruling caste is the old countess in Kassel, the "sibyl true to the Kaiser" as the narrator calls her, who presides over a salon for the officers of the General Headquarters. Now eighty-five years old, she was a member of the court of Kaiser Wilhelm I and his Kaiserin. The officers relate the legend that she refused to receive Napoleon III after the Battle of Sedan in 1870. She is no provincial Francophobe, however: "She told of the World Exposition in Paris in 1878. She had come across pictures of it today. What a city, Paris. What a wonderful charm it had. She had been there for the last time exactly twenty years before" (November 2:173–74; Woods 1:139). This incarnation of the traditions of the German nobility cannot forgive the officers their betrayal of the Kaiser nor their cooperation with Ebert and his colleagues, whose very name she cannot bear to speak: "I beg you to do me the kindness and explain to me what you feel when dealing with—those people" (November 2:178; Woods 1:143). She is much more idealistic than her younger guests, absolute in her loyalty to the imperial order and her contempt for the lower classes. In response to von Schleicher's Realpolitik regarding the need for the Kaiser to abdicate in order to preserve the Reich, she admonishes him: "Do not believe that the Reich is more important than the Kaiser, and that the Kaiser should perish if only the Reich may endure. The Reich has no life of its own without the Kaiser. The Reich grew with the Kaiser. Do not forget him there in Holland while you dirty you hands dealing with those people. I am afraid for you" (November 2:179; Woods 1:143).
It becomes clear, however, that this woman is no mere dusty fossil but in fact a "sibyl," a prophetess, when she reappears later in A People Betrayed . She demands a new Wallenstein, a leader who will violently and ruthlessly put down the radical rabble of the Left and reestablish the old order. She mocks the vacillating and demoralized
generals who are not hungry enough for power: "You are all courageous in battle, but afterward you're ninnies. . . . Power is no enticement. Your watchword is subordination" (November 2:265–66; Woods 1:200). Here the narrator probes to the center of the authoritarian ideology of the German ruling class by letting its own representatives articulate it. For all her scorn for the generals, the countess too makes herself an advocate of subordination by her call for a powerful leader. Von Schleicher's unspoken reaction to the countess's attack anticipates the advent of Hitler, who will ride to power on the ideology of subordination: "Von Schleicher sat there silent. A Wallenstein, someone who would make a grab for the imperial crown? Hindenburg? A mute paladin, at best a surrogate for someone else" (November 2:266; Woods 1:200).
A remarkable passage follows immediately upon this conversation, a passage that deepens the probe into the ruling ideology by exposing its psychosexual origins. After von Schleicher leaves, the countess retires to her bedroom where she drops her shawl over her face in order to induce a bloody, Dionysian vision, in anticipation of which she "rubbed her narrow lips together in excitement":
A battle of goats, black against a gray background, now and again a flash of lightning. The animals danced, leaped, shot past one another, collided in midair, locked horns, went at one another with their forelegs waving and rubbed brows together. They bleated and snorted. . . . The battle developed—now on the ground, now in the air—into a savage frenzy, the animals' horns grew with the pace, their black bristly bodies grew smoother. They slapped together like meat when they touched each other. They wallowed on the ground. Many of them lay there motionless. A stream of blood flowed from them.
(November 2:267; Woods 1:201)
Here Döblin makes use of a sudden shift of narrative style to great advantage. Up to now, the countess has been presented from objective distance as an irreproachably urbane grande dame and spiritual inspiration to the officers who frequent her salon. Now we suddenly see her from within, as she takes sexual delight in her private vision of orgiastic violence. She pants "enraptured" along with the goats, and as the sexual connotations of the vision become more and more explicit (the phallic horns grow in size, the bodies become smoother and slap together like meat), she achieves a sort of climax:
With great delight the old woman wadded up the cloth before her eyes, which now gave off only a blurred white gleam.
She was very weak, smiled and gazed at the shadowy wall. "Go to sleep now. You have played." Her nostrils were dilated.
She let herself fall limply against the high arm of the easy chair, breathing wearily. When she rang for the housekeeper and let herself be helped up out of the chair, her features were once more those of a delicate, attentive, serious old woman.
A charming smile illumined her face as she trembled there on the arm of her nurse.
(November 2:267–68; Woods 1:201–2)
It is the only passage in the novel where the narrator uncovers the hidden recesses in the psyche of a member of the ruling elite, and what he discovers there are the subconscious roots of its outwardly cold, calculated power politics: a sexual pleasure in violence and blood for their own sake. The passage thus is intimately connected to the violence of the suppression of the revolution and the brutal murders of Rosa Luxemburg and Karl Liebknecht in the fourth volume. The countess and the generals, in their cold and haughty menace, are beyond the reach of satire.
What of the initiator and motor of the revolution, the common people—soldiers and workers—whose main motivation was not to establish a socialist state, but to end the war and rid themselves of the yoke of militarism and exploitation? From his first volume, Döblin includes in his cast of characters members of the working class for whom the revolution initially means only the great relief that the war is over. The narrator at one point articulates their virtues: they are "solid, independent, skeptical, gregarious" (November 2:349; Woods 1:250). The first common soldier presented extensively is Bottrowski, a housepainter from Berlin who encounters his former company commander, Lieutenant von Heiberg, during the first, chaotic days of the revolution in Strasbourg. Bottrowski bears no resentment toward his former officer, but neither does he show him any particular respect. He likes him personally, but von Heiberg remains for him a representative of the officer corps. Bottrowski quite naturally adopts the familiar du , an unheard-of affront under the old regime, and invites von Heiberg into a tavern. There he explains his conception of the significance of the revolution:
You officers have lost the war and ruined the people. Watch us or walk on by: you've got nothing more to say, so keep your mouth shut. That's the safest thing you can do. Otherwise we'll have to go about this in a different way. You wonder why, Heiberg. That's because you're young
and don't know anything. If I ask my daughter, who's twelve years old, why we don't eat meat or send Mom to the country in the summer, because she needs it, then she just laughs at me, 'Dad, you must be crazy.' She thinks that's how things have got to be. When the war started, we housepainters and plasterers kept our mouths shut and went to the front when it was our turn, because there was nothing else we could do, and a lot of our union members were killed or are hobbling around with missing limbs and won't be climbing ladders any more. But now the war is over and you've lost the game. You, Heiberg. Because you belong with them, just like my daughter belongs with me, Heiberg, and now we can run things differently and things are going to change.
He turned his unshaven face toward Heiberg. He didn't look angry, just very determined, stern. Heiberg was almost bursting with suppressed fury.
The passage is a marvelously compressed reflection of the mood of the majority of the German army at the end of the war. Initially willing to be drafted (because after all, their representatives in the SPD also backed the war), they now realize how badly they were misled. The war was waged for the benefit of the elite and lost by the elite, at a terrible cost in death and suffering for the common troops. But now the revolution has ended the war, and it is up to the old ruling class to simply disappear. Their hour is past. Instead of camaraderie with his former officer, Bottrowski feels class solidarity with his daughter and his fellow workers. His dialogue is wonderful in its honesty and simplicity, but also tragic in its political naiveté. Heiberg hides his fury, but he will later join the mercenary Freikorps who continued fighting against the Bolsheviks in Poland and the Ukraine and would be used by Noske against the revolutionaries in Berlin itself.
Bottrowski is one of the very few working-class characters who figures prominently in Soldiers and Citizens . In this first volume, attention is focused on the largely bourgeois and petit-bourgeois population of the small town in Alsace. They are by and large fickle hypocrites who scramble to transfer their loyalties to the French when they realize that the Germans have been defeated. It is in the second novel, A People Betrayed , that the archetypical German proletarians are introduced in the persons of the Imker family, "Proles Among Themselves," as the chapter subtitle announces. Their family name suggests virtuous industry (Imker means "beekeeper"), and it is clear that Döblin is at pains to make them both exemplary members of the proletariat and representative of the split within the socialist camp between the major-
ity SPD and the radical Left. The father is a long-time SPD member and favors Ebert's plans for a constituent assembly and a democratic republic. The daughter and oldest child, Minna, has been radicalized by the revolution and favors the left wing of the dissident Independent Socialist Party (USPD) or Spartakus. The older brother wants to emigrate to South America. The younger brother, Ede, has just returned from the front with the Iron Cross second class and partial loss of his hearing. Like most of the returning troops, he is a blank slate politically, ready to be swayed either right or left. He sees no sense in the dispute between majority and radicals, can see no further than that the war is over: "We need peace and something on our plates. All the rest is trash. . . . As far as I'm concerned, I'm going to go get the civvies they're handing out on discharge and my fifty marks. And then I'll watch to see what everybody else is doing. At any rate I'm going to stash my rifle here at home" (November 2:80–81; Woods 1:61).
