Photo of the Alexanderplatz by *Solar ikon* used under a Creative Commons license.
Alexander Döblin, Berlin Alexanderplatz: The Story of Franz Biberkopf (Continuum International, 2005).
In “Reading the City: Berlin,” Nick Rennison writes that Berlin Alexanderplatz is
the story of Franz Biberkopf and his anguished attempt to forge a life for himself after emerging from prison. Biberkopf, who has a violent past, is intent on living a reformed and decent life but, returning to his old haunts in the Alexanderplatz area of Berlin, he finds it impossible to escape a world of prostitutes, petty thievery, thuggery and the emerging street violence of the times. Using interior monologue, Berlin slang, psychological insight drawn from his early academic training and cinematic techniques of jump-cutting and visual metaphor adapted for literary purposes, Doeblin creates a rich portrait of Biberkopf and the Berlin he inhabits. As an evocation of the sprawling anonymity and dangerous maelstrom of the modern city, Berlin Alexanderplatz remains a remarkable achievement.
Rainier Werner Fassbinder made it into a 15+ hour film in 1980, recently restored. An earlier film was made of it in 1931.
Google Book Search has a long excerpt and more. You can read some of the entry on the book at The Literary Encyclopedia for free. P.D. Smith wrote about the novel in London Magazine. Here is Time’s 1931 review. Here is an abstract of and links to (HTML) (.pdf) Christine Sieg’s article, “Homer takes the Streetcar – The Modernist Appropriation of the Epic and Alfred Döblin’s Berlin Alexanderplatz.” Christine Smallwood recommends the novel in her piece on Berlin for Salon’s Literary Guide to the World. And here is Keith Law. Ian Buruma writes about Fassbinder’s adaptation in The New York Review of Books, and does not ignore the novel. Answers.com has a primer on the eponymous square, and NPR reports on development there. Celso Junior took some pictures there.