TALES OF A LONG NIGHT by Alfred Doblin


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Quite unlike Doblin's densely historical mosaics (Berlin Alexanderplatz, A People Betrayed, Karl and Rosa), this, his last novel, is a windy allegory and family melodrama--filled with crisscrossing stories, deep recriminations, and ultimately obscure themes. A young Englishman, Edward Allison, is wounded in the Pacific during WW II, losing a leg and much of his sanity. His mother Alice pleads with the sanitorium doctors to let her take him home. They agree, and the assembled family devises a program of elaborate storytelling--in hopes of snapping Edward out of his regressive naivetÉ and psychic pain. Edward's father, Gordon, is a prolific but depressed novelist--and he begins, with a tale about a Provencal knight/ troubadour who forsakes the true love nearest him for the illusion of a more exotic, nobler love. Then Alice tells the story of Pluto and Proserpina, followed by her painter-brother--who retells King Lear as a third-party reaction to the marital tensions expressed in the recitations by Gordon and Alice. There are, as well, readings of Kierkegaard, discussions of Michelangelo. And each story, instead of helping Edward, rips open another thread in the family fabric, completely exposing the miseries of the Alice/Gordon marriage: old infidelities, illegitimacy, denial of love. Despite a final reconciliation (unconvincing) and occasional intellectual fire: a dour, over-literary novel, delivered in stiff, dessicated prose and tedious speechifying.

Pub Date: Nov. 26th, 1984
Publisher: Fromm International