Bright Magic includes all of Doblin s first book, The Murder of a Buttercup, a work of savage brilliance and a landmark of literary expressionism, as well as two longer stories composed in the 1940s, when he lived in exile in Southern California. The early collection is full of mind-bending and sexually charged narratives, from the dizzying descent into madness that has made the title story one of the most anthologized of German stories to She Who Helped, where mortality roams the streets of nineteenth-century Manhattan with a white borzoi and a quiet smile, and The Ballerina and the Body, which describes a terrible duel to the death. Of the two later stories, Materialism, A Fable, in which news of humanity s soulless doctrines reaches the animals, elements, and the molecules themselves, is especially delightful."
Publishers Weekly® Reviews
- Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page .
- Review Date: 2016-06-06
- Reviewer: Staff
Searls is nearly as prolific a translator as Döblin (Berlin Alexanderplatz) was a writer, so it’s natural that he should give us the first English-language edition of Döblin’s short stories in Bright Magic. The first of the book’s two sections groups together early tales that run the gamut of German romanticism: there are secret societies (“Astralia”), tortured ballerinas (“The Ballerina and the Body”), an immortal witch (“She Who Helped”), medieval fairy tales (“Bluebeard the Knight”), and more than one intersection of love and suicide. Standouts such as “The Murder of a Buttercup,” in which a miser becomes tortured by guilt after decapitating a flower, and “A Blasé Man’s Memoirs,” in which a young intellectual attempts to be done with love, hint at the psychological depth and abiding strangeness to come in the book’s latter half. In the second section, we have a handful of gnomic fables and two genuine masterpieces: “Traffic with the Beyond,” in which a circle of spiritualists tries to solve a murder and wind up channeling much more than they bargained for, and “Materialism: A Fable,” in which all the world’s flora and fauna fall into a deep depression at the new primacy of mankind. When a tiger tells an assembly of animals, “We have to bring reason into the world,” or when we read, in “Max,” of the friendship of a girl and a hippopotamus, the reader is aware of the extent of Döblin’s imagination. Bright Magic is the work of a sorcerer, an indispensable translation welcome in any cabinet of wonders. (Aug.)