The Imkers are also typical of the ironies inherent in a war that had been supported by the SPD and a spontaneous revolution that took it by surprise. The family have had steady work during the war and have put their savings into war bonds. The end of the war, however, has brought economic hardship. Only the father is still working full time. Nevertheless, they are all glad the war is over and place their hopes for the future in the "socialist republic." Minna tells her brother Ede about a rally in the Circus Busch, a rally at which Ebert and Liebknecht could still appear together on the same podium: "'I—I cried, it was so beautiful. Someone said that no matter what peace may turn out to look like, it's better than going on with mass slaughter. Ed, I can still hear how they shouted and sang for a quarter of an hour, and the meeting couldn't even go on. . . . ' Even their nodded, and the mother's face showed she was touched" (November 2:77; Woods 1:58).
Here, if anywhere, is the verratenes Volk of the second volume's title, the people who will be "betrayed" by the political leadership. The narrator presents them with straightforward realism and obvious sympathy, and uses them throughout the remainder of the tetralogy as a standard of decency against which other characters can be measured. How narrow a piece of ground this standard occupies, however, is also clear from the beginning. In the chapter in which they first appear, the Imkers' narrative is framed by two other subsections that suggest their isolation. The chapter begins with a speech by Eduard Bernstein, a
"gentle theoretician" (November 2:73; Woods 1:55), the revisionist and gradualist par excellence against whom Rosa Luxemburg wrote Sozialreform oder Revolution . He argues that socialization will not be possible until the economy has recovered from the ruinous war, that is, the socialists must resign themselves to cooperation with the capitalist system for "years, perhaps decades" (November 2:74; Woods 1:56). Then follows the section in which the Imkers are introduced, and the chapter closes with a section that begins the narration of the robbery and murder of a money lender by two homosexual prostitutes. One of them is a demobilized soldier who will eventually escape capture by joining the Freikorps troops training outside the city. The Imkers are implicitly an island of hope and decency, threatened on one side by a temporizing leadership and on the other by a criminal Lumpenproletariat eager to serve as troops for the counterrevolution.
Indeed, there is a general sense that while the revolution is being betrayed by its leadership, it is also foundering on the egoism and corruptibility of the "little people" with their eyes solely on their own advantage. The revolution is repeatedly parodied in the first volume as a "revolution in miniature," a pretext for greed, revenge, and passion. A soldier appropriates the apartment of his peacetime boss and installs himself as the new master; an old porter's wife plunders the abandoned barracks; an officer's widow has an amorous fling; profiteers calculate how much they can make from the revolution; deserters seize occasions for theft; a woman wants to marry a blinded soldier for his full pension (November 1:74–79, 140–41, 176–77, 244ff., 261, 266–67).
In A People Betrayed , there is an entire chapter devoted to such "Private Revolution" (November 2:99; Woods 1:77). Within it, there is a comic, grotesque section subtitled "Travelers' Ration Books," in which a Berlin couple and their son, a demobilized soldier, conspire to steal invalid ration books and sell them on the black market. We are reminded of the couple in Berlin Alexanderplatz , living in the building where Franz Biberkopf has retreated on his alcoholic binge, who become accomplices to a band of burglars (BA 159–69, EJ 190–205). In both cases, a lower-middle-class couple succumbs to the temptation of economic gain and commits a criminal act against a large, anonymous institution. The difference is that in November 1918 , the couple hypocritically justify their behavior as a revolutionary act:
They knew that this was their great chance. Both of them were revolutionaries, as only befits laid-off munitions workers, and they wanted nothing more than to make shreds of capitalism. Couldn't everyone plainly see how the war profiteers were getting fat, how they were taking the skin right off the backs of the great mass of the people? Their lives of luxury were notorious, and they managed it by making use of a brilliantly organized black-market, with the cooperation of the farmers. And others were supposed to hold back? No, not for a moment. And the bellicose pair advised their son to do his part to help dying, putrid, staggering capitalism to its final collapse. He should look to see if he could get hold of those travelers' ration books. They would take care of the rest. "How?" Max asked. "By selling them." They wanted to supply the black marketeers with them, offering them either to the black marketeers or selling them directly to the rich. They weren't at all troubled by the contradiction inherent in their behavior. It can't hurt, they said slyly, for the parasites to swell up even more, that way they'll finally explode, and their rottenness will stink to high heaven. They would be contributing to the revolution.
(November 2:104; Woods 2:81)
The narrator of Berlin Alexanderplatz refrains from judging his miscreants. Their feckless attempt to improve their lot through criminality serves as a spur to Franz Biberkopf to reenter the world and try again, with more cynicism, to live his life. In November 1918 , by contrast, the couple's "revolutionary" hypocrisy is the object of narrative sarcasm. The entire incident becomes a grotesque and bitter joke, another example of why the revolution is doomed from the beginning.
Indeed, throughout the tetralogy the suggestion recurs that the revolution ultimately founders on the German character itself. This opinion is to be expected from the French historical figures who appear especially in the first volume, men like Maurice Barrès and Marshal Foch. They clearly see that the German generals will attempt to obscure their responsibility for the lost war and let the civilian politicians take the blame for the capitulation, that the "revolution" is only a smokescreen to placate the entente. They provide the most pitiless, devastating summing up of the German character: "That's how the Germans are. . . . The aristocrats at the top hard as glass, cold as ice, servants of the King, the working masses willing, pliable, sentimental, susceptible to brutality, the middle class educated and cowardly to the point of servility" (November 1:312). One assumes that it was partly because of such passages that the French censors in postwar occupied Germany refused permission to republish Soldiers and Citizens as part of the tetralogy.
A similar analysis, albeit only of the German socialists, comes from the opposite end of the political spectrum, from Karl Radek, the emissary sent by Lenin to advise Liebknecht and the Spartacists. As he watches the revolutionary opportunity slip away and the forces of reaction assemble, Radek reflects bitterly:
For the Germans Marxism is apparently a new sort of Middle Ages. Yet another attempt to build St. Augustine's City of God here on earth. And naturally a flimsy one at that.
But they still don't see the main thing, and are so blind they'll probably never see it, that the history of mankind is a morass of such attempts. That's why they can find no Lenin. And that's why there is only one solution for them: somewhere or other, if need be even in Russia, to find them a dictator and assign him to them, a Robespierre who'll drain that swamp and educate them to realism. Heads will have to roll, and no quarter will be shown. A Robespierre, and if I had anything to say in the matter, if I were their dictator now, the first head I would see roll is that of that die-hard pacifist Liebknecht.
(November 3:274–75; Woods 1:497)
Radek, like the countess in Kassel, is an absolutist of power and decisive action surrounded by indecisiveness. Just as she calls for a Wallenstein to restore the old order, he calls for a Lenin or a Robespierre to ruthlessly carry out the revolution. He echoes the pitiless leitmotif of Men without Mercy: "No quarter will be shown" (kein Pardon darf gegeben werden ). Here Döblin's recurrent theme of action versus passivity has been generalized and even nationalized. The hesitation bred into the German character creates the opportunity—even the necessity—for a ruthless charismatic leader, a Wallenstein or a Hitler, to step in and take command.
