Sunday, November 29, 2015

Book 70- Berlin Alexanderplatz (106th Book)

Berlin Alexanderplatz is the 70th book on the list. I read it throughout the month of November which is fitting since the novel is pretty dreary. The novel follows Franz Biberkopf on his release from jail after killing his girlfriend in a jealous rage. He tries to make a good life for himself by sheer willpower, but is faced by many trials. The book ends in hope when he realizes that the only way to face challenges in the world  is to connect with others in your life.

This book is a stream of consciousness novel which makes it challenging to follow at times. Bits of german folk songs are interspersed throughout the novel and various sound effects are employed to support moods and themes. The one repetitive song that stuck out to me was a 17th century German hymn.

"There is a mower death yclept. Hath power which the Lord hath kept. When he 'gins his scythe to whet, keener it grows and keener yet, soon will he slash, man must endure the gash"
The repetition of this hymn throughout the novel creates quite a creepy feeling to it.  It appears whenever Biberkopf struggles with life and drives home fore me the fact that although he struggles he is still alive. I had to look up what the phrase yclept meant and it means "called". In this instance, that means that the mower is called death. I love that I am able to learn new words through reading. This one would make an excellent word in a scrabble game!!!

The novel is set in Berlin and in particular the Alexanderplatz. This is a square in the heart of the city and it seems to echo with what I take to be the central theme of the novel. The main message of the book seems to be that man needs other people in order to deal with the harshness of life. This theme appears briefly at the beginning of the book and is reinforced near the end by a long paragraph about the need for others. Here are a few of the quotes that pass on this message:

"You shouldn't bother so much about your own person. You should listen to others."

"God won't let any man drop out of his hands, but then there are also other people don't forget."

"Much unhappiness comes from walking alone"

"A ship cannot lie in safety without a big anchor, and a man cannot exist without other men."

This is a tough novel for me to rate. I spent most of the novel  wanting it to be over, but near the end of the book I was interested in it again. Due to this I think I would have to rate it a 3 out of 5. My next novel is Cities of Salt which is a novel set in the Persian Gulf in the 1930s. There is one thing I can say for this challenge and that is that it is exposing me to literature from all over the world.