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Translated by Imogen Taylor
What would it take for a woman to poison her husband? Young couple Elli and Link have been married for a year when Elli meets Gretchen, and the two soon become friends. When Elli confides in her friend about the abuse she suffers at her husband’s hands, they hatch a plan for Elli to escape. But when their efforts prove unsuccessful, the pair begin to discuss a more permanent solution to Elli’s problem: poison.
Based on a famous murder trial which took place in Berlin in 1923, this short novel by the master of German modernism, Alfred Döblin, explores questions of moral culpability and societal expectations which remain as relevant today as in the 1920s.
‘A raging cataract of a novel, one that threatens to engulf the reader in a tumult of sensation. It has long been considered the behemoth of German literary modernism, the counterpart to Ulysses.’
‘[An] immense and splendidly gritty novel…funny, shockingly violent, absurd, strangely tender and memorably peopled.’
‘Döblin is never sentimental, or hysterical. He just gets us to listen to the drumbeat of violence throbbing in this city of the mind…One of the great anti-war novels of our time.’
‘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.’