If Leibknecht is indecisive, it is because even he doubts the character of his followers, the most radical of the proletariat: "You said our party developed in such a way that, I hate to say it, Ebert fit right in. You're right, damn it. I see it every day, in the barracks, everywhere. Where are the proletarians? The proles? They're all petit bourgeois, bourgeoisie with no property, who want a parlor. That's their motive. That's why there's supposed to be a revolution" (November 3:354; Woods 1:560). But what really worries Liebknecht, "the core of his reflections," is the underside of this petit-bourgeois mentality: the mindless brutality ready to serve any master, the penchant for violence that has been born by the war:
Everywhere I go I see strange fellows, I'm literally surrounded by them. They're soldiers, warriors, of a sort I never saw before, or only now and then. How should I describe them for you? Human refuse. Sometimes I can talk myself into believing they've been sent to us by the enemy to disrupt us, to disconcert us. But they can't have been sent. There are too many of them. They come on their own. They are everyday, average Germans, people from that same lower middle class we were just talking about, but some from further up the social ladder too, some of them educated, soldiers and workers. They have an odd way about them. The way they stand there, sit there. They don't honestly listen, they simply stare at you. They have a mean look, the snarling teeth of a wolf. Mostly they just sit there silently, sometimes they laugh with scorn. The war has brutalized people, wrecked them. They leave me with the impression that they are beasts of prey. You can expect most anything from them.
(November 3:357–58; Woods 1:563)
There are tragically few Ede Imkers among these returning soldiers. The difference between Radek and Liebknecht is that the latter refuses to make use of such men to further the cause of revolution. Like Radek, Ebert and Noske have no such scruples, and so this "human refuse" will be used to put down the Spartacist uprising and to murder its leaders Liebknecht and Rosa Luxemburg. It is also made abundantly clear that Lenin would have had no such scruples. Throughout the tetralogy, the leader of the Bolshevik revolution is held up as a model of unhesitating decisiveness, especially by Radek. At one point, he describes how Lenin rode over the objections of hesitating party members and ordered the beginning of the armed revolution:
Lenin, the spirit of the revolution, our teacher, the perfect Marxist. He led with absolute assurance right on past all mere observation and pseudo-objectivity. And if there is a snare for Marxists, then it is the delusion that in some way one can be 'objective,' that somehow one can stand outside the situation. That's where Lenin was absolutely sure of himself. He had broken through this error of objectivity on a psychological level as well, saw it as a screen thrown up by bourgeois, academic irresolution. . . .
The Russian knew how deeply each of these remarks struck his German comrade, given as he was to musings, weighing everything, torn back and forth by his scruples. . . . These Germans were terrible gnawers of their own guts. . . . How had such a people given birth to Karl Marx, Radek asked himself.
(November 2:357; Woods 1:256)
Ultimately the narrator himself shares this doubt in the German character. Halfway through the second volume, "the author takes
stock" of his story and his own feelings toward it: "So far no actual revolutionary masses have come into view. This might be considered sufficient reason for reproaching someone who has set out to describe a revolution. But it is not our fault. This is, after all, a German revolution" (November 2:242; Woods 1:186). Here is the title of the entire tetralogy, revealed for the first time in all its irony. Beneath the historical fact of the failure of the German revolution, there is a deep narrative skepticism that a revolution would have been possible in Germany under any circumstances. Certainly this pessimism is a function of the bitterness of Döblin's exile, an example of the retrospective impact of subsequent events on the way the narrator treats the events of 1918–19. It is strongly reminiscent of Stalin's wartime bon mot , reported by Milovan Djilas: "'In Germany you cannot have a revolution because you would have to step on the lawns.'"
Whether the narrator's mode is the satire of the SPD leadership, the irony with which he treats the self-serving "miniature revolutions" of the common people, the cold objectivity with which he views the generals, or the sympathetic realism of his portrait of the Imkers, there lies over it all a feeling of weary inevitability in the gradual extinction of revolutionary hope during the slightly more than two months covered by the tetralogy. This inevitability is a function of the framework of historical fact itself: the narrator cannot undo the historical record of revolutionary failure. What he does, however, is to provide the story of Friedrich Becker as a counterpoise and commentary on the aborted revolution.
Becker is a teacher of classics in a Berlin high school who has fought in the war as a first lieutenant and been seriously wounded. He returns to Berlin after the cease-fire in November 1918. There his convalescence is repeatedly disturbed by the political turmoil of the city, by the claims of friendship and love, and ultimately by the devil himself. Becker is saved from suicide by conversion to Christianity, but his subsequent actions as an engaged Christian so alienate him from his society that he gradually sinks into fanaticism and dies a vagabond.
Friedrich Becker is in some ways very different from the other central heroes we have encountered in the course of this study. He is a Gymnasium teacher and intellectual, an archetypical member of the
educated middle class, precisely the class Döblin had scourged in most of his works, although himself a member of it. Another character calls Becker "the most German thing I know" (November 4:178; Woods 2:153), an apt description if "German" implies the tradition of bourgeois German culture since Goethe. Becker is by training and inclination both a repository of that tradition and, as a school teacher, its promulgator to the next generation. This is all the more remarkable in view of Döblin's own school experiences and scorn for the institution of the Prussian Gymnasium . But it must be remembered that even in the scathing attack in "First Glance Back," there were certain teachers whom Döblin admired and who managed to be human in spite of the system in which they worked.
It is also in keeping with the traditions of the German middle class that Becker considers himself and is in fact deeply apolitical. He is a perfect example of the typical German junior officer as he is described by the historian Arthur Rosenberg: "men who in their peace-time avocations as students, shopkeepers, teachers, &c., would never have been reckoned among the aristocratic ruling class and who were prepared on the conclusion of the war to return to their humble callings. But with the officer's commission was bound up the aristocratic exclusiveness that in Prussia separated an officer from his men." We have seen that by the time Döblin wrote Berlin Alexanderplatz , he was consciously shaping his characters as exemplary figures. But Karl in Men without Mercy and, to an even greater degree, Friedrich Becker are exemplary in a much more sociological and political way than is Biberkopf.
Before the war Becker had been happy in his work and something of a playboy, along with his colleague, the science teacher Dr. Krug. But Becker's experiences in the war, and especially his near-fatal wound, have wrought a profound change in him. In volume 1, Soldiers and Citizens , he is in intense physical pain, still recuperating from the "terrible hole" a piece of shrapnel has torn in his sacrum during the fighting on the Somme (November 1:105).
But Becker's mental anguish at the mass suffering and death caused by the war tortures him even more than his wound. He is now revolted by the society whose exemplar he is, and revolted at himself for having entered the war so insouciantly and, as an officer of the kind described by Arthur Rosenberg, sent his men to their deaths in what he now perceives to have been a senseless conflict. Above all, he feels personal re-
sponsibility for not having taken action to try to prevent the war. He is haunted by the recurring memory of young soldiers being marched off and into cattle cars at the beginning of the war—young soldiers who have in the meantime all died: "I went along. Which means I was stupid, wicked and evil" (November 3:79; Woods 1:354). Of all the characters in the novel, only Friedrich Becker feels such intense personal responsibility for the war. Revolutionaries like Karl Liebknecht and Rosa Luxemburg have opposed the war all along. Working-class soldiers like Bottrowski have realized that they were being duped. Average citizens are simply glad that the war is over, while the ones responsible for the disaster, the German elite embodied in the officer corps, are scrambling to avoid responsibility and retain their power.
Becker's guilt and self-loathing lead him to a tortured and intense scrutiny of his life and its meaning. Upon his return to Berlin from the military hospital in Alsace, he nails shut his bookcase and removes from his walls the pictures and busts of his intellectual mentors Sophocles, Kleist, Kant, and Goethe, symbolically wiping clean his spiritual slate. His emotional slate, by contrast, appears to need little cleaning, and here one senses the abstractness of a héros à thèse whom Döblin has cleansed of the intense personal problems characteristic of his other heroes. Becker is an only child who dispenses with his deceased father in one depreciating sentence, never to mention him again: "My father was nothing special, a customs official, I can't remember him very well, he died early, he had brought my mother here from the Rhineland" (November 1:166). For this work, Döblin has resolutely left to one side the entire personal complex engendered by the flight of his own father, including his deeply ambivalent feelings about his mother.
Becker's mother, with whom he lives in Berlin, is the diametrical opposite of the mother in Men without Mercy . She is a sweet and pious woman who spends her days caring for her convalescent son and doing charitable work among the urban poor as a member of the "Patriotic Women's Circle" (November 3:176; Woods 1:423). There is not the slightest hint of conflict between them, except for a certain reticence on Becker's part to talk about his spiritual anguish with her. His conversion to practicing Christianity in the second half of the work only brings them closer together.
