Alfred Döblin  1878 – 1957

Baden-Baden was the first stop on Alfred Döblin’s return to Germany after 13 years of exile. The inveterate big-city writer, now a French citizen, an officer with the Occupation Authority, lived through the winter of 1945-46 by himself in a bare room in a near-silent town with empty bookshops and little to eat. His official task was to approve or veto publication licences; his personal mission was to bridge the chasm separating the propagandised minds of the population and the spirit of the real (exiled) Germany. But the “formerly German” Berlin gadfly was now a marginal figure: his writings drew little interest; the French uniform alienated his contacts; minds used to running on slogans proved hard to engage with. This old man (now in his late sixties) persisted: the new journal Das goldene Torappeared in October 1946. The Berlin Academy of Arts reinstated him. He had a fortnightly spot on prime-time Südwestfunk. Then ill health limited his activity, and from 1953 he spent long periods in sanatoria in Baden-Baden, Freiburg and elsewhere, constantly short of funds. Döblin lived just long enough to see his last novel Tales of a Long Night published (in East Berlin).

He died in Emmendingen on 1 July 1957

By Chris Godwin