Introduction and moderation by Peter Maravelis (City Lights Booksellers). Opening Statement by William T Vollmann (National Book Award winner, EUROPE CENTRAL). Presentations and roundtable participation by Adrian Daub, Thomas O. Haakenson, Deniz Göktürk, Mel Gordon and William T Vollmann.
Alfred Döblin (1878–1957) was born in German Stettin (now the Polish city of Szczecin) to Jewish parents. In 1920 he published Wallenstein, a novel set during the Thirty Years' War, which was an oblique comment on the First World War. He became president of the Association of German Writers in 1924, and published his best-known novel, Berlin Alexanderplatz, in 1929, achieving modest mainstream fame while solidifying his position at the center of an intellectual group that included Bertolt Brecht, Robert Musil, and Joseph Roth, among others. He fled Germany with his family soon after Hitler's rise, moving first to Zurich, then to Paris, and, after the Nazi invasion of France, to Los Angeles, where he converted to Catholicism and briefly worked as a screenwriter for Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. After the war he returned to Germany and worked as an editor with the aim of rehabilitating literature that had been banned under Hitler, but he found himself at odds with conservative postwar cultural trends. He suffered from Parkinson's disease in later years and died in Emmendingen in 1957. Erna committed suicide two months after his death and was interred along with him.