Thus the development of Friedrich Becker's character does not proceed from familial conflict, as is the case with Karl in Men without
Mercy . Personal change is instead thrust on Becker by the catastrophe of war and is structured by narrative reference to three literary-mythical antecedents: Faust, Antigone, and Christ. November 1918 is an example of what Theodore Ziolkowski calls "postfigurative" modern fiction, novels whose "action is 'prefigured' in a familiar mythic pattern." Döblin had used mythic references beginning as early as The Black Curtain, and we have seen the references to the House of Atreus in Wadzek's Battle with the Steam Turbine . The mythic references in Berlin Alexanderplatz, both to the Agamemnon myth and to the Bible, are of course legion, but they do not become prefigurative in the sense that they constitute a palimpsest underlying the structure of the modern story. Instead, as Otto Keller emphasizes, by being presented in montage, the mythic references invite critical comparison with the modern story, "the mythic figure is removed from a static realm, is placed into time, is humanized." One need only think of the comparison between Biberkopf and Orestes at the end of the second book of Berlin Alexanderplatz (BA 103–10, EJ 121–30).
In November 1918, by contrast, Friedrich Becker is fitted with three successive mythic prefigurations. If his life does not ultimately conform perfectly to any of them, they nevertheless provide a key to his spiritual development. Rather than being used, like the Agamemnon myth in Berlin Alexanderplatz, as an ironic and critical contrast to the contemporary plot, they underlie, without a trace of irony, the existential crises of Becker's life in order to infuse them with meaning and purpose. Moreover, the order in which the mythic postfigurations come is significant. Becker moves from Faust's hubris, to Antigone's defense of the individual conscience against the dictates of the state, to Christ's redemptive sacrifice of self.
The least explicit of these postfigurations is of the Faust legend. The references to it occur mainly in the third novel, The Troops Return . Early in the novel, Becker jokingly calls his friend Maus "my Mephisto" for taking him to a political rally (November 3 : 29; Woods 1 : 325). Maus's furious condemnation of Becker's inaction finally brings the latter to the point of despair at which an actual "Mephisto" appears to him. There are several more or less explicit references to the Faust legend in the course of Becker's three confrontations with the devil. Becker's study, the room in which he conjures Satan, is called his "laboratory," and the word is placed between suggestive quotation marks (November 3 : 219; Woods 1 : 454). The devil at one point sar-
castically calls Becker "Herr Becker, Friedrich Becker, doctor of philology, doctor of the highest wisdom," echoing the opening monologue in Goethe's Faust: "Heisse Magister, heisse Doktor gar, / Und ziehe schon an die zehen Jahr'/ Herauf, herab und quer und krumm / Meine Schüler an der Nase herum / Und sehe, dass wir nichts wissen können!" (They call me Magister, even Doctor / and for almost ten years now / back and forth, up and down / I've been leading my students by the nose / and I see that we can't know anything). The Goethe passage echoes Becker's anguish at having "misled" his soldiers. The Alsatian nurse Hilde, who has sought out Becker in Berlin to offer him her love, is compared to Gretchen (November 1 : 334). Finally, in the banal love story whose episodes alternate with those of Becker's temptation, the writer Erwin Stauffer quotes the last line of Goethe's monumental drama to himself after his long-lost love has "given herself to him": "Das Ewigweibliche zieht uns hinan" (The Eternal Feminine leads us onward) (November 3 : 227).
These explicit allusions to Goethe's Faust are the outward signposts of the affinity between Becker and Faust. Their similarity is one of both character and situation. Becker, like Faust, is a scholar who finds himself in radical spiritual isolation. The problematic that emerges is familiar from Döblin's other works but here more clearly Faustian because of Becker's learnedness: his lonely search for meaning and the right path is also a form of hubris. Johannes Tauler, the Alsatian mystic of the fourteenth century who appears to Becker in dreams throughout the tetralogy, calls him a "good man" but also "hard and proud, a great soul, a high mountain" (November 1 : 147). Like Faust, he is a searcher after absolutes in a world of compromise, and it is this spiritual hubris by which Satan hopes to ensnare him.
The fundamental difference between Becker and Faust lies in the origin of their isolation; Faust is isolated by his contempt for the inadequacy and ignorance of other men, whereas Becker's isolation springs from his guilt and self-contempt for his unthinking participation in the mass slaughter of the war. Thus when Satan offers Becker first political power over other men and then unlimited sensual gratification, both temptations to which Faust succumbs, Becker rejects them out of hand (November 3 : 206–7; Woods 1 : 448–49). He counters Satan's offer of unlimited power and freedom for his ego, of total solipsistic self-affirmation, with the question, "Who is served by it?" (November 3 : 209; Woods 1 : 450), thereby reintroducing into the
debate the source of his crisis, the dimension of social responsibility that Satan tries to ignore. With his tutelary genius Johannes Tauler at his shoulder, he is finally able to articulate the "precedent" for right action he seeks: it is "the conscience" (November 3 : 226; Woods 1 : 459). But the debate is not over yet. In a brilliant twist of satanic casuistry, the devil demonstrates that "conscience" is nothing more than the dictatorial superego, the societal conditioning imposed by parents, teachers, pastors, and the state, and is thus the very authority that led Becker to participate so unquestioningly in the war in the first place. Becker has no further counterargument and in despair tries to hang himself from a hook in his study wall. He is saved from death only by accident; the knot in his noose does not hold. The nurse Hilde arrives too late to be the instrument of his rescue, but when Becker regains his consciousness, the sight of her weeping and praying very quickly effects his conversion to Christianity.
Faust too is saved from suicide by the intervention of religion. In his case only the memory of the naive faith of childhood holds him back from the fatal step; it is not enough to prevent him from entering into the pact with Mephisto. For Becker, however, the acknowledgment of the divinity of Christ ends his hubristic search for meaning solely within himself, and so ends the Faust parallel: "There I stood in front of my ego, searching for my self, for my ego, and I shook my ego, told it to give me something, and it could give me nothing because how could there be anything there that could tell me my duties, determine my path, if it were not already planted there by Him" (November 3 : 290; Woods 1 : 510).
Becker has tried to hang himself from the hook that held his bust of Sophocles, and Antigone succeeds Faust as his guiding prefiguration. Becker's conversion to Christianity, while freeing him from his solipsistic and suicidal despair, does not make his path totally smooth. It provides the ultimate basis for decisions about life in the world, but the decisions must still be made. That is why the Antigone story now becomes operable: it is the central mythic prefiguration of the text (providing the title for book 3 of Karl and Rosa ) precisely because it embodies the central problem of the responsibility of the individual in the face of the demands of the state.
The Antigone parallels are more carefully elaborated than those to Faust and to Christ. Döblin uses Sophocles' work as both an explicit and implicit model within the novel. On the first day Becker returns to
his teaching post at the Berlin Gymnasium, the assigned text happens to be Sophocles' play. A few days after discussing Antigone with his students, he himself is forced by the dictates of his new-found faith to play the part of Antigone in the course of an ugly scandal involving the school principal.Antigone is thus also the novel's primary demonstration of the importance of literature for life, an intensely important conviction for the German exiles in their social and linguistic isolation.
Becker is not simply returning to his profession after his long convalescence. His teaching post has become a sacred trust because of the war. As he explains to his class the concept of the sins of the fathers being visited on the sons, its relevance is made clear: "They were the children, the heirs, grown older now while others had been out there engaged in war. They had assumed the guilt of those older than they—and they knew nothing of it" (November 4 : 193; Woods 2 : 167). What disturbs Becker is not that these boys are suffering the consequences of the lost war for which they were not responsible, but rather that they have wholly adopted the unreconstructed jingoism of their middle-class parents: "They come here with old, rotten ideas, from homes that did not experience the war. These aren't young men at all, they are men from 1900 or 1910" (November 4 : 220; Woods 2 : 190).
