He has just been released from prison where he was sent for killing his wife in a drunken brawl. The short tram ride from the prison to his rooms is an eye-opener for Biberkopf, just a cacophony of noise, bustle, street scenes and to cap it all off, the fellow who was showing him around absconds with all his possessions. At the local bar he meets Cilly Maria Bard a prostitute connected with a street gang headed by Reinhold who has recruited Cilly to coax Biberkopf back to his criminal ways. He has vowed to go straight and now makes his living as a street vendor where his gift of the gab draws in the crowds.
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A disturbing novel. A brutal novel. Oh, the picaresque novel with its epigraphs and episodic adventures of an insatiable scallywag usually from the lower classes. True to A shocking novel.
He falls victim to a cheat. The shock is profound. In the long run, life finds that too prissy, and it cunningly trips him up. I know, I know, Berlin in the s was a special time and a special place, but I had the sense all the many depictions, portrayals, sketches and most especially the words of Franz Biberkopf and others could have also been from a bustling current day international metropolis, say London, New York or Los Angeles.
And such crisp, colorful language. He has the strength of a cobra snake and has joined an athletics club again. Decked out in green puttees, hobnail boots and a bomber jacket. There are big cauldrons there, which produce the steam. Men dunk the dead beasts in the boiling water, scald them, pull them out nice and white, a man scrapes off the outer skin with a knife, making the animal still whiter and every part smooth.
They are all lying on their sides, on some you see the double row of tits, the number of breasts a sow has, they must be fertile animals. But they all of them have a straight red slash across the throat, right in the middle, which looks deeply suspicious.
There are references in the novel to the National Socialist Party and swastikas but swinging, freewheeling Berlin remained liberal, artistic and as free as a randy, decadent bird in the pages of Berlin Alexanderplatz. Not only will readers follow the fate of Franz but also many other men and women. Suffer them to approach. The great, flat plains, the lonely brick houses giving out a reddish light.
The towns all in a line, Frankfurt an der Oder, Guben, Sommerfield, Liegnitz, Breslau, the towns appear with their stations, the towns with their great and small streets. Suffer them to approach, the cabs, the sliding, shooting cars. And as long as he had money, he remained decent. But then he ran out of money, which was a moment he had been waiting for, to show them all what he was made of.
Berlin Alexanderplatz: The Story of Franz Biberkopf