Additional Book Information
Series: NYRB Classics
Publication Date: October 25, 2016
by Alfred Döblin, introduction by Günter Grass, translated from the German by Damion Searls
Alfred Döblin’s many imposing novels, above all Berlin Alexanderplatz, have established him as one of the titans of modern German literature. This collection of his stories —astonishingly, the first ever to appear in English—shows him to have been a master of short fiction too.
Bright Magic includes all of Döblin’s first book, The Murder of a Buttercup, a work of savage brilliance and a landmark of literary expressionism, as well as two longer stories composed in the 1940s, when he lived in exile in Southern California. The early collection is full of mind-bending and sexually charged narratives, from the dizzying descent into madness that has made the title story one of the most anthologized of German stories to “She Who Helped,” where mortality roams the streets of nineteenth-century Manhattan with a white borzoi and a quiet smile, and “The Ballerina and the Body,” which describes a terrible duel to the death. Of the two later stories, “Materialism, A Fable,” in which news of humanity’s soulless doctrines reaches the animals, elements, and the molecules themselves, is especially delightful.
alfred doblin, Doblin, Alfred Döblin, translated by Damion Searls
Bright Magic is the work of a sorcerer, an indispensable translation welcome in any cabinet of wonders.
Essential anthology of short works by the master of German literary expressionism...Döblin's stories are uplifting in their elegance and beauty.
—Kirkus starred review
An indisputable, though often overlooked, pioneer of modernism is Alfred Döblin...remarkably, Bright Magic: Stories, translated by Damion Searls, is the first publication of Döblin's short fiction in English...[There is] always a courtship of the absurd, and language that is as vivid as Technicolor and as jarring as a car crash.
—Christine Smallwood, Harper's Magazine
Page by page, sentence by sentence, the writing moves from the humorous to the grotesque to the philosophical to the tragic, offering small and lasting pleasures of the kind we don’t often get from a 500 page novel or a 15-hour long TV series. Döblin’s stories echo and reverberate with all of 20th century German literature, and the more we read, the clearer it becomes that other writers are echoing Döblin.
—Ben Sandman, Full Stop
Without the futurist elements of Döblin’s work from Wang Lun to Berlin Alexanderplatz, my prose is inconceivable...He’ll discomfort you, give you bad dreams. If you’re satisfied with yourself, beware of Döblin.
I learned more about the essence of the epic from Döblin than from anyone else. His epic writing and even his theory about the epic strongly influenced my own dramatic art.
As we look back over the rich literary output of this great writer, as we look back over the long and fruitful life of this fighter and this friend of man, this perennial spring of spiritual life, we venture to ask: When will the gentlemen [sic] of the Nobel Prize jury discover him?
—Ludwig Marcuse, Books Abroad
[A] major writer who grappled with the roots of darkness in our time...
—Ernst Pawel, The New York Times