Most of the fifteen students in Becker's class contemptuously reject Antigone as a heroine. In their eyes, she betrays her country in time of war. The best student, spokesman for the class, also makes clear the connection of their opinion to the current political situation: "Antigone really doesn't have our sympathy. One of her brothers bravely fought for his native city; he fell in battle and was buried with honors. As it should be. The other brother was a traitor who had assembled a great hostile army to attack his home. That would be the same as if now the Spartacists were to invite France to send troops here to do Germany in" (November 4 : 196; Woods 2 : 169). The students do not consider the ancient play irrelevant to their lives, but they derive precisely the wrong lesson from it. They are on the side of Creon, in favor of the absolute authority of the state over the individual. They reject Antigone as a model in favor of that most Prussian of heroes, Kleist's Prince Friedrich von Homburg, who accepts his death sentence for disobeying an order in spite of having won the battle.
Becker tries in vain to get them to see that the ultimate conflict in
Antigone is not "the political rights of the oppressed over against tyrants," as the one socialist in the class maintains (November 4 : 198; Woods 2 : 171), nor even more abstractly "emotion versus duty . . . but rather, 'How is the world of the living to treat the world of the dead?'" (November 4 : 224; Woods 2 : 194). The conviction that our being is not circumscribed by birth and death, and that we owe respect and love to the dead, underlies Becker's actions. It is a religious rather than a political conviction, but if acted on, it has political consequences, as Becker is about to discover. He has made himself the advocate of those who fell in the war, whom he so insouciantly watched being marched off to their deaths. In his thoughts, he explicitly draws the parallel with Antigone: "Just as Antigone takes up the cause of her dead brother, so have I taken up that of the many who fell" (November 4 : 224; Woods 2 : 194). In Becker's case, this advocacy means doing everything he can to insure that senseless war does not recur.
But the death that provokes the postfiguration of the Antigone story, in which "life emerges from the books," as a chapter title has it, has nothing to do with the mass dying that haunts Becker. What has added an element of hostile tension to the classroom discussion is the gradually emerging fact that the principal of the Gymnasium is romantically involved with Heinz Riedel, a student from the class. The principal is a classically educated, finely cultivated but self-indulgent man who, like the "little people" discussed above, uses the revolution as a pretext—in his case, to be more open about his homosexuality. Becker finds the man repellant and self-deceiving, but also calls him "my poor brother" (November 4 : 227; Woods 2 : 197). With the encouragement of his mother, he sees it as his human duty to intervene in the affair. It is the first real test of his new faith, a kind of miniature echo of his missed opportunity at the beginning of the war. His mother says, "Friedrich, you're making yourself an accessory if you don't intervene" (November 4 : 213; Woods 2 : 185). Becker persuades the principal to take a leave of absence.
At this point in the story, the novel's third book ends. The fourth and fifth books are devoted almost entirely to the aborted Spartacist uprising that began on January 5, 1919, and to Noske's gradual assembling of the troops who will suppress it. Against this background of political crisis and threatening reactionary violence, the thread of the Antigone postfiguration is taken up once again. The principal can-
not resist trying to arrange another assignation with Heinz Riedel. The boy's brutal, alcoholic father finds his note, seeks the principal out, and beats him up so badly that he dies several days later.
Becker, who by this time has been denounced to the school authorities for what he said in the classroom discussion of Antigone, is perceived by the students and their reactionary parents as at best an accomplice of the principal, at worst a homosexual or revolutionary himself. He compounds their suspicion by taking Heinz Riedel under his wing and by visiting the morgue with him to arrange for the principal's funeral. In a chapter entitled "In the Footsteps of Antigone," so that no doubt about the reenactment of the myth can remain, two members of the school's parent council pay Becker a visit in order to warn him not to attend the principal's funeral. In protofascist turns of phrase, they explain that they want "to cleanse our school of all manifestations of decadence and decay" and admonish Becker "to go have a look at Alexanderplatz right at this moment, where civil war was in full swing" (November 4 : 430; Woods 2 : 347). They consider a demonstrative refusal to attend the funeral to be Becker's duty to the school and the state, and again the Antigone parallel is explicitly drawn:
We want to serve the general public. I repeat. For that purpose we can demand that each individual make his sacrifice and suppress even the most notable of his personal feelings.
Becker (I'm slipping completely into Antigone . King Creon will be here soon to have me arrested): "There is neither a public nor a general interest that could deter me from showing a poor man the last token of my affection."
(November 4 : 432; Woods 2 : 348)
Becker arranges the funeral, at which a priest refuses to officiate. The only others in attendance are Heinz Riedel, Becker's mother, and his colleague Dr. Krug. Their pictures are snapped at the graveside by two press photographers, and the affair becomes public knowledge. Becker is called before a chief school inspector, a latter-day Creon who chats amiably with him, praises his principles, and as soon as Becker leaves his office, has him removed from his teaching post. Thus ends the postfiguration of the Antigone story.
Unlike his prototype, Becker is not put to death by the state. But he is now driven into a kind of social death. He can no longer practice his profession. It should be emphasized again that Becker's initial actions
as a Christian are, like Antigone's burial rites for her brother, acts of individual piety that have no intentional political dimension. His attempt to rescue Heinz Riedel from among the Spartacists in the besieged police headquarters is superficially a repetition of Karl's crossing over to the revolutionaries at the end of Men without Mercy, but there are two important differences. First, Becker is literally under divine guidance, for a vision tells him that Heinz is in the headquarters (November 4 : 483; Woods 2 : 393). Second, his motive is not political or social conviction, but rather personal responsibility. And although he takes up the cause of the revolutionaries after seeing the body of Minna Imker being carried by, his solidarity is based on sympathy for their plight, not agreement with their convictions: "These are poor human beings. They're searching for help. They don't know what else to do. And whatever they do, whether they're mistaken or not, they are my brothers and sisters, they are like me, and I am no better a man than they" (November 4 : 502; Woods 2 : 410). The principal had been called his "brother"; now they are his "brothers and sisters." After having served three years in prison for participating in the occupation of police headquarters, rather than join the Communists or any other political party, Becker enacts an imitatio Christi, a sacrifice of self for the salvation of his fellow men.
Eighteen hundred pages into the tetralogy and fifty pages before its end, the reader unexpectedly encounters Friedrich Becker being released from prison. The narrator mentions offhandedly that he has voluntarily turned himself in and has served three years for participating in the Spartacist uprising. The sudden gap in narrated time and the echo of the beginning of Berlin Alexanderplatz make one feel that a whole new novel is beginning at this point, and this feeling is reinforced in subsequent pages, where the precise chronology of the rest of the tetralogy—the two months of the revolution—is replaced by an elastic time that stretches imprecisely into months and years. The relationship of narrated time to narrative time is suddenly stood on its head.
We also get a new physical description of Becker, something largely lacking in the rest of the tetralogy: "a tall, grave, slightly bent man with a full brown beard" (November 4 : 612; Woods 2 : 503). In the following pages, this description is twice repeated, with the addition of
the adjective "gentle" (November 4 : 613, 647; Woods 2 : 504, 534). This reiterated description is a warning that we are confronted with a new Friedrich Becker. But more than that, it hints at the coming imitation of Christ that will occur within the hazy, almost legendary time frame.
Prison has changed him, making him even more isolated from the world than before. His friends have either died or moved away. Even his mother is about to move out of Berlin. Becker has lost his position at the Gymnasium, and his attempts to teach at private schools end in characteristic failure; he becomes too involved with his students: "There were long conversations in the classroom between him and his students. He spent some of his private time with them, even got involved in their own home life. This resulted in certain difficulties, and he had to be let go" (November 4 : 618; Woods 2 : 508). He sets off on wanderings through the Germany of the Weimar Republic—"durch die deutschen Gaue" (through the provinces of Germany; November 4 : 641; Woods 2 : 529) in the consciously archaic language of the narrator—and continues to attract followers, or disciples if one will, among young people and students.
He preaches humility, poverty, and obedience to the will of God, in a conscious imitation of Christ: "Just as Jesus yielded himself when they tore the clothes from his body and even ripped the skin from his body with their whips before nailing him to the highest cross, that is how we must strip away all the weakness and wickedness, and our pride and vanity above all, so that we can present ourselves before God. We must present ourselves not just in words, but in everything we do. Surrender is the word" (November 4 : 625; Woods 2 : 514). In his wanderings, Becker continues to be accompanied not only by his tutelary saint Johannes Tauler, but also by Satan, who lays three "snares" for him. Although they are not the same temptations presented to the young Christ in the Wilderness, the number three certainly evokes the New Testament story (besides echoing the three visits of Satan to Becker/Faust).
Becker is tempted first by "woman" (das Weib; November 4 : 618ff.; Woods 2 : 508ff.), becoming involved in vaguely described affairs with the female relatives of some of his students. After being called to order by Tauler, he falls into the next snare, fanatical religious absolutism. He pillories the hypocrisy of established Christianity and enters village churches in order to reprimand the preacher for "chewing around on
the word of God Sunday after Sunday, even though he knew better. They were the most corrupt capitalists in the world, because they exploited the most sacred thing man had" (November 4 : 648; Woods 2 : 535). For this echo of Christ's attack on the money changers in the temple (John 2 : 13–16), Becker is repeatedly jailed. The press dubs him the "Red Parson" (November 4 : 648; Woods 2 : 535), although he allies himself with no political group. When he tries to speak in a nationalist political convention, he is hounded away as a "stupid idiot" (dummer August; November 4 : 650; Woods 2 : 537), the same epithet with which the suspicious Spartacists in police headquarters greeted his arrival (November 4 : 490; Woods 2 : 400). For both ends of the political spectrum, he is the figure of God's fool, the holy idiot: "He was shaken by fanaticism" (November 4 : 650; Woods 2 : 537).
He does not so much avoid this temptation as sink even further into it in the third and final snare: a wager concluded with Satan in a Hamburg bar "near the close of the twenties" (November 4 : 647; Woods 2 : 537). It is not insignificant that Becker, here at the end of the tetralogy, is brought into close chronological proximity with Franz Biberkopf, and a Biberkopf-like figure, a coarse "fat bargeman with a red face," becomes the object of their wager (November 4 : 651; Woods 2 : 538). Friedrich bets Satan that he can find some redeeming quality in him, and Satan actually "slipped the other fellow's soul into [Becker's] breast, and something like a mangy dog was jumping around inside him, and he would have to live with it" (November 4 : 653; Woods 2 : 540). The alien and unredeemable soul forces Becker into drunkenness, whoring, theft, and blasphemy, and when the bargeman drowns, he can no longer rid himself of his soul. He is badly wounded during a robbery with some companions, and as he lies in a garage, dying among thieves and as a common criminal like Christ, there is a celestial battle over the final disposition of Becker's soul between Satan and Antoniel, the guardian angel assigned to him by Tauler. As is to be expected, Antoniel and two fiery lions in the end drive away Satan in the shape of a great "horse of hell," just as in Berlin Alexanderplatz Death drives off the Whore of Babylon. In a final parallel to the life of Christ, Becker's body disappears, albeit not miraculously:
Afterward they had one damnable time with the body. Because they didn't want any police there in the shed—and what should they do with it?
They waited till the day had passed, and that evening they loaded
their dead pal onto a vegetable cart under some crates and drove him down to the docks. They stuffed him in a coal sack and put him into a little motorboat, and in the dark they made a little tour of the harbor, during which they eased the sack down into the water, with no one the wiser.
(November 4 : 662; Woods 2 : 547)
Thus ends the postfiguration of the life of Christ as well as the entire tetralogy. It is one of the most anticlimactic of Döblin's many anticlimactic endings, hearkening back in both its tone and imagery to the story "On Heavenly Mercy." But that story's absolute separation of bleak, everyday reality from the possibility of transcendence and redemption has now been replaced by a complete interpenetration of the two levels. Just before the ending quoted above, the angel Antoniel has assured the dying Becker that God "shall wipe away all tears, and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain" (November 4 : 661; Woods 2 : 547). The absolute faith of the narrator suffuses the final, outwardly bleak paragraphs. This is merely Becker's body being disposed of. His soul, even besmirched with the soul of the bargeman, has been saved.
The first snare Satan lays for Becker in the final imitatio Christi is the snare of woman: sex and sensuality. Although he briefly succumbs to this "disease" (November 4 : 619; Woods 2 : 509), he realizes that the women he is with are "lovely and exciting little creatures, nothing more" who want to degrade him to the status of a "male of the species" (Männchen ). Johannes Tauler has little trouble convincing him to abandon this path. In fact, Becker's notable lack of sensuality throughout the tetralogy makes this first temptation, as even the narrator is constrained to admit, "quite improbable" (November 4 : 618; Woods 2 : 508). Why, then, does he include it?
Although the sight of a weeping woman, Hilde, finally converts Becker to Christianity, and the sight of a dead woman, Minna Imker, to active advocacy of the poor, when the final, legendary imitatio Christi requires a schematic presentation of woman's role in his life, she automatically becomes pure sensuality, das Weib, a temptation to be overcome. The two most important women in November 1918 are the nurse Hilde and Rosa Luxemburg, one a private, fictional charac-
ter, the other an important historical figure, one of the most brilliant women of the twentieth century. Hilde and Rosa are the embodiments of the two great themes of the novel: religion and revolution respectively. Yet both of them show the stamp of sensuality characteristic of the women in Döblin's other works.
Hilde is presented as an ideal of Germanic womanhood: tall, full-bosomed, blond, a "Brünhilde figure" (November 1 : 116) as the narrator calls her, or "like Germania" as another character says (November 2 : 92; Woods 1 : 71). One wonders whether, in creating this character, Döblin was refusing to cede to the Nazis proprietary rights to such qualities. But it is not just her physical characteristics that make her an ideal. We first see her as a volunteer nurse in the military hospital in volume 1, selflessly caring for the wounded and dying, in love with the fatally wounded pilot Richard. We also discover that she is a devout Catholic; one of the first things she does upon returning home to Strasbourg is visit the cathedral and offer a prayer of thanks to the Virgin. She has fallen in love with Becker just before the evacuation of the hospital and follows him to Berlin, where she helps take care of him through his crisis and ultimately facilitates his conversion.
Yet there is also a dark side to this character, a side that has to do with her sensuality. For in fact, in spite of her piety and the virginal white of her nurse's uniform, Hilde is a sensualist. We learn that she is serving as a nurse in order to escape a sadomasochistic love affair. Amid the confusion of the evacuation of the hospital in Alsace, Hilde is raped by Becker's roommate Lieutenant Maus, who is hopelessly in love with her. The rape runs a course familiar from Berlin Alexanderplatz . Hilde resists at first, but "his kisses became more and more ardent, and he called her pet names. She did not answer and let him do what he wanted. As she lay in his embrace, her convulsive trembling stopped, and she lost consciousness in a dreadful ecstasy" (November 1 : 112). In the final novel of the tetralogy, Hilde forgives Maus, whom she is about to marry, for having raped her, and makes it sound as though it had been her fault: "I'm a human being, Hans, a sinful human being. You know that. I've lain in your arms once before" (November 4 : 176; Woods 2 : 151). In her native Strasbourg after the cease-fire, Hilde soon resumes the sadomasochistic affair with Bernhard, her father's assistant. Her decision to go to Berlin in order to seek Becker is really a decision to tear herself away from Bernhard, and when she does, he commits suicide. Here, as in her attraction to
the dying pilot Richard in the novel's opening pages, Hilde the ministering angel becomes Hilde the angel of death. The narrator once describes her as a "bright Valkyrie" (November 2 : 91; Woods 1 : 71).
Hilde is attracted to Becker at least partly because of his terrible suffering and the possibility of death. There is a curious duality in their relationship: she is in part a motherly, almost sexless caregiver, in part a sensual woman offering him love. Having left Bernhard to his despair and suicide, she comes to Becker in the role of a nurse of virgin purity: "she sank back into her loam, into maidenly gentleness" (November 3 : 21; Woods 1 : 318). But she also is presented as the female of the species, sizing up Becker as a mate (Männchen, the same word used by Becker at the end of the novel to describe the status he has sunk to in his experiments with women). Hilde is "the watchful mother, the doe, and she regarded the male animal leaping before her. I want to build upon you, will you assist me in the building of my nest? If you will protect me when the young are born, then I will let you be the father of my children, I will have you" (November 3 : 25; Woods 1 : 321).
Becker ultimately forgoes Hilde because she distracts him from his search for meaning in life, for she herself cannot be that meaning. While Becker, just before his three satanic visions, flays himself with guilt over his participation in the war, Hilde wants only to cure him so they can begin their life together: "How can I tear him away from these ghastly notions. He's making wonderful progress physically. If he wanted to, he could be a healthy man again in four weeks—and we could begin a new life" (November 3 : 179; Woods 1 : 425). Becker asks her, "How can I bring God to me when I cling to you so?" (November 3 : 192; Woods 1 : 437). It is clear that the dichotomy, which informs the early novel The Black Curtain, of man as metaphysical seeker and woman as sensual, "natural" being survives basically unchanged into the last phase of Döblin's career. The only difference is that Hilde, because she is a believer, can acknowledge the scope of Becker's struggle and the danger she represents to him. As soon as she has provided the impetus for his conversion, she voluntarily renounces him as her chosen mate: "She had become terribly aware of just how fond she was of Becker—and that she was not good enough to love him. No, she didn't want to do it. She didn't want to ruin this man too" (November 3 : 276; Woods 1 : 498). She chooses instead Hans Maus, the man who raped her. By the time Becker is released from prison, Maus has left Noske's armed forces ("his heart was no longer
in it"; November 4:628; Woods 2:518) and he and Hilde have married, moved to Karlsruhe (where Maus is studying engineering), and had a child. In other words, Hilde at the end of the novel enters an apotheosis of upper-middle-class life. She, Maus, and the child constitute a kind of bourgeois holy family, and Becker the wandering fanatic gives his stamp of approval to Hilde's natural, sensual piety during an unexpected visit: "Enjoy the blessing of the child, Hilda. It will not fall into these pagans' hands, because it is your child" (November 4:631; Woods 2:520).
Hilde enters the novel as a rape victim and leaves it as a middle-class madonna, married to her rapist. Rosa Luxemburg, along with Becker the central figure of the fourth volume, Karl and Rosa, similarly comes full circle in the course of the novel. At the beginning of Karl and Rosa, in January 1918, she is a political prisoner in Breslau, where she helplessly witnesses a soldier brutally beating his team of Rumanian oxen. In the end this same soldier, the rifleman Runge, assassinates her. This deft tying together of beginning and end is a good example of how Döblin, the master monteur, can integrate particles of historical reality into his fiction. The historical Rosa Luxemburg indeed witnessed such a scene and was deeply disturbed by it. Döblin makes use of her letter to Sonja Liebknecht in his recreation of the scene in the novel. The soldier Runge was indeed Rosa's murderer. The only thing Döblin has added is to make him also the driver of the oxen, so that his brutality toward them is an anticipation of his brutality toward Rosa. At the moment of her murder, recognizing Runge and recalling the beautiful beasts, she is herself identified as a sacrificial animal. He recognizes her, too ("Where have I seen that waddling duck with the white hair before?"; November 4:591; Woods 2:489).
But such economical and effective novelistic license in the use of the historical record is far outweighed by Döblin's misuse of it in the case of Rosa Luxemburg. Although clearly sympathetic to her, his very sympathy leads him into gross distortion; Döblin's compulsively recurring image of women determines even his portrait of this extraordinary intellectual. In the first hundred pages of Karl and Rosa, the imprisoned Luxemburg is so hysterical with grief over the death on the eastern front of her lover, Hans Düsterberg (actually Diefenbach), that
she hallucinates him visiting her in her cell. Her cell becomes "my den of iniquity" (November 4:30; Woods 2:20) where they celebrate "marriage." In a particularly distasteful passage, Hannes "enters" her as an icy coldness: "it had taken hold deep within her, this icy cold, down into her bowels. She moaned, 'Hannes, oh, you are cold'" (November 4:36; Woods 2:25). These hysterical hallucinations of the revolutionary suffering under her enforced inactivity are alternated in bitter irony with a narration of Lenin's decisive leadership in the Bolshevik revolution.
But even after her release from prison "in the midst of the fray" (November 4:103; Woods 2:85), Rosa still yearns for Hannes. In her grief for him and her despair at the emerging failure of the revolution, she sees the devil as the dominant reality. Her visitations by Hannes resume, but he himself turns out to be Satan in disguise, a devil of sensuality who seduces and makes love to her:
It was their wedding, a real marriage this time, and how very different from the first one in prison with the icy shade who wanted to warm himself on her, with that poor broken warrior. This man was warm, hot and bewitchingly handsome, and gave of himself, nor did she hold herself back.
The ecstasy, the intoxication robbed her of consciousness.
(November 4:297; Woods 2:260)
When she is able to interpret him as a revolutionary like herself, Rosa even goes so far as to declare allegiance to Satan (November 4:385; Woods 2:312). But after the actual revolution has been suppressed by Noske's troops, after the fall of the Vorwärts building and the police headquarters, after Luxemburg and Liebknecht have gone into hiding together, Rosa is visited by a celestial messenger from Hannes, a cherub who tells her how Hannes has found peace through suffering and repentance. Although Rosa initially rejects this message and allows Satan in the form of Hannes to make love to her "before the mute, blushing, mournful cherub" (November 4:547; Woods 2:450), the latter finally chases Satan away and converts Rosa. She must give up her "proud soul" and repent. At the moment of her murder, her assassin Runge turns into Satan just before bludgeoning her to death, thus connecting her violent death to her sensuality.
There is very little basis in fact for Rosa Luxemburg's private life as it is presented in November 1918, and none at all for her conversion. Certainly it is true that Luxemburg was a passionate woman who did not deny her sensuality and who had a series of lovers in the course of
her life. It is also true that she was devastated by the death of Hans Diefenbach, the last of her lovers. One can even point to the sentence in one of her letters from prison that probably gave Döblin the idea for his hypertrophic development of her hysterical visions: "I feel so good, in spite of my pain for Hans. . . . For I live in a dream world in which he has not died at all. For me he still lives and often, when I think of him, I smile at him."
To plead poetic license in Döblin's defense is to beg the question. Why did Döblin choose to portray Rosa Luxemburg in this way? One does not have to look far for the answer: the parallels to Friedrich Becker fairly cry out. Of all the characters in the novel, only Becker and Luxemburg are visited by Satan, for they are the strivers after absolutes, Becker in the spiritual and Luxemburg in the social realm. They both incorporate an alien soul and struggle terribly with it. Both are saved at the end by the intervention of an angel who drives Satan away. They die similarly ignominious deaths, and their bodies are cast into the water.
But the differences between the two are as illuminating as the similarities. Rosa's incorporation of the soul of Hans Düsterberg, as well as her visits from Satan, are above all struggles with her sensuality. She is presented primarily not as a political figure but as a private woman. Although Rosa Luxemburg was certainly a clearer head and greater thinker than Karl Liebknecht, for instance, it is Liebknecht whom we see most often in the fray of daily plans and debates with Radek. To be sure, Döblin does not totally neglect Rosa the thinker, especially in her criticism of Lenin's resort to terror and repression in Russia. He quotes, for instance, the famous prophetic passage from her pamphlet "The Russian Revolution": "Without general elections, without unhampered freedom of the press and assembly, without free debate of opinions, life will die out in every public institution. It will only seem to live, while only one single effective pulse of life will remain—the bureaucracy" (November 4:92; Woods 2:75). But such passages are more the exception than the rule, and they drift incongruously amid the tides of her ecstatic and sensuous visions.
Becker, the monkish aristocrat of the spirit, is tempted by intellectual egoism and absolutism. Luxemburg, the passionate woman of the world, although just as much of an intellectual as Becker, is tempted by her sensuality. They both must learn humility and submission from their guardian angels before they can be saved and then killed. In order to connect religion and revolution, Döblin needs to make first a sinner
and then a convert of Rosa Luxemburg. Although this is surely a tribute from the author who had converted to Christianity, it so distorts the historical Rosa Luxemburg that it seriously compromises her credibility as a fictional character.
The historical Rosa Luxemburg, like the German Revolution itself, had long since been sacrificed on the altar of history when Döblin wrote his novel. His narrator operates in opposition to this incontrovertible knowledge, like Becker who in Soldiers and Citizens refuses to accept the collapse of his world: "'I don't care if it's written or printed. It doesn't exist. It doesn't exist'" (November 1:109). Rosa's last-minute conversion, to say nothing of the final years of Friedrich Becker, represents the narrator's desperate attempt to raise his story out of the realm of history, to suggest a transcendent alternative that focuses on the individual soul rather than a society in turmoil.
If Rosa Luxemburg is the parallel figure that connects Becker to the realm of revolutionary politics, then the littérateur Erwin Stauffer is the parallel figure who connects Becker to the narrator and ultimately to Döblin himself. The Stauffer narrative is the most puzzling of the parallel strands that accompany and reflect upon Becker's narrative. On its surface, Stauffer's story, which spans all four novels of the tetralogy, resembles nothing so much as a serialized romance in a women's magazine. It is a story of betrayal, revenge, near suicide, and a love affair resumed after a twenty-year interruption, set in elegant apartments, Swiss castles, and grand hotels. The writing is at times almost embarrassingly kitschy and conventional, and it is at first difficult to see why Döblin included this story, since it goes on too long to be a parody of this kind of writing. John Woods, the translator of November 1918 into English, left out the entire Stauffer narrative. Yet a close reading of it suggests the intended purpose of its inclusion.
Stauffer is a variation on Friedrich Becker (and on the author himself), but at a trivialized level. They are both intellectuals, men of the word. Late in the fourth volume, the narrator compares them explicitly: "[Stauffer] wanted to purify his spirit. He did it not with the vehemence of a Friedrich Becker . . . but with the caution and sensitivity appropriate to the temperate climate of his education and past" (No-
vember 4:606). Both undergo a conversion upon being brought into contact with the "Geisterreich" (spirit realm), but while this word means for Becker literal temptation by satanic forces, for Stauffer it is nothing more than a bit of costume drama in the Swiss castle before he consummates his reunion with his long-lost true love. The conventional machinery of gothic romance gradually falls away, however, to be replaced by sobering reality: Lucie, for Stauffer a casual affair of twenty years ago whom he had completely forgotten, turns out to be alcoholic and manic-depressive, while Stauffer himself is shown to be a middle-aged writer who has lost his inspiration. The two have become "dis-enchanted" (entzaubert ) by the end of the tetralogy (November 4:404). They depart for America and a comfortable middle-class future in which Stauffer gives up writing entirely. In his final appearance, he quotes the mystic Suso on the virtues of a contemplative withdrawal from active participation in life: "If you desire to help all creatures, then turn away from all creatures" (November 4:611). He has renounced all public activity and declares himself unable to reach "either a political or an intellectual or a religious conviction" (November 4:611). Here is another major character who, like Hilde, opts for middle-class respectability.
It is unclear whether the five lines set as free verse at the end of this final episode in the Stauffer narrative are by Stauffer himself or by the narrator. The lack of clarity on this point is all the more disturbing because they reflect a deep pessimism about the possibility of any meaningful action in the face of the impending war. If they are Stauffer's words, they are out of character because of their ominous seriousness; if the narrator's, then they cast his entire project, guided by the "partisanship of the active person," into question:
Something dark was looming in Europe.
Loneliness became oppressive.
Nothing had stability, nothing grew, nothing prospered.
Year by year, life became more sinister.
People shivered and wanted to hide.
The ambiguous origin of these final lines in the Stauffer story points to its other function. Besides being a trivialized parallel to the hero Friedrich Becker, Stauffer also serves as an ironic mirror of the author Alfred Döblin, or at least of the part of himself that he saw as frivo-
lously literary, whose books "deserved to be burned" (Briefe 207). It is no accident that Stauffer bears some resemblance to the author's father Max Döblin: he is artistically gifted in a rather superficial way, abandons his child, and moves to America. In November 1918, writers are consistently satirized as helpless in a revolutionary situation. There is no more mordant satire within the tetralogy than the presentation of the "Intellectual Workers' Council," where we first meet Erwin Stauffer late in the first volume, Citizens and Soldiers: "Since they were only intellectual workers, they didn't have to worry about the petty details or even about how to get things done. That was the business of politics and the parties—the parties whom they either rejected out of hand or attacked with abandon" (November 1:297). Döblin himself had been similarly touched by the fever of idealistic hope at the end of the First World War and made similar unrealizable demands in the essay "Die Vertreibung der Gespenster" ("Exorcising the Ghosts," 1919; SPG 71–82).
Stauffer represents not just Döblin's criticism of his own past, but also his doubts about the project at hand, November 1918 . It is no accident that the brief section entitled "The Author Takes Stock" (November 2:242–44; Woods 1:186) occurs in the midst of the Stauffer narrative. As we have already seen, the "author" first makes it clear that the entire narrative is to be understood as satirical. But the impossibility of a revolution in Germany—the narrator's and the reader's privileged knowledge that the German revolution is doomed from the beginning—also leads the narrator to a stylized ennui. Whether Ebert outwits the generals or vice versa does not much matter, he says: "We could close our book right now for lack of interest—on our part. A serious matter when the lack of interest in a book already begins with the author" (November 2:244; Woods 1:187). What keeps him going is the possibility, existing only in his fiction, that out of the incontrovertible historical fact of failure something unforeseen may emerge: "For instance, it could be that two men get into a fight, in the course of which a kerosene lamp is knocked over and the house burns down, while in the building next door, which just happens to be a menagerie, the lion caged there escapes and runs loose in the city. So no pretext of philosophy. Allons, to work!" (November 2:244; Woods 1:187–88). But this metaphorical lion points away from the possibility of radical social change and back toward the religious center of the book: it is in
the form of a lion that Satan appears to Becker, and two flaming lions drive Satan away in Becker's final apotheosis and death.
Becker's conversion is certainly meant to be the spiritual center of the novel, mirroring as it does Döblin's own spiritual crisis and conversion in the midst of the composition of the tetralogy. At the same time, it is the most problematic aspect of the novel. For it represents a kind of absolute and transcendent solution to the problems that beset not only Becker but society at large. It is a final basis of judgment from which there neither can nor need be any further appeal. It means that in spite of the failed revolution, in spite of the Second World War that Friedrich Becker predicts and the narrator knows at firsthand, in spite of Becker's apparent defeat at the hands of Satan, ultimate peace and forgiveness are assured on the metaphysical level, if one is only willing to sacrifice one's ego and submit to God's will. In "Epilog," the late essay in which Döblin retrospectively reinterprets all his works in the light of his Christian faith, he writes of November 1918: "Up to this point, all my epic works had been tests. Now there was nothing left to 'investigate'" (AzL 396 ). In the last volume, Karl and Rosa , the narrator pronounces an epitaph for the occupiers of the Vorwärts building. All of them, including the novel's archetypical good proletarian Ede Imker, will be beaten to death by Noske's Freikorps troops:
They were fanatical men and women, young and old, all deeply touched by the great rousing call of the revolution, gladly willing to fight for the sake of humanity and to sacrifice themselves. There were strangely excited and intense figures among them, believers: believers in this world and utopians who dreamed of eternal peace. And though they were weak and they were few, they towered miles above the miserable figures of the little philistine Ebert and the wooden Noske with his mercenaries, who would soon raise their cudgels and smash them.
(November 4:466–67; Woods 2:378–79)
It is the narrator's tribute to the anonymous men and women of what he deems the real revolution, the poor and oppressed whose desire is peace. But it is also a pious wish fulfillment, skewing these men and women into line with Friedrich Becker and the converted Döblin him-
self. They are fanatics, believers, "gladly willing . . . to sacrifice themselves." Here is sad evidence of the progressive writer's despair in his helpless exile in Los Angeles: the only possibility for action he discerns beyond Karl's spontaneous identification with the oppressed at the end of Men without Mercy is the fanatical self-sacrifice of Friedrich Becker and these doomed revolutionaries.